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Why are Palestinians fleeing the Gaza Strip?

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According to some reports, nearly 40,000 Palestinians have fled the Gaza Strip since 2018.

Bassam Tawil


Thousands of Palestinians are continuing to leave the Gaza Strip in search of a better life in other countries, including Canada and the European Union.

In the past few weeks, several videos of Palestinians leaving the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt have surfaced on social media. Other Palestinians have been documented queuing outside the Gaza offices that issue visas for Turkey to obtain a visa to emigrate. These Palestinians are leaving because they can no longer tolerate life under the Islamist movement of Hamas. They are not fleeing because of Israel.

“We want to live in dignity,” said a young Palestinian man in one of the videos. “All those who are seeking to emigrate want a dignified life. The young men are risking their lives, they are prepared to die.”

Another young man said:

“I know I’m risking my life, but I want to leave, dead or alive. At least I will find a dignified life abroad. People want to leave because of the oppression and injustice we see here [in the Gaza Strip].”

Palestinian economic expert Mohammed Abu Jayyab confirmed that youth emigration from the Gaza Strip has seen an unprecedented increase over the past decade. He revealed that a large number of young people have already left the Gaza Strip, while many others are still trying to leave despite the risks involved and the lack of clarity about their future in the hosting countries. “Young people insist on leaving the Gaza Strip in search of better opportunities that are unavailable in the Gaza Strip,” he stated. “High unemployment rates and scarcity of job opportunities are among the reasons behind the increase in emigration.”

Since 2007, Gaza has been controlled by the Iran-backed Hamas terror group, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood organization. Instead of working to improve the living conditions of the two million Palestinians living under its rule, Hamas has invested millions of dollars in manufacturing weapons and building tunnels from which to attack Israel. Hamas had an opportunity to turn the Gaza Strip into the “Singapore of the Middle East,” but its desire to destroy Israel has brought only war and death to the Palestinians. To achieve its goal of murdering Jews and eliminating Israel, Hamas appears ready to sacrifice endless numbers of Palestinians.

Hamas evidently does not care if hundreds of Palestinians are killed and injured in wars instigated by its rocket attacks against Israel. Hamas does not even hesitate to use Palestinians as human shields during these wars. Members of the terror group have endangered the lives of thousands of their own innocent civilians by firing rockets from residential areas close to schools and hospitals. Lately, Hamas has also been encouraging Palestinians to riot at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, and to throw stones, firebombs and explosive devices at Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian political analyst Mahmoud al-Raqab writes:

“For more than 17 years, the residents of the Gaza Strip have been suffering from psychological, social, economic, and political problems resulting from internal division, humanitarian crises, and repeated wars. This has led the residents of the Gaza Strip to think about emigrating.”

The “internal division” refers to the ongoing power struggle between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. The two parties have been at each other’s throats since 2007, when Hamas staged a violent coup and expelled the P.A. from the Gaza Strip. In 2018, the P.A., as part of an attempt to undermine Hamas, imposed a series of sanctions on the Gaza Strip. The sanctions have further exacerbated the economic and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, especially after the P.A. suspended the payment of salaries and financial aid to tens of thousands of civil servants and impoverished families.

According to some reports, nearly 40,000 Palestinians have fled the Gaza Strip since 2018. Al-Raqab writes:

“Those looking at the situation feel pain and oppression at what our reality has become in the absence of practical and realistic solutions by the Palestinian leadership to reduce the emigration.

“Despite their exposure to the risks of drowning, loss, and death, Palestinians fleeing the Gaza Strip see that Turkey and Europe are their hope and future. The Palestinian leadership must work hard to achieve comprehensive national reconciliation, end the state of division [between the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip], and provide job opportunities. If these demands are met, the Palestinians who left the Gaza Strip will return home, and the idea of emigration will disappear from their minds. If it is not achieved, we will be facing a major exodus of young and educated minds, as well as an exodus of experienced people who have lost confidence in the [Palestinian] political leadership.”

The Palestinian political leadership, however, does not appear overly worried about the large number of Palestinians fleeing Gaza. Abbas is busy spouting antisemitic tropes against Jews, delegitimizing Israel and demonizing Jews. In a speech on August 24 before the Revolutionary Council of his ruling Fatah faction, Abbas claimed that European Jews are not Semites, but descendants of Khazars, and that therefore their persecution has nothing to do with antisemitism. He added that Hitler and the Europeans did not kill the Jews “because they were Jews,” but rather because of “their social role, and not their religion.” He explained that Hitler “fought” the Jews because they dealt with usury and money, not because of antisemitism.

Needless to say, Abbas, in his speech, completely ignored the plight of the young Palestinians fleeing the Gaza Strip. For Abbas, promoting hate against Israel and Jews is more important than addressing the economic and humanitarian crisis he helped create, through his sanctions in the Gaza Strip. Instead of apologizing for his antisemitic statements, Abbas has doubled down, claiming his words were taken out of context or that he was only quoting Jewish, American and other authors.

Hamas leaders, for their part, continue to pretend that everything is fine in Gaza. They are also continuing to incite Palestinians to carry out terror attacks against Israel. Notably, the Hamas leaders are making these statements from their five-star hotels and villas in Qatar and Lebanon.

Commenting on the youth emigration from Gaza, the Palestinian People’s Party (formerly the Palestinian Communist Party) called on Hamas to pay special attention to the atrocious circumstances of the young Palestinians, including university graduates, and to provide them with the necessities of a decent life. The party cautioned:

“The Palestinian People’s Party, while sounding the alarm and warning of the continuation of the phenomenon of migration from the Gaza Strip, points out that expansion and growth of this phenomenon carries dangerous political and social repercussions. The silence over this phenomenon, belittling its dangers, and ignoring its disastrous results constitutes an active participation in promoting it.”

The emigration from Gaza is yet another example of how Palestinians have fallen victim to their corrupt and incompetent leaders. Palestinian leaders continue to drag their people from one disaster to another by inciting them against Israel and ushering them into more violence and terrorism. The international community, meanwhile, continues to ignore the wretched conditions of the Palestinians living under the P.A. and Hamas, choosing instead to lay all the blame on Israel.

By ignoring the plight of the Palestinians fleeing the brutal regime of the Islamists in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations and foreign media are doing a great disservice to the same Palestinians they claim to care about.

As Palestinian leaders continue to suppress the people of Gaza, Israel has increased the number of work permits for Gazans. In July, at least 67,769 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were allowed to cross the Israeli-controlled Erez border crossing—up to 90% of them for jobs that pay well in Israel. Six percent of the exits were for patients needing medical treatment in Israel or the West Bank.

It seems that Israel is doing more to help the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip than the P.A., Hamas or any Arab country. However, because this news does not fit the anti-Israel agenda of many newspapers and foreign journalists, it is highly unlikely to make it into the mainstream media in the West.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

Image: Gazans protest against the Hamas government, July 30, 2023. Source: Twitter.

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