According to a United Nations report, a growing number of jobless Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have turned to drugs since the outbreak of the second intifada (uprising) in 2000 and the Israeli pullout from the territory in the summer of 2005. Hundreds of Palestinians who previously worked in Israel or for Jewish farmers in the Gush Katif settlement bloc have been unemployed since Israel uprooted 8,500 Jews from their Gaza homes.
While Palestinians wanted them out, they now blame Israelis for taking their jobs with them.
But much of the blame lies with the Palestinians themselves. Unlike the settlements which were razed, the Gush Katif greenhouses were left intact, and thanks in large part to American Jewish philanthropists, they were turned over to the Palestinian Authority with the aim of boosting the economy. But the greenhouses were looted and terrorist training camps were established on the ruins.
“The greenhouses once employed 3,600 workers, the overwhelming majority of them Palestinians,” the UN report said.
One 35-year-old man, who worked for a Jewish company, said unemployment led him to drug addiction. “My life was normal, everything was normal, but unemployment is difficult and poverty is more difficult,” he said. “Bad conditions led me down a worse path. I have even had to beg for money.” Drugs are smuggled into the territories from Lebanon and Egypt, according to Husni Shaheen, secretary-general of the Palestinian Supreme National Committee against Drugs.
The Palestinian Anti-Narcotics Administration reported that there were more than 850 drugs seizures in the Palestinian territories in 2005, and 750 in 2006. However, the drop is not attributed to a decrease in drug abuse, but rather to the weakening of the Palestinian security forces. Law enforcement has been ineffective in catching dealers and help for addicts is not readily available.
“Drugs are spreading because we don’t have a plan to deter its use or stop the smuggling,” said Dr. Adel Aouda, a psychologist in Gaza City.
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