Top UN official aloof as Gaza is “submerged in despair”

A Palestinian makes his way through a flooded street during heavy rains in Gaza City on 27 November, the result of a fierce winter storm which has battered the region for days.

Ashraf Amra APA images

A senior UN official has declined to respond to mounting warnings that the failure of his so-called Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism could lead to a breakdown of the August ceasefire that ended Israel’s 51-day massacre in the territory.

Anger is growing over the fact that there has been virtually no rebuilding, a situation made worse by devastating floods that have prompted UN agencies to declare a “state of emergency.”

“We do not have any comments,” Nicole Ganz, spokesperson for Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), said in an email to The Electronic Intifada on Thursday.

The curt reply came in response to a statement from Gaza’s private sector bodies rejecting the UN-sponsored reconstruction plan.

In October, The Electronic Intifada revealed details of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, pushed by Serry and signed by Israel and the PA.

It calls for onerous restrictions on building supplies and monitoring for Palestinians trying to rebuild their homes. It also gives Israel intrusive access to private information about Palestinian families, collected by the UN, which Israel can then use to veto who gets aid.

UN “administering” siege

At a press conference in Gaza City on Wednesday, Dr. Faisal al-Shawwa, chair of the Private Sector Coordination Council, said that Gaza’s private sector rejected the UN-backed agreement from the start.

Al-Shawwa said that the mechanism amounts to a plan to administer Israel’s siege and paralyzes, rather than facilitates, reconstruction, the Ma’an News Agency reported in Arabic.

Al-Shawwa said that Gaza needs the complete opening of all the crossings in order to rebuild in three years, but that under Serry’s mechanism it would take far longer.

While calling for a full effort to lift the siege, Al-Shawwa urged the UN to take responsibility for rebuilding destroyed homes using a tendering mechanism that existed prior to the summer attack.

UNSCO spokesperson Ganz directed The Electronic Intifada to two statements made by Serry earlier this month, which express a vague hope that “good faith” from Israel and the so-called “international community” – which has nowhere been in evidence – will somehow stave off the mounting catastrophe for people in Gaza.

Time is running out

The intervention by the Gaza private sector body has followed dire warnings by international officials and Palestinian resistance organizations.

Time is running out to get post-war reconstruction going in Gaza, the EU representative John Gatt-Rutter told Reuters on Wednesday during a visit to Gaza, home to 1.8 million Palestinians.

The UN estimates that some 100,000 dwellings were damaged or destroyed during the summer attack, affecting one third of the population of the territory that has been under a tight Israeli siege since 2007.

“A long time has gone by without enough cement or enough materials coming in that will allow people to rebuild their houses,” Gatt-Rutter said.

Last week, Pierre Krähenbühl, commissioner-general of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, said that the Gaza reconstruction mechanism was “proving far too slow and is largely ineffective.”

Twenty-eight trucks of cement arrived in Gaza on Tuesday, the first such delivery in more than a month, due to Israeli restrictions. Palestinian officials say Gaza would need at least one hundred trucks of supplies per day to rebuild within three years.

But the failure of which Gatt-Rutter is warning is at least as much the fault of the EU as it is of the UN. EU governments have done nothing to hold Israel accountable for its summer attack that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians.

Resistance has “other options”

A senior Hamas official said that UNSCO had made unspecified changes to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism at the resistance group’s request.

Speaking on Al-Aqsa TV, Mousa Abu Marzouq did not specify what the changes were, but he emphasized that his movement had never agreed to the plan in the first place.

He also accused officials of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, which has a long history of supporting the siege, of treating Gaza “as a second class part of the Palestinian people.”

UNSCO’s Ganz did not immediately respond to a request to confirm or deny Abu Marzouq’s claims.

Abu Marzouq’s distancing of Hamas from the Gaza reconstruction deal – the movement had initially given it a muted and tacit nod – reflects pressure from a population that is tired and exasperated that little has changed since the ceasefire.

Gaza remains cut off from the outside world, as the Egyptian regime that came to power in a July 2013 military coup keeps the Rafah crossing virtually shut.

And all of Gaza remains without electricity, except for a few hours per day.

Abu Marzouq hinted that Hamas has “other options” if there is no reconstruction in Gaza, but did not elaborate.

Islamic Jihad, another resistance faction that fought Israeli forces which invaded Gaza last summer, was more explicit. The group’s deputy leader Ziyad al-Nakhala warned on Wednesday that “Israel’s failure to respect the Cairo ceasefire agreement would lead to new confrontations.”

“Submerged in despair”

As a result of the August ceasefire agreement, Palestinians expected an immediate opening of Gaza’s crossings and a significant lifting of the siege.

During the summer attack, there was a strong and broad consensus in Gaza that any ceasefire deal had to be conditioned on a lifting of the siege.

Gaza is “submerged in despair,” UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness tweeted.

There seems little hope of improvement, and much danger of deterioration, as long as timid international officials like Serry remain focused on appeasing the occupier, Israel.

On Monday, the Palestinian Boycott National Committee issued an action alert urging people to contact Serry to tell the UN to end its “complicity” with the Gaza siege.

Indeed, what Serry should be doing instead of ducking responsibility is rallying governments to force Israel to end a siege on an occupied population that even the International Committee of the Red Cross has deemed to be collective punishment – a war crime.

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Comments

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We the people of the human world are challenged today to admit that we live in a reality of indifference tantamount to the condition of animals in a zoo. We may be wasted or starved any time the oppressors consider convenient.

