Gaza’s misery? Revisiting two Guardian reports which cited Gaza unemployment at 45%

When explaining what I do for a living to new friends who aren’t necessarily familiar with the Guardian, I’m often asked, in one form or the other, something to the effect of, “How anti-Israel is the Guardian?”, to which I sometimes cheekily reply, “The Guardian makes The New York Times look like Arutz Sheva.”

Of course, by this I mean that the anti-Israel bias of the New York Times is bad, but I don’t think it’s quite in the Guardian’s league – though, at least one highly informed scholar  has argued otherwise.

I bring this up to introduce a remarkable story in the NYT which, while repeating at least a couple of the predictable MSM tropes about Gaza’s overall condition, nevertheless notes Gaza’s “building boom”.

“Two luxury hotels are opening in Gaza this month. Thousands of new cars are plying the roads. A second shopping mall — with escalators imported from Israel — will open next month. Hundreds of homes and two dozen schools are about to go up. A Hamas run farm where Jewish settlements once stood is producing enough fruit that Israeli imports are tapering off.”

Building boom in Gaza City

The NYT also noted that Gaza “…has never been among the world’s poorest places. There is near universal literacy and relatively low infant mortality, and health conditions remain better than across much of the developing world.”

The story further quotes Mahmoud Daher, a World Health Organization official in Gaza, as saying, “We have 100 percent vaccination; no polio, measles, diphtheria or AIDS. We’ve never had a cholera outbreak.”

But, even more notable in the NYT piece is that the figure they cite on Gaza unemployment is dramatically at odds with two recent Guardian reports, which left unchallenged statistics by UNRWA spokesperson Chris Guinness that the unemployment rate in Gaza was 45%.  Harriet Sherwood’s report from June 15th, Unemployment in Gaza rises despite hopes of economic revivals“, and a Guardian/Reuters report on June 14th, Gaza jobless rate at 45% five years after full blockade imposed” both parroted UNRWA’s figure of 45%.

Yet the NYT piece quotes Ala al-Rafati, the economy minister for Hamas, stating that “nearly 1,000 factories are operating here”, and he estimated unemployment at “no more than 25 percentwhich represents a figure not too far off from official World Bank data.  While a 25% unemployment rate is by no means good, it’s actually relatively consistent with unemployment levels throughout the Arab world. For instance, the average youth unemployment percentage for all Arab states was 23.4% in 2010.

Of course, this is more than a story about statistics.  The pro-Israel blogosphere was alone for a while in refuting (and, at times, quite justifiably mocking) the utterly mind numbing clichés reported dutifully by the mainstream media (and more than one world leader) about Gaza being “the world’s largest open air prison” – a narrative which seems to have finally all but disappeared in the face of so much evidence, even prior to the NYT piece, that there wasn’t anything even approaching a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  The larger story, of course, is how  journalist activists at the Guardian and elsewhere are constantly in search of evidence to support their preconceived conclusions about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – conclusions (and evidence) which rarely withstand critical scrutiny.

Fruit stand, Gaza City

28 replies »

  1. On the employment figures, the UN is using the ‘broad’ measure (aka ‘real’ measure), I’d have to check, but I suspect the lower number is the standard measure commonly reported by governments worldwide.

  2. Adam:

    Good article ! But I am curious about one sentence : “while repeating at least a couple of the predictable MSM tropes about Gaza’s overall condition“. My understanding of the word “trope” is that it does not mean a falsehood, but rather implies overused, figurative, embellished, etc. So I understand that you are not accusing the author of writing incorrect information, but rather you are complaining that there are a few accurate sentences in a very positive article make you uncomfortable.

    Am I correct ?

    • By a trope, I mean the following passage:

      “It is a year since a Turkish flotilla challenged the siege and Israeli commandos killed nine activists aboard the ships, leading to international outrage and an easing of conditions”

      It’s a passage which doesn’t necessarily contain any falsehoods, but which advances a broader narrative which is misleading. The Turkish flotilla was sponsored by IHH, and intended to violently challenge Israeli forces, and bring international condemnation on Israel. Again, there’s nothing in the NYT passage that’s patently false, but, by leaving out vital info on what they’re referring to it leaves an, at best, incomplete picture.

