Aid organizations blamed Israel in a report on Gaza, calling for an end to the blockade while ignoring Hamas’ blatant involvement in causing the destructive cycle of war and reconstruction.
Gaza’s borders must be re-opened to promote reconstruction, according to the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), an umbrella group of aid organizations working in the Palestinian territories. Despite the embezzlement of reconstruction goods by Hamas and the danger posed to both Israel and Egypt by lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip, the report provided a one-sided condemnation of Israel for the humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave.
The report, titled “Charting a New Course: Overcoming the stalemate in Gaza,” bemoaned the slow progress of reconstruction in Gaza and the continuing cycle of war between Hamas and Israel. “Shortly after Israel and Palestinian armed groups agreed to a temporary ceasefire, donors from around the world gathered in Cairo to pledge $3.5bn for the reconstruction of Gaza. Six months later, there has been no accountability to address violations of international law, only 26.8 percent of the money has been released, reconstruction and recovery have barely begun, and people in Gaza remain in dire straits,” it said.
AIDA’s proposed solution is to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by ending the siege on Gaza: “There has been no progress towards a lasting ceasefire agreement and reconstruction efforts have been far too slow to meet needs. There has been no action towards ending the illegal blockade or opening Gaza to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. If we do not change course now to address these core issues the situation in Gaza will only continue to worsen. Without economic, social and political stability, a return to conflict – and the cycles of damage and donor-funded reconstruction that accompany it – is inevitable.”
Israel and Egypt have held Gaza under blockade since Hamas took over the territory in a bloody coup in 2007. Since then, Israel has repeatedly intercepted shipments of arms from Iran to Hamas. Hamas has thrice started wars with Israel by escalating the indiscriminate firing of rockets at Israeli civilians. It also dug dozens of tunnels as part of a plot to carry out a massive terror attack by smuggling 200 terrorists from Gaza into Israel.
Although Egypt had considered lifting restrictions on travel to and from Gaza following the Arab Spring, when the Muslim Brotherhood seized control of the government, those plans were abandoned due to a 2012 attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards. Egypt also began destroying smuggling tunnels from Gaza in the wake of the attack, a process that has been sped up since the ousting of Mohammed Morsi by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Nonetheless, the report downplayed the importance of the blockade to Israeli security and ignored Egypt’s security entirely, saying, “While Israel argues that the blockade is needed for security, the blockade has in fact perpetuated human insecurity in Gaza and has failed to prevent conflict.” It further suggested that the siege “may entail the commission of war crimes.”
The report also ignored the the dysfunctional role played by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the slow pace of Gaza reconstruction. Hamas has been diverting materials intended for the reconstruction of civilian houses in order to rebuild terrorist infrastructure, including tunnels and training camps. Hamas also refuses to cooperate with the PA and the UN on reconstruction as the UN’s plan involves safeguards that would prevent Hamas from embezzling.
The organizations condemned Israel for attacking targets in urban areas, resulting in a large number of civilian casualties. Only brief mention was made of the fact that Hamas and other terrorist organizations use urban areas to hide weapons caches, rocket launchers and tunnel entrances, as well as using human shields.
AIDA represents nearly 80 NGOs and non-profit organizations involved in providing aid in the West Bank, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem. Forty-five of these groups signed on to the report.
By: Sara Abramowicz, United with Israel Staff