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Israeli forces reportedly killed 52 Gazan protesters along the border fence amid violent protests. The Palestinian Authority called the killings a “terrible massacre” and the United National Human Rights Council called for the Israelis responsible to face justice. South Africa recalled its ambassador to Israel until the occupation of Gaza ends (seemingly unaware that happened 13 years ago).
Let’s put aside the fact that the same activists condemning Israel for defending itself against Hamas were largely silent when the Syrian government destroyed a Palestinian refugee camp last month. And let’s also ignore that while the world blames Israel for the Gaza siege, Egypt also shares a border with the Gaza Strip and allows far less humanitarian transit.
Eight years ago, against the backdrop of a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to bust Israel’s blockade of Gaza, Washington Post columnist George Will noted the irony that Turkey was sponsoring the Gaza flotilla at a time when Gazans enjoyed higher life expectancy and had better health than Turks. While the situation in Gaza is far from ideal, some perspective is necessary: In terms of health and welfare, the plight of Gazans today is far better than those living in many other countries.
Take, for example, life expectancy at birth. According to the CIA’s World Fact Book, Gazans born today can expect to live 74.2 years. That’s higher than Peru, Iran, Brazil, Jamaica, Ukraine, Russia, India, and more than 90 other countries.
The pattern is more the rule than the exception. Consider infant mortality. In Gaza, it is 16.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. That’s better than Pakistan, Ethiopia, Senegal, India, South Africa, and several dozen other countries.
Youth unemployment in the Gaza Strip is bad, but young Gazans are still more likely to find jobs than young South Africans, Bosnians, or Greeks.
The economy is still a problem. The Gaza Strip leads the world in gross domestic product decline, but then again, its decline is inversely proportional to the money which Hamas spends on rockets and other systems of terror. It can be hard to make ends meet anywhere in the world, but consumer price inflation is less in the Gaza Strip than in Egypt, Argentina, Turkey, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.
Cell phone penetration in Gaza is greater than in much of Africa, and more Gazans use the Internet than Lithuanians. If the Gazan leadership wanted, they could transform their territory into a regional Singapore. That they choose not to is no one’s responsibility but their own.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, leaving behind intact infrastructure capable of supporting a number of industries and to employ thousands. Rather than accept Israeli largesse, the Palestinians in Gaza destroyed greenhouses and tens of millions of dollars in other structures. Simultaneously, the international community has donated more to the Palestinians on a per capita basis than to any other people on earth. Palestinians may seek to ascribe current suffering to Israeli actions, but Palestinians have agency and, for more than a decade, have emphasized terror over welfare.
The situation in Gaza is tragic, but it’s important to keep perspective: Life for the average Gazan is far better than for the average South African, Egyptian, or Russian. That may not be the story told by press and self-described human rights activists, but World Bank and U.N. statistics do not lie.
If the international community truly wanted to help Gazans, perhaps the best way would be to hold their own government to account rather than a neighboring democracy which no longer occupies the Gaza Strip and which has allowed sufficient aid and assistance through to give Gazans far better opportunities than many Turks, Russians, and Egyptians enjoy. Let’s hope journalists and diplomats fact-check protesters, because to buy into Hamas propaganda is to endorse the tactics Hamas embraces in the Gaza Strip and to ensure terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere replicate them.
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