Arab Slums Much Worse than PalArab “Refugee” Camps

A couple of weeks ago the Washington Post published an article (no longer available; excerpted here from AP) that showed that both Gazans and Egyptians were surprised that Gaza was in comparatively better shape than Egypt was:

A little travel has gone a long way toward changing perceptions in Gaza.
After excursions to Egypt across a border breached by Hamas militants, some Palestinians pepper their local Arabic dialect with Egyptian expressions while others say they are shocked by the poverty there.

Jihad Jaradeh, 24, a Gazan whose family owns a furniture shop, reached the Egyptian town of El Arish, some 25 miles from the border. Although shop owners doubled and tripled prices, Jaradeh paid up, saying he even gave extra “because they looked so poor.”

Many Gazans who visited Egypt remarked on the discrepancy between their more glamorous image of urban Egypt – derived mostly from movies – and the run-down border region of unpaved streets and small houses they encountered.

A trickle of Egyptians also made it into Gaza. Mohammed, an Egyptian truck driver who rented his truck to Palestinians to ferry goods into Gaza, pointed to cars crowding a nearby street and said: “I thought conditions here would be harder than this. I thought people would be starving.”

This theme has been reinforced by former Reuters reporter Mona Eltahawy, hardly a fan of Israel. From Indian Muslims:

I must confess that when Hamas militants blasted holes into Egypt’s border to end an Israeli blockade on Gaza, my first thought was how lucky those Gazans were. Landlocked and living on less than $2 a day—their plight rarely elicits envy, I know. But there are Egyptian slums that swim in more sewage and are submerged in even greater poverty. In those slums, chronic diseases go unchecked and uncured, and children grow up next to the dead in tombs turned into makeshift-housing.Yet nobody rushes to blast holes into the imaginary border of poverty that suffocates those slums, nor are they sporting t-shirts urging us to sympathise. Why?

Because Israel cannot be blamed.

For decades, successive dictators in the Arab world have sacrificed their respective national concerns on the altar of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, telling us it must be resolved before any kind of progress can be made, whether it’s stopping terrorism, embracing democracy or ending poverty. Unsurprisingly, despite peace with Israel for the past 29 years, Egypt still suffers with the same problems.

As a Jerusalem-based Reuters correspondent in 1998, I visited several Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, and was astonished to see living conditions better than in the slums of Cairo, my hometown. (Frustration and not mean-spiritedness compels me to make that comparison.)

Despite its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the Egyptian regime discourages its citizens from visiting Israel or the Palestinian areas, so few can even make the comparison.

Arab media, particularly the state-owned kind, are equally discouraged from focusing on national issues – such as the desperate state of our slums – and instead devote most newsprint and airtime to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Iraq. The latter never got much attention when Saddam Hussein was filling mass graves with Shi’ites and Kurds, but catapulted to the top of the news bulletins when the Arab world’s other bete noire – the United States – invaded Iraq in 2003.

Recently the baton of Palestine passed into the firm and dangerous grip of Islamists. Years of corrupt Fatah leadership handed Hamas a 2006 electoral victory, which unfortunately paved the way for civil war between the rival factions, shattering illusions that Palestinian leaders cared more for their people than their jostle for power.

The masked gunmen of Hamas – who lob rockets into Israel with little regard for the consequences for their own people – are now the heroes of the day for bombing the Egyptian border. Egypt, to the west and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction to the east are seen as Israel’s surrogate jailers of Gaza, and the more Israel tightens its grip, the more that scenario is magnified.

Some Egyptians struggled to square their fears over seeing armed Islamists bomb their country’s borders with their desire to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The popular social networking site Facebook became home to some heated arguments in groups titled “Save Gaza for Humans Not Hamas” and “Get the Palestinians Away from Arish—We Want Our Borders Back.”

A young Egyptian woman told me she considered Hamas’ action at the Egyptian border an ‘invasion': “They did blow up the border. Putting women and children first does not make it ok,” she said. “They attacked the Egyptian forces. They acted like thugs. It was a political move, and they had no respect for Egypt. That’s why I want them out really.”

It is still the rare Arab voice that points out the obvious – Palestinian Arabs in “refugee” camps have been given decades of free food, shelter and education, not to mention attention, that Arab countries do not provide for their own citizens.

Most Palestinian Arabs left the area for much more lucrative jobs in the Gulf and would have happily settled elsewhere had the Arab countries allowed them to become repatriated as refugees rather than purposefully keeping them stateless.

The ones that stayed in these “camps” for generations are the lazy ones who feel that free medical care, housing and food are their right long after their status of “refugees” is long gone by any sane definition. And this mindset that Palestinian Arabs deserve this exalted status at the expense of all poor Arabs has penetrated Arab society to keep a self-perpetuating problem alive for purely political reasons.

About Elder of Ziyon

Elder of Ziyon may or may not be a real person. He (or she, or it) blogs at

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  • gordo

    All I know from my travels is that the muslim world doesn’t seem to give a damn about their poor. So much for a compassionate religion of peace. When the tsunami hit, killing and displacing thousands, if not millions, by far the most help came from the west, especially the U.S. These people have so little regard for human life that they sacrifice children and women every day for the sake of furthering their murderous agenda. But, hey, why change after 1400 years.

  • greg

    gordo, you’re a hateful idiot.

    That is all

  • xennady

    greg, you’re an oblivious idiot.

    That is all.

