Has an Israeli war criminal been given a veto on what aid may enter Gaza?
Earlier this week, I wrote about how Yoav Mordechai, a major-general who took part in the 2009 attack against Gaza, had been invited to the European Parliament. Following complaints by Palestine solidarity activists and some of the parliament’s own members, Mordechai’s scheduled appearance was canceled at the last minute yesterday.
It is both grotesque and logical for these diplomats to host Mordechai.
It is grotesque because doing so conferred a degree of respectability on his crimes against humanity. It is logical because the EU is the largest provider of aid to the Palestinians and Mordechai oversees the delivery and distribution of that aid.
That money is being funneled through a “reconstruction mechanism” set up by the United Nations, the Palestinian Authority and an Israeli military body called COGAT, the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories. As the current head of COGAT, Mordechai has been directly involved in establishing this mechanism.
COGAT is being given personal data on every recipient of aid. It can refuse entry to aid, if it so wishes.
If a known arsonist set your house on fire — and never expressed the slightest remorse for doing so — would you task him with repairing the damage?
Mordechai was a battalion commander with the Golani Brigade, an infantry unit in the Israeli military, during the January 2009 assault.
He can be compared to the putative arsonist. Evidence collected by human rights monitors indicate that troops under his command, or with whom he worked closely, used white phosphorous, a weapon that inflicts horrific burns on its victims.
Six years ago, Mordechai helped to destroy Gaza. Without ever demonstrating the slightest remorse for that war crime, he is now part of an international team determining how somewhere he tried to destroy should be rebuilt.
COGAT handles many aspects of the day-to-day administration of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
In enforcing the siege imposed since 2007, it has been dictating what may enter Gaza long before it was given a kind of UN imprimatur through the so-called Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism. (The imprimatur, it should be stressed, does not alter the fact that the siege is illegal; subjecting a civilian population to collective punishment is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention.)
Bizarrely, COGAT has been trying to spin its activities as humanitarian. A brochure available on its website boasts of how COGAT approved 235 projects in Gaza that “provide employment opportunities, as well as improve the quality of living for residents.”
Nowhere in its sixteen pages does the brochure acknowledge that many of these projects had been damaged severely by Israeli troops. That is despite the fact that the projects listed include al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City, which was attacked by the Givati Brigade, another infantry division. Nor does it acknowledge that the catastrophic damage to the Gaza economy, including mass unemployment, is the direct consequence of Israel’s siege.
Soldiers under Yoav Mordechai’s command were in the surrounding area at the time the hospital was shelled and may have taken part in the assault.
I accept that getting aid to a besieged people can require grubby compromises. Yet in this case, international donors are not only making compromises with the Israeli occupation, they are groveling to it.
The donors have agreed to play entirely by the occupation’s rules. In November last year, the EU’s foreign ministers issued a statement calling on relevant parties to “fully implement” the procedures for checking aid deliveries to Gaza.
Not surprisingly, the statement avoided a crucial point. The man in charge of these procedures is a war criminal.