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The Gaza paradox

Allowing voluntary emigration from the Strip could be the key to Gaza’s future.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians from the northern Gaza Strip walk through a humanitarian corridor to the safety of southern Gaza, Nov. 10, 2023. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians from the northern Gaza Strip walk through a humanitarian corridor to the safety of southern Gaza, Nov. 10, 2023. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS.
Gedaliah Blum
Gedaliah Blum
Gedaliah Blum is the co-founder of the Heartland Initiative, a platform enhancing global engagement with Israel, and Dapei Katom, which supports family-run businesses in Israel's heartland.

The Gaza Strip is currently in the grip of a complex and deeply troubling humanitarian crisis that has been exacerbated by the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. Hamas’s use of civilian areas for terror purposes has left Gaza’s infrastructure in ruins. The group’s use of civilians as human shields has prompted Israel to call on Gazans to evacuate the combat zones, resulting in a mass exodus to the already overcrowded southern region of the Strip.

It is not surprising, then, that nearly 90% of Gazans wish to emigrate. Yet the international response to this has been surprisingly passive. While world leaders and humanitarian organizations vocally condemn the violence and its devastating consequences, they have done little or nothing to facilitate or even endorse the emigration of Gaza civilians.

Eugene Kontorovich, a distinguished legal scholar with expertise in constitutional and international law, highlighted this issue: “There should be no mass turning back at the border of Gazans who wish to flee and seek refuge in neutral countries, or making Gaza the only place other than North Korea without migration.” The comparison with North Korea underscores the gravity of the situation: A population yearning for escape has been ensnared by geopolitical complexities and international inaction.

The international community’s role in this crisis is marked by paradox. On the one hand, there is fervent advocacy of “Palestinian rights.” On the other hand, its lack of action prevents Gazans from going somewhere they can exercise those rights. There is a global commitment to the Palestinians’ welfare but a refusal to support their efforts to secure it through emigration.

The benefits of Gazan emigration cannot be overstated. Gaza’s population has no political rights under a terrorist government. At the same time, Gazans contend with soaring unemployment rates, dismal living conditions and limited access to essential services like healthcare and education. The ongoing conflict has only exacerbated these problems, leading to a humanitarian crisis that many international observers have described as critical.

While international organizations and NGOs are supposed to address these problems, their ability to effect change is often constrained by the precarious political and security situation, as well as the necessity of collaborating with terrorist organizations. This underscores the need for a more comprehensive approach to the crisis that addresses the underlying political issues alongside the immediate humanitarian needs of the population.

Furthermore, there is a glaring economic disparity between Gaza and more stable regions of the world. Gaza has one of the world’s highest unemployment rates. There is widespread poverty and an overreliance on international aid. This has left the potential and aspirations of many Gazans unfulfilled; their skills and talents untapped.

In contrast, countries with stable economies and societies built on principles of tolerance and individual liberty can offer Gazans not only economic opportunities but also exposure to different cultural and social norms. In these societies, Gazans could benefit from environments that value diversity, innovation and personal development. This could be transformative, giving them a fresh perspective on coexistence and community-building essential to personal growth and social progress.

For example, Gazan professionals and young graduates abroad could build careers in industries that are not present in their place of birth. The global job market is open to diverse skills and talents, providing Gazans with opportunities to contribute to fields ranging from technology and healthcare to academia. Similarly, Gazan entrepreneurs confronted with limited prospects at home could thrive in more supportive business environments where innovation is celebrated and rewarded.

The plight of Gaza is not just a story of conflict but also international paradoxes and unfulfilled promises. It is high time for the international community to change its approach. By moving beyond rhetoric to concrete action, it could unlock the aspirations of a population yearning for the chance to rebuild and prosper. The road to a lasting solution in Gaza is complex, but enabling voluntary emigration could be a significant step towards turning the narrative of despair into one of hope and opportunity.

The world cannot afford to ignore the cries for freedom and dignity emanating from Gaza any longer. The keys to unlock the doors of Gaza are not only within Gaza’s borders. They are also embodied in the collective will of the international community to make a difference.

The time has come to turn the page on this devastating chapter and allow Gazans the chance to create their own future; one in which they can breathe free, dream big and embrace the opportunities the world has to offer. Gaza’s potential is vast and it’s time to unlock it.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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