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January 25, 2008


Hey Palestine, let's go shopping!

Palestinians shop!

Life's been tough in Gaza lately. The people are ruled by a militant regime, there's at least 50% unemployment, and even if you have some money it's hard to buy food, medicine, gas, appliances, and pretty much everything else you would want.

Which is why it's been nice to see the tens of thousands of Palestinians flooding across the breached border into Egypt yesterday and today in an unbridled frenzy of consumerism. An economic analyst quoted by AP estimates that Gazans have spent $130 million in Egypt since Wednesday.

Egypt is moving toward controlling the shoppers eager to buy anything local vendors have to offer, but news reports suggest that until tonight, no one was doing much to stop them from coming in, and Hamas isn't taxing any goods they bring back. One Egyptian official estimates that 120,000 Palestinians are in Egypt, buying all the TVs, cigarettes, goats, generators, and potato chips (with special inflated prices) they can carry from the Egyptian border town they're temporarily being allowed into.

But of course, some resourceful Palestinians are taking this opportunity to experience other aspects of urban life they don't usually have access to. The Times interviewed Muhammad al-Hirakly, 22, while he was in line to ride the bumper cars at an amusement park. He and his friends were going to try to get all the way to Cairo, "to see the big city and our family there, and also the girls," he said. "It's the most fun we've had in years."

An older visitor took a more philosophical view of his moment of freedom:

Adel al-Mighraky, 54, was returning to Rafah... "We were like birds in a cage," he said. Once the door is open, he said, "birds will fly away as fast as they can — this is what we did. But what kind of bird has to go back to its cage after it was freed?"

Olmert and Abbas are meeting this weekend, and there are rumors that Israel might let the Palestinians take control of the Gaza borders, which have been pretty much totally closed since June. After seeing how happy a brief, overpriced shopping spree can make residents of Gaza, I hope the Israelis can recognize that despite our differences, we're all consumers at heart.

categories: Business, Culture, International, Politics
posted by amy at 5:04 PM | #

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I bet if Dr Phil could take two single Moms, one from Israel and one from Palestine, to a mall for a shopping spree and some heart to heart over cappuccinos at Ruby Tuesdays, you'd see a lot more understanding in that part of the world.

Posted by: T-Rock at January 28, 2008 10:27 AM

And if he could get them to start sharing stories about their no-good deadbeat baby daddies, there would be nothing but hair-braiding and knitting circles across the holy land.

Posted by: amy at January 29, 2008 10:39 AM

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