(Photo: Reem Salahi from the National Lawyer's Guild delegation to Gaza, February 2009)
One of the headlines coming out of the Gaza donors conference currently being held in Egypt is the US's pledge of $900 million for the Palestinians. What is getting less attention is that only one third of that will actually go to Gaza and none of that can be used for rebuilding. The breakdown of the pledge is as follows:
[State Department spokesperson Robert A.] Wood said that the breakdown of the $900 million was: $300 million for
"urgent humanitarian needs" in Gaza; $200 million to help the
Palestinian Authority meet its budget; and $400 million for the
authority's programs to improve governance, security and economic
Although Hillary Clinton's message at Sharm El-Sheikh is that aid to Gaza cannot be separated from the peace process and that aid must "foster conditions in which a Palestinian state can be fully realized," the US's own pledge is undermining that very goal. Instead of helping the people of Gaza, it seems the US's first priority is to prop up the Abbas government. In addition to sending two-thirds of their aid to the West Bank-based government, the US is withholding all aid for rebuilding Gaza out of political concerns about Hamas. The LA Times reports, "U.S. officials are opposed to spending any money on reconstruction aid
to Gaza that might fall into the hands of Hamas and help strengthen the
group's standing among the enclave's 1.5 million residents."
By refusing the fund rebuilding and by sidelining Hamas rather than engaging them, the US is supporting the devastating and illegal Israeli siege on Gaza and maintaining the conditions that led to conflict in the past. The aid the US is offering does just enough to keep Gazans alive, but not enough to actually change the situation. It looks like the Ariel Sharon policy towards Gaza, as articulated by adviser Dov Weissglas, is still in effect – "It's like an appointment with a dietitian.
The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won't die."
Clinton might want to to ignore this fact but Gaza is not a natural disaster, it's an ongoing political conflict. There needs to be a political solution. All the humanitarian aid in the world isn't going to change this, Gaza will only begin to recover when the siege is lifted and its borders are open. This is what the people of Gaza are saying:
Issam Abu Taha, a wholesaler in the Gaza town of Rafah, said Gazans don't want handouts.
"When the borders are open, and everyone can work freely, we don't
need aid," said Abu Taha, 48, whose flour imports from Israel dropped
from 200 tons a day to 80 tons a week. "The situation will improve
When will the world begin to listen?