Coca-Cola is building its first factory in Gaza. This report says it’ll be ready in six months and will provide 3,000 new jobs for Gazans. This is the right way to solve the Gaza problem.
Here’s the math. About 1.8 million people live in Gaza. It’s impossible to know what the unemployment rate really is, because statistics are unreliable, and much of the Gaza economy is unofficial (we’d call it illegal), as in most places in the developing world. But let’s say it’s 50 percent. That’s a recipe for hopelessness, extremism and Hamas.
Now let’s say there needs to be one wage-earner per four people. That means Gaza needs 450,000 jobs for full employment. It would need another 225,000 jobs it unemployment is 50 percent. Another 20,000 jobs would cut the unemployment figure–and chances are, if those jobs are created by building factories, the “multiplier effect” would create the rest. That refers to jobs in sectors that supply or service the factories, and consumer sectors that spring up because of the increase in available spending money.
So a few big factories with 20,000 workers altogether would transform the Gaza economy as night turns into day. Coca-Cola’s 3,000 is a good first step. That figure already includes the multiplier effect, since the factory itself would employ “only” several hundred people. That’s why they call the effect “multiplier.”
“All” we need to do to make this happen is break the iron grip of the UN on Gaza. Through its handouts, schools and refugee camps, the UN is perpetuating the suffering of Palestinian refugees into the fourth generation for its own reasons and that of Palestinian politicians. If we redirect all that aid from handouts to building factories, it wouldn’t matter if the factories are immediately profitable. It’s aid money, don’t forget. What matters is that Gaza gets an economy, people start earning money and supporting their families, and for the first time in decades, they have some hope. And trust the energetic and positive spirit of Palestinians–they can turn this into a self-supporting economy in time. Then we can really talk about peace.
It’s worthwhile noting that Coca-Cola is the one that defied the Arab boycott of Israel for decades, selling its products here, while others, like Pepsi, buckled under. In 1991, Pepsi finally started marketing here, and that set off a lively conversation around our Shabbat dinner table: Do we buy Pepsi to support their decision to sell in Israel, or do we refrain from buying because they boycotted Israel for so long? It went back and forth before my son Haggai, a teenager at the time, settled it with this: “I tried Pepsi, and it sucks.”
Haggai, me and our dog back then