  • Jim

    xennady seems to be pretty well on target……

  • Paul from Florida

    Arab world.
    600 million.
    From Morocco to Iraq.
    Not one world class university.
    Average income per day, per person, $2.
    Not one world class manufactured good or service.
    GDP, about Norway. 7 million people.
    Half the population, un used.
    Less than 100 books a year translated into Aribic.
    Not one democracy.

    It’s Bush/Jews/European’s fault.

  • Shy Guy

    What’s the matter, Greg? Can’t get past a two-sentence diatribe?

    And short sentences at that!

  • SenatorMark4

    New Perspective! We need some for the 21st century. As Americans we understand that “We the People” are the government but we allow corporations to influence our corrupt politicians to offer loan guarantees and grants so those same corporations can do business with regimes that do this to their people.
    There are three legs, to my mind, that must be supported in order for America to recognize our partners in freedom, those that deserve our support. One, the ability to vote out the tax man every two years. Two, freedom of speech. Three, freedeom of religion. Otherwise, their people deserve what they tolerate.

  • Diggs

    If the Islamists had attacked Saddam’s forces as violently and consistently as they attack Coalition forces, Saddam would have been out of power years ago. So why didn’t they? Because Islamists are not trying to remove dictators, or give any sort of freedom to the masses, or establish governments that believe in improving the lives of their citizens. In fact, the Taliban, Hamas, Iranian Revolutionary Council and other Islamist governments have shown the exact opposite; they will enslave their own people just as quickly as a military dictator like Saddam.
    Not that this would ever be recognized by the Leftists around the world. They think the Islamists are fighting the US because we are inherently evil. They don’t understand history, or else they’d understand that the Islamists fight us because America ISN’T evil enough.

  • kashif

    this story on the same site is also worth reading to get a complete picture:

  • Klaus Flauten

    Interesting that the author of the article to which you link is named Kashif. Your conclusion that language differences seem to account for the difference in care sort of distracts from any racism.

  • kashif


    In 40 years Jerusalem hospitals have not been able to solve the language problem?

    May be source of all this conflict is because Israel have not made any attempt to learn the language and therefore failed to understand what Arabs are saying.

  • David Gillies

    I’ve lived in Central America for nearly ten years. In that time I have become a fluent Spanish speaker. It’s not the job of my hosts to learn English on my behalf. If Arabs have lived in Israel for forty years, maybe they should think about learning Hebrew.

  • Ollie

    Kashif makes the apologetic response for the dictatorships and Islamic radicals based on the argument that if there are other bad people in the world they must be the casue of the problem. There must be some excuse for violence and making slaves of their neighbors.

    Maybe the Palestinians have made the mistake of not learning Hebrew? Maybe they do not want to integrate into the Israeli country? Maybe they want to be outcasts? So they can claim it is right to kill everyone who disagrees with them? Then they can collect the free food, free shelter assistance, free medical care from the West.

    Funny, it is not the Arabs supporting these things. The other Arabs support only the military ventures there, not the humanitarian and progressive areas of learning, work and productivity for future economic growth. Training and western education remove the ability to control the population, God forbid, they might think of bettering their lives without killing their neighbors and behaving as slaves to the Islamic radicals or the local dictatorship.

    “The ones that stayed in these “camps” for generations are the lazy ones who feel that free medical care, housing and food are their right long after their status of “refugees” is long gone by any sane definition. ”

    Why do we have to hear this over and over when it always is a recipe for failure and disaster. They are being trained to live at the trough of “WELFARE”. So that they do not have to do anything, especially think, and can be easily managed and manipulated by the radicals and the local dictatorship.

    The only thing that will improve their lot is to work and learn. We have found that out in the West. It is about time they learned the same, and we in the West stopped subsidizing them. The Isralis have never had to learn this, they just do it.

  • kashif

    “I’ve lived in Central America for nearly ten years. In that time I have become a fluent Spanish speaker. It’s not the job of my hosts to learn English on my behalf. If Arabs have lived in Israel for forty years, maybe they should think about learning Hebrew”


    May be you want to read your history books again. Arabs are not guests on this land, but some other group of people.

    Now that you have mentioned Spanish, please visit the United States where hospitals have hired spanish workers to help them serve migrants coming from south america.

  • Mack


    In America, the defacto language of commerce and administration is English. This is cold reality, not an opinion.

    I have an English surname as the result of the American “occupation” of the American southwest – I am ethnically Mexican and a native speaker of Spanish. This territory was historically Mexican for generations, and thus there have been accomodations made to make life easier for the existing Spanish-speaking and immigrant populations. This doesn’t change the reality of the situation one bit.

    In America, the defacto language of commerce and administration is English. Regardless of how “unjust” America’s possession of the land may be, neither the American government nor the English language are going away anytime soon.

    In Israel, the defacto language of commerce and administration is Hebrew. In either locale, one can either count on the graciousness of the government and good fortune to get by, or learn the language and flourish. It is a person decision, and a personal responsibility.

    That is all

    Es todo, nada mas, solo faltamos las lagrimas…

  • Mark
  • jusa

    You need english in America? How come my TV, Radio, Newspapers, ATM, national products like microwavable food, some supermarket circular, products like vacuums and VCRs, and a LOT of job postings are in Spanish?
    I don’t even live on the border, and I’m not in Miami.
    You would be better off here if you knew English, true. But I’d have a lot more doors open to me if I knew Spanish. Which would take away from my learning Chinese(new global language), or even Hebrew(personal wish).

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