Today the UN is showing up as merely a holiday gift wrapping covering the cage. For all it's infrastructure, formality and committees, it has no substantive authority. Only when the normality of hatred and violence is unplugged will we know human decency. Today it appears that the hatred running the status quo is the work of private interests that do not appear to be the work of true human actors.

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It is horrifying to see the world's complicity in the devastation of Palestine and the lives of Palestinian men, women, and children. The lack of basic decency that allows Israel to savage these people without repercussions is evil. Whatever God one believes in - if any - surely one day will punish this crime against humanity.

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"All or nothing"? Yes, I believe even psychopathic Israel would be forced to bend under the weight of that determination. The World would have to concede, do we stand by whilst Israel annihilates the whole Nation of Palestinians, the rightful residents of these ancient homelands, or do we finally intercede to kick Israel into the twenty first century.The World has been complicit in this struggle for too long, we have taken too many Israeli pieces of gold and shekels, and, to their everlasting shame, this includes all other Arab and Muslim States World wide. I for one would like to hear the protestations and arguments all other Arab and Muslim states will advance to explain or justify, their lack of action to support Palestinian justice; lets call upon them to speak and explain. Do not use the excuse relating to Israeli possession of nuclear weapons, that is irrelevant, especially if the World will unite against this Israeli oppression; will they "nuke" the whole world? Also tell me this, which Nation will they occupy next? and, where will they stop? Read their history of pronouncements over the last one hundred years; read their religious texts, they see themselves as the "chosen" race, and everyone else exists either to "serve" them or be dead. Now think where have you heard those teachings before. Israel must be brought down to Earth, so it must be "All or nothing".All Peace negotiations are a farce simply used to punctuate the periods of Palestinian death and destruction.

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ISRAEL'S UTOPIAN PIPE DREAM BY PETER COHEN

The colonization process has continued to expand since 1948, and Israel’s laws make it clear that the Palestinians are not only militarily incapacitated but have also been stripped of all their legal rights. Palestinian opposition to Israel’s policy of “ever-expanding occupation” is exploited to serve as further justification for prolonging this policy. In the tiny, unlivable and socio-economically devastated part of Palestine that now remains, people are enclosed in a territory under despotic and often lethal military administration, hemmed in by walls, fortified settlements, and road blocks. It astonishes me that many people continue to believe, in spite of all this, that the Zionists will “make peace” with the original inhabitants. Under the banner of this utopian pipe dream, all Israel had to do, to become what it is today, was to endlessly postpone this phantom “peace.” Israel has become so large and powerful that people now dare to say out loud what used to be clear only to its strongest critics: the colonists seek to rid the whole of Palestine of Palestinians, thereby fulfilling the ideological — and racist — essence of Zionism.10,11

The so-called “one -state solution” is also based on a utopian vision, in which the impoverished Palestinians will acquire, by some miraculous means, the same rights as the colonists. How anyone can believe in the one-state solution is incomprehensible to me. No colonial power has ever relinquished its domination without a massive struggle. Could such a struggle succeed in Palestine? Could the Palestinians ever acquire enough people, weapons and allies to make this a realistic possibility? Of course not. The one-state solution is a deluded fantasy.

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It is sad to have to agree with this comment. I appreciate the horrible honesty of T. W. Adams' assessment. The single state solution is a beautiful idea which is
the desperate product of intellectual illusions. I refer to some basic analyses While initially the insight of Gabrial Kolko in his THE ROOTS OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY (1969) especially in the epilogue "Radicalism and Reasoning". Others with so much knowledge have all too easily been entrapped by these visions dancing in their heads.

A basic analysis of colonialism and its origins is made painfully clear in
Maichael Prior's work THE BIBLE AND CAPITALISM: A MORAL CRITIQUE".
This work brings to light the origins of colonialism in several eras and focuses
in particular on the history and meaning of Zionism. It is not easily
available or easily read. (I have already read it four times.) It provides much
basis to Mr. Adams' points.

Thank you for your contribution to all of us.

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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To deny, in any manner, that Israel has a nuclear arsenal, is to stand that question on its head; Israel is in the process of taking delivery of it's third nuclear capable submarine, one would have to wonder, why?

Hamas is a terrorist organisation because it suits Israel to declare it as such; Hamas is the coal face of Palestinian "resistance". You appear to be overlooking the fact that Israel, primarily, was born out of the horrendous acts of terror perpetrated by Jewish (they could not be called Israeli at that time) terrorist organisations, against all manner of innocent people, including the British Services. Why is it not permissible for Palestinians to legitimately and lawfully resist their imprisonment, the ethnic cleansing, the total destruction of their homes and infrastructure, the Internationally recognised collective punishments, Israel persists on administering?

Where are Palestinian rights, their entitlement to protect themselves? The logic you present is that repeated, ad nauseum, by defenders of Israel, those beholden to Israel, either because of the thirty shekel syndrome or simply because they are "blind" Jews defending the non existent raison d'etre.

If Israel tries to avoid civilian casualties, how then do you explain the outrageous numbers of dead and wounded Palestinians? You are obviously in possession of very privileged information If you believe a democratic Palestinian State is still possible; Please be kind enough to advise where and how this Palestinian "State" will be?

The history of the Palestinian dispossession from their ancient homelands, including Israels repetitive cycle of Peace talks always followed by incrementally more and more severe military attacks, inform the whole World, including blind Harry and his dog. that the Israeli intention is to clear all Arabs from "their" Israel.

All of this long history of applied and illegal punishments will continue unabated, unless Palestinians understand and rise up 24/7.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.