NGO ‘industry': a boon or bane in Gaza?

Israel/Palestine
on 31 Comments
Erez Crossing
Erez Crossing, from Electronic Intifada

Yesterday was the Islamic holy day, and in Gaza, that means a big meal after the mid-day call to prayer. Among my “circle,” everyone — Palestinian and international friends alike — gathers at the home of the Abusalamas, a moderate-to-liberal family that has “adopted” me since my six-month stay in 2010. After our fill of rice and chicken, and while we sipped Turkish coffee and mint tea, the talk turned to the increasingly unhealthy dependency of Gaza on international NGOs — and how that paternal relationship is reflected in the behavior of their employees.

Many international employees of NGOs in Gaza live life in a metaphorical bubble, exempt from the hardships of their “beneficiaries.”

International NGOs in Gaza — such as the UN (in the form of UNRWA), Oxfam and MercyCorps — are an industry. Yes, they are here to dispense aid, and to sponsor various projects promoted as helping Gazans break the oppressive yoke of occupation and re-establish their economic independence. But the occupation has gone on so long —- 60+ years — that the original purpose of temporary relief and skills-building for the future has morphed into the polar opposite: perpetual dependency. After all, what they are essentially doing is relieving Israel of its responsibility to care for and protect occupied populations (as dictated in international law), and allowing the rest of the world to avoid guilt from their own relative inaction.

While there are several hundred indigenous NGOs operating in the Gaza Strip — just twice the size of Washington DC — they are “poor sisters” compared to the international “conglomerates.” In part, that is because they don’t know how to promote themselves to a Western audience, and don’t have the resources for professional help with Web design and English translation. Another factor is their inexperience in satisfying the rigorous demands of external grantmakers for third-party budget audits and evaluation reports (which is also related to resources). A third stumbling block is the fear of being accused of financing terrorist activity due to the U.S. Treasury Department’s prohibition on supporting the Hamas-led government of Gaza. (This prohibition — which stops UNRWA from engaging directly with the local authorities — is not only hypocritical but unethical. The Hamas party won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament fair and square, by all standards. In addition, United Nations resolutions and international codes of conduct state that among the core principles of humanitarian assistance are impartiality and respect for sovereignty — requirements that the refusal of many donors and countries to deal with the Hamas government clearly breach. As one of my fellow internationals [Julie Webb from New Zealand, who writes for Scoop Independent News], put it in one of her commentaries, “humanitarian need should be the determining factor, not politics or our desire for regime change.” You’d think we would have learned from the 10+ years of Iraq sanctions that even if it was moral, collective punishment doesn’t work; if anything, it only rallies the people around their government and props up the elite.)

The result of the contortions to which the international community puts itself to avoid working with members of Hamas is a near usurpation of local authority by international NGOs. (In fact, I believe that by cutting Hamas off from so many of the functions of normal governments — including the attendant ability to create jobs and raise revenue — we have virtually forced it to become as extreme as some of its elements now are. But that’s another blog post…)

I once became so aggravated by this forced reliance on internationals, when they have a plethora of local NGOs that could provide for their own, that I developed a proposal in response. I would use my skills in communications and marketing to develop English-language profiles of local organizations that meet certain quality criteria, complete with photos and videos, then develop a Web portal to showcase them to progressive individuals who would rather give directly to them than to the conglomerates. What better way to help the people help themselves? All I needed was a U.S. charitable organization to serve as the “funnel,” thus removing the “terrorist connection” worry for individual donors. I even envisioned organizing delegations of donors who wanted to see their money at work firsthand, bringing them to Gaza to do volunteer work for a week — and thus converting them into “ambassadors” when they returned home. However, I have been unsuccessful to date in finding the relatively small amount of funding needed, or an appropriate NGO partner.

One of the other consequences of the pseudo economy created by the reliance on international NGOs is a legitimization of the Israeli occupation. Every rule set down by Israel (such as the restrictions on who goes in and out of the Strip through the Erez terminal) they obey — so much so that it becomes “normal.”

