Times of Israel Adds Important Data on Gaza Fishermen’s Growing Catch

In response to communication from CAMERA’s Israel office, Times of Israel has amended an Agence France Presse article claiming that the Israeli-led blockade has “suffocated” the Gaza Strip’s fishing industry, commendably adding essential data demonstrating that, to the contrary, the fishermen’s catch has significantly grown in the last 15 years.

The Dec. 5 AFP article by Rosie Scammall and Belal Alsabbagh, (“Gaza fishermen get boats back in ship-shape. . .”) cited a Gaza fisherman’s claim that the blockade’s restrictions on repair supplies for fishing boats has “suffocated us,” ignoring Palestinian data showing that Gaza fishermen have significantly increased their catch since the measure was introduced in 2007.

As CAMERA has previously noted, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reported Gaza fishermen caught 1,524,913 fish in 2009. (See Table 3). After another decade of the Israeli blockade, that figure climbed to 3,943,369 in 2019.

In addition, the number of registered fishing boats in the coastal enclave has more than doubled during the 15-year-blockade.

In 2005, two years before the blockade was imposed in 2007, 707 fishing boats were in Gaza. By 2019, a dozen years into the blockade, that figure more than doubled to 1,739.

Based on this data, The New York Times just published a CAMERA-prompted editor’s note after running a feature falsely claiming that the blockade has “devastated” Gaza’s fishing industry. The Times’ Dec. 3 editor’s note commendably clarifies:

An article last Sunday about the struggles of Gaza’s fishing sector omitted important context surrounding the impact of Israel’s blockade on the industry, leaving the impression that the industry had been devastated. While the blockade has led to a shortage of parts needed to keep some fishing boats operational, the annual catch has varied from year to year. The current catch is higher than that in the early years of blockade.

In response to communication from CAMERA, Times of Israel editors commendably added the following essential information to the article:

Nonetheless, figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics indicate that Gaza fishermen have more than doubled their catch since the blockade was introduced — from over 1.5 million fish in 2009 to almost 4 million in 2019.

In addition, about the blockade’s restrictions on the entry of boat repair supplies such as fiberglass, AFP’s article closes with a fisherman’s quote: “I don’t know why Israel is blocking their entry. Will rockets be fired from boats?” 

Gaza fishing boats, 2015 (Mahmoud Navash, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

AFP failed to inform readers that in fact the restricted items including fiberglass are used to manufacture rockets.
Times of Israel was responsive regarding this shortcoming as well, adding: 
Israel has said that fiberglass is restricted because Hamas seeks to use it in the manufacture of rockets.
Unlike Times of Israel, AFP took no steps to include hard data from Palestinian sources undermining the claim that the Israeli-led blockade has “undermined” Gaza’s fishing industry, although CAMERA supplied the wire service with the information. Nor has it added any information about Hamas’ use of fiberglass to manufacture rockets.

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