Thank God for Tony Blair helping transport sweaters from Gaza

Amira Hass in Haaretz:

Senior British diplomats invested supreme efforts in the past year so that one truck could transfer 2,000 sweaters, to be sold in the United Kingdom. The future wearers of these sweaters must, first of all, thank their former prime minister, Tony Blair, who this week will be marking the fifth anniversary of his appointment as the Quartet’s special envoy for Middle Eastern affairs.

As part of their job Blair and his team of experts, who are permanently stationed in our country, are doing everything in their power to share with the Israeli experts on terror and economics their astonishing discoveries: that unemployment (34 percent in Gaza ) and poverty (44 percent of Gazans suffer from food insecurity ) harm society, and that without the export of merchandise there is no economic development.

It turns out that Blair and his team have the iron patience of a nation that has dealt for hundreds of years with the comprehension-challenged natives. Five years after Israel imposed the tight siege against Gaza, and two years after it loosened the siege by allowing more goods to get in (by a rare coincidence, that came after the interception of the Mavi Marmara flotilla ), Blair’s team still hasn’t convinced Israel of the siege’s harm. And the government continues to believe that the prohibition against exports from the Strip is the right way to fight the Hamas government, which meanwhile refuses to collapse.

Back to the sweaters: Equally warm thanks are sent from here to Lord Andrew Stone, who visited Gaza in June 2011 and was involved in his own way in bringing together Kamal Ashour, the owner of a sewing factory in Gaza, and the British retailer G.D. Williams & Co. Ltd.

Let’s not forget the contribution of the British consul general in Jerusalem, Sir Vincent Fean, and of Her Majesty’s minister for international development, Alan Duncan, whose ministry helped to rehabilitate the long-unused sewing plant. The two also helped secure funding to pay for modern equipment and to train tailors to work with the modern machines. It’s no wonder than Fean and Duncan warmly welcomed the first shipment of clothes from Gaza to England since 2007.

There is no question that the British sweater wearers will be happy to know that their taxes are paying for so many important hours of work, and that they enabled one truck to make history on May 14, 2012, when it delivered the aforementioned items of clothing from the sewing factory to the Kerem Shalom commercial checkpoint, to the Ashdod Port, and finally, to the British retailer.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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