By: Tania Hary
If I had a carnation for every time someone told me that “now that food gets in, things are ok in Gaza” and that the restrictions still in place post June 2010 “aren’t as ridiculous as those that were put on chocolate and children’s toys before then”, I could get out of the human rights business and go make a nice living selling carnations.
Recently, I heard the same things from a colleague at a café in Tel Aviv…but this time, instead of just countering with my rhetorical skills alone, I had props – carnations. Two Valentine’s red carnations fresh from the Gaza Strip (I won’t reveal here where I got them, but suffice to say they had permits to be in Israel, but not to be sold here!). I pushed them in the direction of my interlocutor’s face: what isn’t ridiculous about these carnations not being allowed out of Gaza for sale in the West Bank or Israel?! Their only crime is being ugly and last I checked, looks still can’t kill!
I will gladly concede that having food to eat seems more important than selling carnations. But if Netanyahu himself has said that economic warfare is out and economic development is in (Hebrew) when it comes to Israel’s Gaza policy, then having a job to be able to feed your family is in and food handouts are….well, out. Questions about whether people in Gaza have enough to eat are out and asking if people have access to dignified, productive work is in.
It’s complicated, people will say. Yes, it’s complicated, but it’s also not so complicated. If carnations, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes and furniture can make their way via Israeli territory to be sold abroad, the only restrictions left on sale of those same goods in Ramallah, Jenin, Hebron and even Tel Aviv are political hurdles it doesn’t make sense not to jump. With Gaza’s tunnel economy still churning revenues for the local government and nurturing a class of spoilers supporting the status quo, restoring and even expanding the activity of Gaza’s private sector through the provision of access to West Bank and Israeli markets isn’t just good for human rights, it’s also good for business. No one can guarantee there will be a market for these ugly carnations, but that’s already beside the point.