A donor conference is underway in Sharm Alshaikh in Egypt is “to raise funding” for Gaza but is turning out to be similar to all previous conferences: lots of huff, puff and posturing. For the US administration, it is a way to prop the government of Mahmoud Abbas (whose term ended January 9). The US “pledged” $900 million but $200 million of those will go to cover deficits of the administration of Mahmous Abbas, $400 million to West Bank projects (many profiting Israel), and the remaining $300 million will be slated for Gaza but may never get there because the US refuses to deal or help anything associated with Hamas and Hamas is the de facto government (and most of the people) of Gaza. The European Union is trying to buy its way out of the nagging conscience of having supported a failing US/Israeli policy (a policy that tries to bypass democracy and find compliant leaders or pressure them into compliance). This money is also getting entangled in the “no discussion with Hamas” mantra (which only strengthens Hamas and their fundamentalist ideology). Hamas said it will not allow aid to achieve what the Israeli military failed to achieve by force (subjugation of the Palestinian people). Other money pledged is also ending up with so many strings attached that hardly any of it is likely to enter Gaza. But even if all these issues are solved, Israel simply continues to blockade Gaza and prevent reconstruction supplies from entering (a blockade that is not only an act of war but a crime against humanity). Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said border crossings into Gaza must be reopened to allow aid into the devastated territory. “The situation at the border crossings is intolerable. Aid workers do not have access. Essential commodities cannot get in,” But neither he nor anyone else at this conference has even hinted at any pressure to be brought on Israel to achieve this opening. Gaza remains a concentration camp with its residents who like all prisoners prefer the tough prisoner as their representatives. Meanwhile, Israel plans to build 73,000 more housing units in the occupied West Bank areas outside Jerusalem and thousands more inside occupied Jerusalem (in tandem with demolishing Palestinian homes and continuing the ethnic cleansing)*.
The posturing, speeches, and “pledges” thus distracts from what is really needed to achieve peace: pressure on the occupiers/colonizers not on the occupied/colonized. Israel must be told by the outside world to a) not only freeze all settlement construction but actually reverse it by returning the lands to their owners and removing the settlers from all areas occupied in 1967, and b) Israel must pay for the damage it inflicted on Gaza and comply with International law on the damages of the apartheid wall it is building, c) Israel must allow Palestinians including all refugees the choice of return to their homes and lands or to be compensated if they chose not to return (and compensate them for their suffering), and d) Israel must allow the right of self determination for all the Palestinian people (a referendum on what we want would be a good beginning) and for full equality for all residents regardless of their religion.
Initiatives are in the works along those lines.
*”Peace Now” reported that Israel is planning “73,300 new homes in West Bank”. “Peace now” does not recognize Jerusalem as part of the occupied West Bank while all other countries do so, as does International law. So the numbers of new colonial settlement buildings on Palestinian lands will increase by a much higher number http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1068033.html
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A Bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home