Palestinians are smuggling Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) into the Gaza Strip through a network of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. The meals come from various KFC stores throughout the Sinai Peninsula and take up to four hours to be delivered. The Gaza Strip is still under an Israeli siege that has been in place since 2007, following Hamas' election in Gaza in 2006. With imports and exports severely restricted, "Palestinians in Gaza rely on goods smuggled through tunnels and to a lesser extent United Nations handouts to survive."
Now KFC clearly doesn't fit the description of something that is necessary for survival, but the fact that it is being smuggled into Gaza serves to highlight Israel's ongoing siege. Why people would choose KFC, however, is beyond me, given how terrible it is.
Image credit: Xinhua/Wissam Nassar
The delivery company, Yamama, which apparently means "pigeon," advertises its service on Facebook and gets around 10 orders a week for KFC, "despite having to triple the price to 100 shekels ($30) to cover transportation and smuggling fees." Deliveries are made by motorbike, with Ibrahim, one of the delivery drivers saying, "anyone who wants to eat real Kentucky Fried Chicken can call our office in Gaza, give his name and his telephone number and say exactly how many meals he wants."
Smuggling tunnel in Rafah in Southern Gaza. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Apparently the whole service began by accident when the delivery drivers ordered meals for themselves and the company then decided to start advertising the service. Given the cost, however, it tends to be those who are better off who use it. As one of the smugglers pointed out, "I wonder why people pay a lot of money to buy a small meal of chicken. I can buy four chickens for the price of one meal.” And with a 4 hour wait, the food doesn't exactly arrive in the best condition. One customer commented that it was "really very delicious although it is not very hot." You don't say.
The Christian Science Monitor notes that "one of the reasons smugglers agreed to start dealing in KFC is because Israel’s easing of restrictions on trade since the November cease-fire with Hamas has dealt a serious blow to the tunnel business." Yet although the siege may have eased, significant restrictions still exist and there is no sign that Israel will lift the siege anytime soon. According to Ghisha, an Israeli non-profit working to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, just some of the ongoing restrictions include a ban on the sale of goods from Gaza to the West Bank, only one crossing (apart from the tunnels), Kerem Shalom, connecting Gaza to Israel, that is open for the transfer of goods in and out of Gaza, and restrictions on exports allowed out of Gaza for sale abroad.
Ramesh Rajasingham, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Palestine, argues that “lifting of the blockade and allowing the free movement of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip is the only way to address the chronic humanitarian needs amongst so many Gazans, and facilitate sustainable economic growth that benefits the population as a whole." Smuggling in KFC is not exactly a viable alternative.
Of course this wouldn't be news if there was no Israeli siege. So while people getting KFC smuggled into Gaza may be a funny, quirky story, remember that there is a serious background to this.