Part of the problem is domestic politics. UNRWA, for instance, is reliant on funding from large Western governments such as the United States. I have seen firsthand the extent to which that ties its hands. I was present when John Ging, until recently head of UNRWA in Gaza, visited the U.S. Congress to solicit support during the immediate aftermath of Operation Cast Lead — the massive Israeli attack of 2008/9. He wanted to talk about the survival needs of children, and the hearing attendees asked instead about whether the Holocaust was being taught in Gazan schools. It is mentalities like this that forces UNRWA to pretend like Hamas does not run a legitimate local government.

However, the problems are even more systemic. The top positions at UNRWA and other international NGOs here in Gaza are reserved for internationals, who typically earn much higher salaries than their Palestinian counterparts, don’t know Arabic, eat at a small list of approved restaurants (too expensive for most Gazans to afford), rent the best apartments by the sea, drive around in what seems to be hermetically sealed white vans, and every weekend, go in and out of the Gaza Strip through Erez for their “rest and recreation” breaks. Most seem utterly immune to the fact that the 1.6 million Palestinians who live their are deprived of that “privilege.”

Lydia, a Dutch woman who is volunteering her time at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, is so incensed by the bubble these internationals seem to be living and working in that she wants to organize a protest on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings outside of the Erez entryway. “I think we need to remind them that while they sail in and out with ease, hundreds of Palestinians are denied the same, basic right,” she said.

Of course there are some rational reasons behind this exceptionalism. Internationals who come to work in Gaza sometimes leave families behind, and thus need higher pay to compensate for frequent visits home, etc., etc. But it’s worth the question: Are they aware of the distance they have created between themselves (and thus their organizations) and the people they are serving? And of the impression that creates among the masses? (I say the “masses,” because even in a small, closed society like Gaza, there is a rich elite, such as the Shawa family that owns so much of the real estate in the Strip.)

According to Lydia, the only international NGO she hears consistently good reports about from the Gazans themselves is MSF [Doctors Without Borders] — mainly because they identify needs at the grassroots level, follow through on their commitments from start to finish and are transparent to the local population about how their funds are used

I recently attended a discussion of Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated so much of the population, and the observations were similar. NGOs flocked to provide relief, such as the Red Cross, but two years later, there were still vast tent cities — right across the street from the resorts frequented by the aid workers. If they had ever been asked, the so-called beneficiaries of these programs would have given them an “F.” But that’s the point — they were never asked. The NGOs essentially have no accountability. So…here’s a novel idea: Why not conduct a survey of the people, asking them which NGOs provide what they think is needed, and produce results that are valued on the ground? In other words, an NGO report card? As a (small) donor myself, I sure would like to see that…

Note: In case you are wondering, when I enter Gaza, I prefer the Rafah crossing from Egypt, which is increasingly open to Palestinians. The one time I was given a six-month pass to go in and out via Erez, I used it only once — turning down the opportunity for “R&R breaks.” Frankly, just the thought of the Erez terminal — with its long spooky tunnel — makes my stomach clench. When I am in Gaza, I live with families, being careful to include those who live outside of the more “cosmopolitan” (if you can call it that!) Gaza City. And, I have no income to speak of right now, so no, I don’t tend to eat in elite restaurants either! I go where the average Palestinian goes….

About Pam Bailey

Pam Bailey is a freelance writer and activist who has travels frequently to Gaza and is co-founder of a new nonprofit called New Generations for Palestinian Youth & Children.

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31 Responses

  1. Chaos4700
    February 25, 2012, 11:10 am

    The problem is, as much as Israel spits upon (and occasionally, attacks and murders) international aid workers who help Palestinians, this is the best of both worlds for Israel. Israel gets to slaughter Palestinians with impunity, especially when they need to expand their lebensraum, and they get to force occupied Palestine to live in perpetual poverty and depravity. Meanwhile, they get to shirk most of their responsibilities toward the people they occupy, vis-a-vis the Geneva Conventions, an an international community that has compassion (unlike Israelis) and doesn’t want the Palestinians to simply die.

    So Israel gets all the economic benefits of the occupation, gets to shit on the Palestinians to boot (sometimes literally, given what many settlements in the West Bank actually do with their sewage) and because NGOs step in and keep Palestinians from dying, they turn and and say, “Look! See, the Occupation isn’t so bad, they’re still making babies!”