      • You are again using the same tactics that I commented on yesterday, namely to select an isolated sentence in a long ‘positive’ article and make an issue of it (although not as blatantly today). Nobody is ever going to write the perfect article and use the perfect phrases. In this case you can’t expect the writer to give the entire background history of the conflict (there is no end to it – why stop at this one sentence – he doesn’t mention the disengagement, for example).

        I simply don’t see the point in using this approach, and you do it repeatedly. At best it merely distracts and confuses (today) and at worst it is petty and wrong (yesterday).

  3. … with escalators imported from Israel …

    Doesn’t exactly fit certain people’s references to a “siege” or “concentration camp” – not that they’ll listen, of course.

  4. “anti-Israel bias of the New York Times”?

    Seriously? I don’t see that. Is it just Freedman or the general tone? Are you not starting to get overly sensitive to criticism?

    • You have to understand that on this website “anti-Israel bias” is a codeword for “pro-Israel with a different opinion”. Tom Friedman is a good example; he consistently praises Israel’s achievements and all his proposals are clearly aimed at strengthening Israel in the future, both politically and economically. But he disagrees with the policies of the current government which to many here is the same as the country and the people, hence “anti-Israel bias”.

      It is sad that those who accuse others of adopting a double-standard regarding Israel do the same themselves; they would never conflate the government with the country when discussing the policies of any other democratic nation.

      • And you do regard the Jewish inhabitants of Judea and Samaria as people just as decent as any other, only with different political ideas concerning Jewish rights over the Land of Israel?

        Or do you rather smear and blacken them as “racists, fascists, nutballs” and other epithets just a hair short of “untermensch,” and blame them for everything from regional wars to poverty in pre-1967 Israel?

        Physician, heal thyself. If you want your opinions to be treated with charity, you need to do the same to others.

  5. I was agreeing with the tone of the article – and get this!
    What a fool you are, DP.

  6. Since when has the left been interested in the truth or fairness or indeed justice? They make up history as they go along completely ignoring the facts staring at their gormless faces.

    And this is the danger we’re facing. If the progressive “win” the islamist argument, they will write a version of the fabric of their imagination and paddle it as history to our kids.

    Never let your kids anywhere near a Guardian reading liberal fascist progressive or you’re loose them for ever.

    • Since when has the left been interested in the truth or fairness or indeed justice? They make up history as they go along completely ignoring the facts staring at their gormless faces.

      I’m waiting for IsraeliNurse to criticize your stereotyping …..

  7. Interesting to see how perfectly reasonable posts by myself and MTC are being massively voted down. You’d almost think that site had been hijacked by a bunch of juvenile morons automatically giving certain posters the thumbs down – even with posts they agree with!!! – instead of attempting to debate.

    How pathetic.

    • Obviously the regulars are upset that Hamas is fudging the unemployment percentage upwards 🙂

      Or more likely they simply don’t know how to calculate a percentage. Let me explain (I assume you know how to divide two numbers):
      % = (x/y) * 100
      If a govt (in this case Hamas) wants to increase the unemployment percentage for propaganda purposes, it can simply fiddle with the criteria for measuring ‘x’ (i.e. increase the number of unemployed) or ‘y’ (decrease the total labour force). Fiddling the measurement criteria is very hard to detect and all governments do it all the time – but a normal govt does the opposite of what Hamas does, because a normal govt wants the unemployment rate to be as low as possible !

  8. Why are my comments being censored and Pretzel’s are allowed to stand? Does he have a special dispensation because he is a jew hater?

    Is he a Justified Ancient of Mu Mu?

    What goes on here?

    • Me and a Jew hater? You are clearly insane.

      “Special dispensation”? Hilarious! Did you get that from watching MTV, you mental midget?

    • Why are my comments being censored and Pretzel’s are allowed to stand?

      Because your comments generally comprise unprovoked and rather repulsive insults and slurs (as you have just done yet again)? It’s not exactly rocket science.