Wednesday, June 19, 2024

  • Wednesday, June 19, 2024
  • Elder of Ziyon

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Rampant cigarette smuggling—fueled by high prices for tobacco—has become the latest manifestation of a breakdown in law and order that is slowing the delivery of lifesaving assistance.

A group of Palestinian men approached a United Nations warehouse in central Gaza last week and demanded access to aid stored inside. The gang wasn’t interested in food, fuel or medicine. It wanted something it considered far more valuable: contraband cigarettes hidden in the humanitarian cargo.

Aid trucks and storage depots have become targets for Palestinian smugglers seeking to retrieve illicit smokes stashed inside shipments by their accomplices, say U.N. and Israeli officials. Other local criminals are also attacking vehicles they suspect have cigarettes hidden somewhere on board, they say.

Cigarettes sell for as much as $25 apiece in isolated Gaza, so getting hold of even a pack can be enormously profitable.

Prices have soared for smokes since Israel limited imports into Gaza to essential goods—which doesn’t include cigarettes—after the Oct. 7 attacks in which Hamas militants and others poured into southern Israel and killed around 1,200 people, according to authorities. 

Trade in cigarettes managed to continue for months, with smokes surreptitiously making it through the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, which Hamas-backed authorities controlled. But when Israeli forces seized control of that crossing on May 6, the door was slammed shut on cigarette deliveries. Cigarette smugglers found another route through the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza but were unable to pull trucks aside to unload their contraband, as they had at Rafah.

Criminal attacks on aid convoys have become so severe that over a thousand truckloads of aid have been left sitting on the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel. 
Before May, Gazans could smuggle in cigarettes through Egypt. 

Which means that they could also smuggle in (small) weapons and ammunition that could also get past inspectors. 

Israel stopped the smuggling trade. Apparently, completely. Not only that, but Israel also stopped the criminals and Hamas from controlling the incoming aid and diverting it,.

These are unanticipated secondary problems, but they are proof that Israel is making things better, rather than continuing with the corruption and thievery embedded in Gaza's very fabric. 

Are the additional problems from Gaza's criminals Israel's fault? Would things be better if Hamas was back in control, taxing the cigarettes, importing weapons and preparing for the next October 7?

Israel has allowed commercial trucks to enter Gaza, which is what is alleviating the food crisis. Enterprising Gaza businesspeople could negotiate to bring in cigarettes and any other goods that have shortages. This is a more efficient way to provide more goods for everyone. I somehow doubt that the UN and other aid groups were officially importing cigarettes. 

The free market is a better way to distribute goods to Gazans than having aid agencies - often corrupt and colluding with Hamas themselves - do all the logistics. Commercial imports  could also include medical equipment and medicines - it would be easier for aid organizations to buy the goods locally rather than arrange to transport them themselves. They could also provide food vouchers to residents who do not have enough food, allowing them to choose what and how much to buy, rather than being told to make do with too much rice and not enough juice. 

In other words, the cigarette black market indicates that things are getting better in all other ways, and it points to a way to fix this problem using the free marker as a more efficient way to bring much-needed goods into Gaza. 

Gaza still needs a decent governing body that cares more about the residents than about its military. It would need that anyway, just none f the dozens of NGOs in Gaza ever cared enough to complain about how Hamas had taken the entire population hostage. To fix gaza, Hamas has to go, and unfortunately the only way to get rid of Hamas is to get rid of the entire infrastructure it built to hide its military assets, which is the entire area. When there is a tunnel entrance in every other house, they all need to be destroyed. 

People who disagree are tacitly saying that Hamas must be allowed to do whatever it wants. 

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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