    • OlegR
      February 26, 2012, 10:47 am

      No problem let the Hamas deal with Egypt.
      As a taxpaying Israeli i would love for Gaza to stop receiving any kind of support from our side (Water / Electricity) i really don’t mind that at all.

      • Chaos4700
        February 26, 2012, 1:19 pm

        That’s ironic. As a taxpaying US citizen I would love it if pogrom waging settlers like you stopped receiving any kind of support from our “side” as well.

      • OlegR
        February 26, 2012, 3:25 pm

        Jeez how do you guys live with all of the moderation around here?
        you can’t get a decent conversation without Big Brother approval.

      • Chaos4700
        February 26, 2012, 7:20 pm

        If you were a Palestinian in the Israeli occupation, you’d probably have a higher tolerance for that sort of oppression.

      • OlegR
        February 27, 2012, 3:31 am

        Trust me Chaos the last thing the Palestinians need from Israel is freedom
        of speech.
        This they have plenty of.
        (Well not in Gaza but that’s Hamas work you know how quirky those nice folks get regarding religion and other stuff)

      • Cliff
        February 27, 2012, 4:14 am

        Palestinian newspapers and news outlets have been censored regularly throughout the history of the conflict.

        This article, documents that censorship during the first Lebanon War.

        link to jstor.org

        You can read it if you are a student and have college VPN. Or you can purchase the article.

        The article was written by Robert I. Friedman.

        link to villagevoice.com

        Phil you should check this guy out. He seems interesting.

        Friedman, much of whose writing appeared in the Voice when he was a staff member from 1989 to 1995, was a fierce reporter whose work on subjects like Israel’s cooperation with the right-wing Falangist movement in Lebanon or Brooklyn rabbi-turned-Jewish extremist Meir Kahane earned Friedman—and the paper—the enmity of many hard-line supporters of Israel.

        In the ever shrinking community of serious investigative reporters in this city, Robbie will be remembered as a dedicated pro who followed his reporting wherever it took him, no matter whom it offended or what it meant for his own career.

        In 1993, for example, Friedman castigated the FBI in the Voice for ignoring information it had developed on the Muslim extremists behind the first bombing of the World Trade Center, warning that without stronger action, terrorists would strike at the towers again. Though the story would cost him valuable sources within the FBI, Friedman published it and won a Society of Professional Journalists Award for Best Investigative Reporting in a Weekly.

        Friedman got sued so often that he became close friends with the First Amendment bar in town. (It didn’t hurt that Robbie never made a serious error.) The lawsuits, such as those launched by supporters of West Bank settlers, were less concerned with winning a judgment than with draining a publication’s support through frivolous and expensive court action.

        Take comedian Jackie Mason, a campaign surrogate for then prosecutor Rudy Giuliani in his first run for mayor, who sued the Voice for $25 million after Robbie caught Mason using racial slurs against David Dinkins. Mason quietly dropped the suit later, after Giuliani had lost the race and the comic realized that his own voice on tape made his case laughable.

        Death threats came first from right-wing American Jews, usually brought on by stories like “Oy Vey, Make My Day,” a 1989 Voice story about violence-prone Jewish fundamentalists. Friedman’s first book, The False Prophet, was a 1990 biography of Jewish Defense League founder Meir Kahane.

        Four years after its publication, a group of militant Jewish settlers physically assaulted Robbie while he was on assignment in Israel. Unfazed, Friedman published his second book, Zealots for Zion: Inside Israel’s West Bank Settlement Movement, later the same year, exposing the expansionist ambitions of many of the movement’s devotees.

    • OlegR
      February 26, 2012, 11:13 am

      (sometimes literally, given what many settlements in the West Bank actually do with their sewage)
      That actually shows incredible ignorance to facts.
      The sewage problem in Judea and Samaria aka (West Bank) is predominantly from Palestinian cities and villages. And given the topography of the region guess where their sewage is heading to, right through the green line and to the sea.
      Not to mention other countless environmental damages that they cause.
      Of cause you could blame Israel for that as well and you might even be right.
      But blaming settlers with this is just ridiculous.

