The Gaza Strip may be renowned as one of the poorest strips of land on earth – the Strip’s per capita GDP of $3100 per annum puts Gaza in 171st place out of 226 countries, and unemployment hangs steadily around 40 percent – but the economic crunch hasn’t hit everybody in the region.
According to a report released Sunday on the Calcalist website, the Hamas government takes a standard 20 percent “tax” on goods that enter Gaza via the smuggling tunnels. Unfortunately, the government cut of the imports have failed to reach most Gazans, but a certain proportion of Gaza residents have capitalized on the opportunities over the past decade to have become multi-millionaires: The senior Hamas leadership.
According to the Calcalist, the big winner out of Hamas’ eight-year rule of Gaza is none other than Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a native opt the Sha’athi refugee camp and former right-hand man to Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
But in contrast to most refugee families, in 2010 Haniyeh reportedly purchased a 2,500 square meter plot of land in Gaza City for $4 million. Calcalist reported that in order not to draw attention to the purchase, he registered the land in the name of his daughter, Nabil. Since then, he has continued purchasing real estate, under the names of his 13 children.
The paper also reported that there is no shortage of million-dollar villas for sale in Gaza, and no shortage of people to buy them, mostly Hamas officials. In the words of one Gaza real estate analyst, “two years ago, he (an individual with close ties to Hamas who forked up the money for a luxury villa) didn’t have enough money for a pack of cigarettes.”
Another popular “arrangement” was partnership between Hamas and Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt. Khiret a-Shater, an Egyptian businessman and senior Brotherhood official, was known to transfer millions of dollars in cash to the Hamas government, and to senior Izzadin el-Qasm officers. But some of the Hamas members preferred safer grounds for their “investments,” and so teamed with a-shater to purchase property in Egypt.
According to Dr Ahmed Karima, a senior lecturer at al-Azhar University in Cairo, Hamas has transformed from a resistance movement to a political party representing no less than 1,200 millionaires.
Other Hamas officials who have become rich since the group staged a violent coup in Gaza in 2006 include Politburo Chief Khaled Mashal, who enjoys a bank stash of $2.6 billion, much of which is stored in Qatari and Egyptian banks.