Sunday, April 27, 2008

Deepening crisis in the West Bank and Gaza

Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 24 - 30 Apr 2008

Economic conditions in the West Bank as well as Gaza are deteriorating, leaving many incensed at the masquerade of peace talks, writes Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah

As 1.5 million Gazans are crying out to the world to pressure Israel to lift its scandalously callous blockade of the coastal territory, another 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank are struggling to cope with an unprecedented economic crisis that is further impoverishing and exhausting them.

The crisis, the harshest in recent memory, stems from a host of local and global factors, including soaring food and energy prices, sagging currency value, rampant joblessness and draconian Israeli restrictions on the movement of people, goods and services.

Further exacerbating these conditions is a devastating drought, unseen for decades, and which has nearly destroyed this year's grain crops upon which many Palestinian families depend for their livelihood. And the drought is not just affecting farmers. Coupled with a phenomenal rise in temperatures, it is also expected to cause a serious water shortage crisis in most localities, especially in the summer months.

Some Palestinians are already at loss as to how they will be able to cope with the steep rise in basic commodities.

Take flour, for example -- a staple for most Palestinian families. Last year, a sack of wheat flour weighing 50 kilogrammes cost 70 Israeli Shekels, or $20. Today, the same amount costs 210 Israeli Shekels or $65. Prices of other basic consumer products, such as rice, sugar, cooking oil, meat, including poultry, vegetables and fruits have likewise skyrocketed, making them nearly unaffordable for many Palestinian families. This week, a kilo of medium-quality tomatoes was sold in the Hebron region for 10 Israeli Shekels or $3.

Continued . . .

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