      • Cliff
        February 27, 2012, 4:35 am

        OlegR said:

        That actually shows incredible ignorance to facts.
        The sewage problem in Judea and Samaria aka (West Bank) is predominantly from Palestinian cities and villages. And given the topography of the region guess where their sewage is heading to, right through the green line and to the sea.
        Not to mention other countless environmental damages that they cause.
        Of cause you could blame Israel for that as well and you might even be right.
        But blaming settlers with this is just ridiculous.

        You leave out the reason why a large amount of the sewage is coming from Palestinian sectors.

        Excerpt from, Foul Play: Neglect of wastewater treatment in the West Bank – B’Tselem (the full PDF is available too):

        According to estimates, Palestinian communities produce some 56 mcm of wastewater a year, representing 62 percent of all wastewater in the West Bank. 90-95 percent of Palestinian wastewater is not treated at all, and only one Palestinian wastewater treatment plant is currently functioning .

        A few reasons have led to delay in developing infrastructure for treating Palestinian wastewater:

        ***Prolonged and unreasonable Civil Administration delay in approving plans for building treatment facilities, in some cases for more than a decade; in a few cases, Israel attempted to force the Palestinians to connect settlements to planned treatment facilities.

        ***Israel seeks to force Palestinians to build advanced facilities that are still not used in Israel, which increase the cost of plant construction and operation and maintenance costs, and are not required according to World Health Organization standards.

        ***Partly due to the many delays in construction of wastewater treatment facilities, the US and Germany have reduced their planned funding for these projects.

        ***Israel exploits Palestinian wastewater that crosses the Green Line and treats them in one of four plants inside Israel. The treated water is used for irrigation for agriculture and to rehabilitate streams in Israel. However, Israel charges the Palestinian Authority for building the plants and for the treatment of wastewater in them.

        link to btselem.org

        Link to the full report: link to btselem.org (originally published in June 2009)

      • Cliff
        February 27, 2012, 4:46 am

        Excerpts from the report, Foul Play: Neglect of wastewater treatment in the West Bank – B’Tselem:

        Of this amount, 32.3 mcm are produced in villages and 23.8 mcm in towns and cities. Only 20 percent of Palestinian homes, primarily in towns and cities, are connected to sewerage systems.

        These are outdated, often leak, and are incapable of handling the current amount of wastewater that they receive. Lacking wastewater facilities, the remaining 80 percent of Palestinians deposit their wastewater in cesspits, from where it seeps into the groundwater.

        Palestinians personally pay to empty the cesspits, and due to the poor state of the economy, many families do not have the financial resources to bear the expense.

        Also, Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank make it difficult for tankers to reach distant communities to pump out the wastewater, and raise the prices they charge.

        Israel’s neglect is a major reason for the lack of wastewater treatment facilities in the West Bank. In the early 1970s, Israel built four wastewater treatment facilities in the West Bank – in Jenin, Tulkarm, Hebron, and Ramallah. Over the years, their effectiveness has been deemed minimal to poor. Three of them no longer function, and wastewater arriving at them is channeled, without treatment, to streams that flow towards Israel – the Kishon stream, the Hebron stream and the Shechem stream, which flows to an Israeli emergency reservoir at Yad Hana.

        [...]Over the years, Israel did not allocate funds to improve the facilities, to build infrastructure for transporting and treating the wastewater, or to build additional treatment facilities in the West Bank.

        In 1993, the State Comptroller warned that many plans that had been drawn up since the early 1970s for the treatment of wastewater from Palestinian cities were not implemented due to lack of funding, though the authorities knew that the flow of wastewater endangered water sources and crops. The investment needed to build treatment facilities for Palestinian communities in the West Bank is currently estimated at 1.2-1.8 billion dollars.

        On the mechanism of resolving the issue or lack thereof:

        The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, signed in 1995, transferred to the Palestinian Authority responsibility for treatment of the wastewater of Palestinian communities. The article of the agreement dealing with water and wastewater stipulates that the sides will cooperate on this matter, including “in the promotion and development of other agreed water-related and wastewater-related joint projects, in existing or future multi-lateral forums.”

        Each side also promised to take “all necessary measures” to prevent pollution or contamination of the water sources, “including those caused by the other side.”

