How bad is life in Gaza?

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 13, 2012

Although partisan views dominate much of what has been said about the lives of the 1.6 million people in the Gaza Strip, a recent pair of conflicting reports have a degree of truth to them.

The report published last week by the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) calling for urgent action to improve health, education and infrastructure in Gaza seems to contain a great deal of reliable and worrying data. UNRWA's plea is warranted and certainly within the agency's mandate.

On the other hand, a recent report in the Economist detailed the building of around 550 tower blocks and multi-million dollar investments pouring in from the Gulf states and Turkey.

These two viewpoints are not irreconcilable. Although Israel still does not allow Gazans to sell their produce in West Bank markets, over the past two years, restrictions on Gaza's borders have been eased, allowing more goods through and a relative freedom of travel for Gazans through Egypt.

Add to this a new Hamas-friendly administration in Cairo, greater efforts by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Sunni states to counteract Iranian influence and silent co-operation by Israel with Hamas, through intermediaries, and you have the ingredients of an economic revival.

Even human rights groups have admitted that it is wrong to talk of a "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza, using the phrase "food insecurity" instead.

Ultimately, long-term planning for Gaza is next to impossible while Hamas and Israel do not recognise each other, Hamas's relationship with the PA is stormy and rival Palestinian factions are constantly challenging it. A revival may be happening but it could prove extremely temporary.

Last updated: 4:45pm, September 13 2012