The new report on Gaza by a team led by Robert Piper, the United Nations’ chief humanitarian coordinator in Palestine, makes for disturbing reading.
That’s not only because of the alarming statistics or “indicators” about the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, of which there is no shortage in the report.
That the situation in Gaza is untenable, its population living in a pressure cooker that gets worse by the day, is clear to anyone who pays attention.
The UN has previously predicted that Gaza would become “unlivable” by the year 2020.
Piper’s report “tries to look past the polemic and review – as we approach 2020 – the socioeconomic, humanitarian and human rights disaster that is unfolding in Gaza and to advocate on behalf of the two million people trapped in this sad reality.”
Pushing for Gaza’s surrender
Yet what the report actually does is reveal how the UN has apparently aligned with Israel and its international backers in pushing for Gaza’s total surrender to its tormentors.
This is made evident with the background context provided in the report which frames Israel’s economic blockade on Gaza as the response to Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, which Piper’s report perversely describes as a “coup.”
Hamas was the unexpected winner in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections held in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip.
Investigative reporting by David Rose in Vanity Fair and a trove of leaked documents revealed by Al Jazeera describe a 2007 coup attempt in Gaza, but not by Hamas.
Following Hamas’ victory at the ballot box, Israel and its allies, principally the United States, spared no effort in undermining the new Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government with the goal of restoring power exclusively to Mahmoud Abbas, the West Bank-based PA president whose Fatah party lost the election.
After months of street fighting, Hamas and Fatah formed a “national unity government” headed by a Hamas prime minister. The US then enlisted Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan to rout Hamas militarily in Gaza. This plot ultimately failed, and Dahlan’s US-backed militias were run out of the territory.
According to the anodyne language used in the Piper report, Hamas’ subsequent administration of Gaza is deemed illegitimate because of its refusal “to recognize the Middle East Quartet’s (EU, Russian Federation, UN and US) demands to accept all previous agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist and renounce violence.”
In other words, the preference of Palestinian voters living under Israeli occupation is null and void because Hamas does not subscribe to the normalization program – including the requirement for active cooperation with Israeli occupation forces – imposed by Israel and its international allies, in contrast to the subservient role played by Abbas’ Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
This is the fundamental, irreconcilable political difference between the American and European-backed Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The impasse has compounded the socioeconomic deterioration in Gaza resulting from Israel’s decade-long siege and half-century of military occupation.
“Right to exist”
The Piper report’s insistence on Hamas’ recognition of Israel’s “right to exist” and the demand that it “renounce violence” should be further scrutinized.
Why should Palestinians be forced to submit to demands that Israel itself rejects?
Only on planet Peace Process would a resistance faction be demanded to recognize an occupying state’s “right to exist,” while that same occupier has historically violated the Palestinian people’s very right to life, wiping out families by the dozens and killing more than one out of every thousand of Gaza’s residents during its onslaught in the summer of 2014.
Israel violates Palestinians’ right to life so routinely that the weekly extrajudicial executions perpetrated by its forces go largely unreported by the mainstream corporate media. Israel is not held accountable for its systematic and daily violations of Palestinians’ most basic rights.
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has in the past bizarrely called on “Palestinian authorities to take all feasible measures to prevent attacks on Israelis,” lumping in attacks on civilians with those against occupation forces and suggesting that Palestinians have no right to defend themselves against Israel’s threats to their very existence.
In the Piper report, Hamas’ military capacities are blamed for impeding access and movement of people and goods to and from Gaza, particularly “the development, stockpiling and firing of rockets capable of reaching deep into Israel and the construction of sophisticated tunnels used for kidnappings and terrorist attacks in Israel.”
In the report’s timeline of the siege, the first phase is portrayed as a response to the capture (misconstrued as a “kidnapping”) of an Israeli soldier by Hamas in 2006.
Israel’s winter 2008-2009 military onslaught in Gaza is not mentioned in the timeline, and the 2012 and 2014 assaults only in passing. But the number of rockets fired from Gaza is given with precise figures during each phase of the siege, while regular Israeli airstrikes, shelling and gunfire on the territory are not mentioned in the timeline.
The omission of Israel’s regular strikes on Gaza, and the inclusion of the number of mortars fired from Gaza, reinforces the lie that each of Israel’s massive military assaults in 2008, 2012 and 2014 were justified responses to rocket fire, rather than Israeli violations of truces followed in good faith by Hamas.
And as for those tunnels, Piper’s report describes them as being used for “terror.” Yet the UN’s own independent inquiry into the 2014 war on Gaza states explicitly that tunnels were used by Palestinian groups to conduct attacks only on “legitimate military targets.”
The Piper report is one of many from international agencies and human rights groups expressing concern over and demanding unspecified international action to improve the current situation in Gaza.
Like every other report before, it will be ignored by world powers that view Palestinians in Gaza – most of them refugees from the lands on which Israel declared its state, and nearly half of them under the age of 15 – as surplus and expendable.
What is significant about the Piper report is that it demonstrates that the UN – which brokered a secretive and illegal system that gives Israel ultimate control over the rebuilding of homes and other civilian infrastructure it destroyed in Gaza, allowing it to profit from the reconstruction paid for by third-party states – has totally capitulated to Gaza’s oppressors.
Reading between the lines of Piper’s report, one understands that Israel controls everything that gets into Gaza, and everything that gets out. It has a total chokehold on Gaza’s economy, whatever remains of it after Israel destroyed or damaged 250 factories and 300 businesses in the summer of 2014 alone.
The Piper report obscures the reality that the devastating siege on Gaza is a willful strategy to bring its population to their knees. It makes no mention of Israeli leaders’ genocidal aims to “send Gaza back to the Middle Ages,” their claims that “there are no innocents in Gaza … mow them down,” their calls to “concentrate” and “exterminate” Palestinians, or their demands to slaughter Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”
In Gaza, Israel aims to snuff out the last bastion of Palestinian resistance against its settler-colonial project, an endeavor that requires massive, genocidal violence to be maintained.
Detached from this reality, the outcomes of Israel’s calculated policy are treated by the Piper report as technical problems to be dealt with by international development groups – groups that would not be needed if there was real pressure to end the siege, to end the occupation, to secure Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
In many instances in the report, damage to civilian infrastructure such as schools and medical facilities is passively described as having been incurred “during successive rounds of hostilities,” obscuring the fact that they were systematically targeted by Israel’s sophisticated air force.
Meanwhile, a false parity between the Israeli military, massively subsidized by the US and supported by EU members, and Hamas’ guerrilla fighters is reinforced throughout the report, including in the discussion of war crimes in Gaza.
The Piper report even says that “The State of Palestine is also responsible for implementing its human rights obligations in the entirety of the oPt, including Gaza,” using the insufferable jargon employed by international agencies for the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
There is no State of Palestine – a reality the report concedes elsewhere when it refers to “the future state of Palestine.”
There is only a quisling Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank with extremely limited autonomy and which doesn’t even have the authority to build a school in the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control. It is only there to serve as an enforcement arm of Israel’s occupation and to try to break Palestinian resistance.
Yet the Piper report laments that “the Strip remains beyond the reach of the legitimate Palestinian Authorities and under Hamas control.”
The catastrophe in Gaza is not caused by acts of nature, it is one of careful design and control. The situation born of Israel’s experiment in human despair in Gaza will never improve so long as the genocidal state behind it is whitewashed and appeased by the very institutions that are supposed to hold it accountable.