        Pursuant to this article, an Israeli-Palestinian committee was established. The Joint Water Committee’s (JWC) responsibilities include approval of new water and wastewater projects throughout the West Bank. The JWC continued operating during all the years of the second intifada and continues to meet. The sides are equally represented on the JWC, and all its decisions must be unanimous.

        Since no mechanism has been developed to resolve disputes, Israel is able to approve or reject every request relating to water and wastewater that is submitted by Palestinian members of the committee.

      • OlegR
        February 27, 2012, 5:09 am

        Did you read this sentence in my original comment?
        /Of cause you could blame Israel for that as well and you might even be right./

        And again did you read chaos’s original comment?
        /sometimes literally, given what many settlements in the West Bank actually do with their sewage/

        What you are saying is that Palestinians pollute the land and Israel is to blame (Partly :)). Fine no argument there.
        But that still doesn’t make accusing settlers in direct environmental pollution any less ludicrous.

        Accusing Israel in ALL the problems of the Palestinians , The Middle East
        the World is something that many of you guys do routinely and it’s
        stupid, counterproductive and as the above example has shown at times it gets ludicrous.

      • Cliff
        February 27, 2012, 5:28 am

        OlegR said:

        What you are saying is that Palestinians pollute the land and Israel is to blame (Partly :)). Fine no argument there.

        Nope. I am disagreeing with your editorial, i.e. “[...]is that Palestinians pollute the land.”

        That statement implies a carelessness and/or apathy on the Palestinian’s part. It makes them – in their entirety – seem culpable.

        But they are in a situation where they have very little options. They are not dumping the sewage anywhere. It is as organized as they can make it w/ the means they have available.

        The B’Tselem report comments on the settler’s situation as well. Look into it.

        OlegR said:

        Accusing Israel in ALL the problems of the Palestinians , The Middle East
        the World is something that many of you guys do routinely and it’s
        stupid, counterproductive and as the above example has shown at times it gets ludicrous.

        I don’t know what you’re talking about.

        I cite mainstream sources and all the mainstream NGOs.

      • OlegR
        February 27, 2012, 5:59 am

        /That statement implies a carelessness and/or apathy on the Palestinian’s part. It makes them – in their entirety – seem culpable./

        They are culpable.
        Ridding the Palestinians of any kind of responsibility is in my opinion doing a great disservice to them.It doesn’t get them anywhere.
        What does the Betzelem report says about the PA and it’s use of funds it gets year in year out from the International Community?
        How do they use them regarding the environmental issues?
        This report keeps repeating Israel is to blame Israel is to blame.
        It doesn’t work like this.
        The Palestinians have (limited i know) self governed themselves since 1995.
        Since then they managed to start and lose another intifada with us.
        They managed to get themselves into a civil war and subsequent division.
        They wasted Allah knows how many millions of dollars of international aid
        on corruption.

        And as long as people kept saying it’s all Israel nothing has changed for them.It started just recently when Fiad became the PM and he actually
        made some constructive changes in the way PA managed itself.

        /I don’t know what you’re talking about.
        I cite mainstream sources and all the mainstream NGOs./
        I know you do but the original conversation was with Chaos and he doesn’t cite anything just makes accusations :).

      • Cliff
        February 27, 2012, 6:36 am

        OlegR,

        I am not saying the Palestinians are ‘innocent’ always and through and through, regardless of the issue – in a general sense.

        I am saying that the report states specific reasons as to why 60% or so of the sewage originated from the Palestinian sectors.

        Assigning blame is important and the report does not say, ‘The Palestinians just dumped the sewage here and there out of apathy/spite/etc.’

        It explains that given their limited options, they did what they had to do. Then it goes into detail about the issue of lack of funds, Israeli bureaucratic meddling, etc.

        I can’t make this up. All I can do is cite what is available on this issue (from a source that is credible).

        The editorial (the conclusions we draw from facts) are subjective.

        I put the blame on Israel because of the power dynamic between the Palestinians and Israel.

      • OlegR
        February 27, 2012, 6:56 am

        /I can’t make this up. All I can do is cite what is available on this issue (from a source that is credible)./
        I never said you did. I am willing to accept Betzelem as a more or less credible source on this issue. They are not objective by any means but that’s a topic for a different discussion.

        /I put the blame on Israel because of the power dynamic between the Palestinians and Israel./
        This is something that you and i will have to agree to disagree on.
        Being weak doesn’t make you right being strong doesn’t make you wrong.

        Israel has not made sufficient investments in to west bank sewage and sanitation system (On par with inside of the Green Line ). True.

        The Palestinians did not spend enough of their international aid money on this issue as well they had other priorities. Also True.

        You think Israel is more to blame,
        I don’t.

      • Cliff
        February 27, 2012, 7:14 am

        Fair enough. That’s our area of disagreement.

        I’m glad you’re being civil though and look forward to future exchanges.

      • Chaos4700
        February 27, 2012, 9:14 am

        Of course not, Oleg. The thief and murderer never chooses to blame himself.

      • OlegR
        February 27, 2012, 6:28 pm

        Oh come on chaos you can insult me better than that.

      • OlegR
        February 27, 2012, 6:29 pm

        Ps. The Palestinians (the leadership that is i don’t want to generalize too much) are pretty good at not blaming themselves.
        Just a thought.

      • Chaos4700
        February 28, 2012, 12:12 am

        Insult? Oh believe me, if I were trying to insult you, the post would never have gotten through moderation. When I choose to attack someone verbally, I do it with a visceral sort of craftsmanship.

        What are the Palestinian leadership supposed to blame themselves for? Your bulldozer going over their water wells and solar panels? Your bombs landing on their schools? Your pirates hijacking ships in international waters and murdering, among others, American citizens?

  2. Newclench
    February 25, 2012, 11:32 am

    Would love to chat with your about your idea of making it easier for individuals to donate directly to Gaza based NGO’s. I’ve given a similar idea a lot of thought and might have some ideas for you. It’s important.
    There are some serious difficulties for any US based fiscal sponsor to help with this project, because of very strict laws and ramifications if a dime ended up in the wrong hands. HOWEVER if individuals were willing to create a new 501c3 and take the legal risk, it could work. Another idea is to use a European flow through fiscal sponsor, and give up the tax benefit.

    • Chaos4700
      February 25, 2012, 12:19 pm

      There are some serious difficulties for any US based fiscal sponsor to help with this project, because of very strict laws and ramifications if a dime ended up in the wrong hands.

      Oh bullshit. Don’t make it sound like there are “very strict laws.” The fact of the matter is, people who are Palestinian who donate, and people who donate to Palestinians, are specifically, ruthlessly targeted and they are targeted in ways which are patently unconstitutional, vis-a-vis “free speech” (since according to the Supreme Court, spending money is free speech) and state favoritism toward religions (in this case, specifically against Muslim charities in favor of Jewish “charities” to the Occupation.)

      There aren’t laws in the United States against this, there is racism and corruption that makes it impossible.

      • Newclench
        February 25, 2012, 2:41 pm

        Ah, Chaos. You have no idea what you’re talking about!
        link to t-tlaw.com
        But you can fix that. Find someone from ANERA, PCRF, MECA and they’ll school you.
        The existing hurdles are complicated by the fear of terrorism flavored charity, but they exist independently of it.

      • Chaos4700
        February 25, 2012, 11:29 pm

        Like I said: bullshit. The largest Muslim charity in the US was taken down and the people running it given virtual life sentence purely because it was deemed “material support” to feed and clothe orphans who lived in the same Gaza strip as Hamas.

        If those same standards of “terrorism flavored charity” were applied with equal standards, then half the American Jewish population and 90-odd percent of Congress should be in the same damn prison for providing material support for Jewish settlers who wage pogroms and attack civilians with virtual impunity. They’re not.

        With all due respect? Stuff it. The one who needs schooling is you, Israeli.

    • Pam Bailey
      February 25, 2012, 12:49 pm

      Hey Newclench…how can we chat? Email or Skype?

  3. yourstruly
    February 25, 2012, 12:12 pm

    as elsewhere, NGOs in Gaza are instruments of charity, and as noted by the author, charity functions to get the responsible government off the hook. think of 19th century america, where in health care, for example, as far as the masses were concerned, charity was about all that was available. considering the actual needs, the charity “system” proved to be so inadequate that its failings led to the progressive social welfare measures of the 20th century (now under attack by a congress hell-bent on returning america to a yesteryear in which it was everyone for him/her-self and if you don’t make it, “sorry, but it’s your own damn fault cause you didn’t have what it takes”). that’s not to say that charities don’t help but considering the actual need, rarely do they suffice. worse, as the author implies, they have a tendency to burrow in, become self-perpetuating and over value their importance. rarely, for example, do they push a 3rd world government to expand whatever its existing, say, health care system so as to obviate the need for charity – “what, and put ourselves out of business” seems to be their attitude. to the extent that this attitude prevails, a charity’s net “worth” (long term, that is) to the community it serves can be assessed by the gap between what a charity delivers and what that community actually needs. the greater the gap, the more problematic the charity.

  4. pabelmont
    February 25, 2012, 12:46 pm

    Pam: Good luck finding a better solution to the problem of feeding the prisoners (Gazans) than the one you so feelingly described.

    If the NGOs should wake up one day, pack their bags, and get out of the Gaza business, Israel and the USA and quite possibly the Egypt of the USA-dependent generals — if not the Egypt of the revolution — would be entirely satisfied to let the Gazans starve. For Israel and the USA care not for human beings, especially (but not only) in Gaza, and are prisoners of their own slogans and political overlords (the USA prisoner of AIPAC, AIPAC prisoner of vicious slogans), Israel prisoner of the settlers, settlers devotees of a religion of such extreme violence and primitive fundamentalism that it makes al Qa’eda and the Iranian mullahs seem tame by comparison.

  5. Eva Smagacz
    February 25, 2012, 1:29 pm

    I would strongly advise for setting an organisation outside US. The way the law is set up and the political climate is here currently, and bearing in mind the fate of Ghassan Elashi, Shukri Abu-Baker, Mufid Abdulqader, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mohammad El-Mezain, I don’t believe that such undertaking would be tolerated by the establishment.

    And anyone thinking that being white, Christian or Jewish, is a shield, please bear in mind the fate of Lynne Steward.

    Unless you hope that the current regime in USA will fold like that in Russia or Eastern Europe, these people are going to spend their lives in prison.

    I don’t believe that they will see the distinction between Zakat committees (the principal recipients of funds from Holy Land Fundation) and local NGO’s. They will all be considered to strengthen the Hamas Government.

    The co-operation of large, western NGO’s with Zakat committees did not cut any ice with court when it came to defence of Holy Land Foundation, nor did the fact that Zakat committees presage Hamas Government by some 1200 years.

    I predict with high degree of confidence that they will go after donors too, in not too distant future.

    • Newclench
      February 25, 2012, 2:48 pm

      Eva, I don’t disagree. But this is an opportunity for US citizens willing to take a risk, to engage in what might be called ‘nonviolent civil obedience’. I’ve been willing to participate in such an effort for awhile – but as Pam notes, it’s hard to get anything off the ground.
      It would be fantastic if an organization based in the US raised funds to transfer to Gaza based nonprofits with donors/staff agreeing in advance about the risk and likely consequences. I’d certainly give time, a small amount of $, and my public voice for such a project.
      It’s just…. hard. Legal fees. Paperwork. Technical infrastructure. But it can be done. And despite the unfairness of it all, being a white Jew (and Israeli) probably would offer a measure of protection.

      • Chaos4700
        February 25, 2012, 11:30 pm

        Then you do. Be our guest.

  6. Keith
    February 25, 2012, 2:05 pm

    PAM BAILY- This is a welcome post on a neglected subject. Thanks. Now a few comments.

    “In fact, I believe that by cutting Hamas off from so many of the functions of normal governments — including the attendant ability to create jobs and raise revenue — we have virtually forced it to become as extreme as some of its elements now are.”

    This is standard operating procedure for dealing with people we want to demonize. When Castro took over in Cuba, the US virtually forced him to rely on the Soviets so that we could claim he was a Red Threat.

    NGOs can usefully be divided into three groups. The worst are ones like the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID which are NGOs in name only. Richard Falk refers to them as IGOs, informal governmental organizations, and they serve the foreign policy designs of their respective government. link to zcommunications.org The next worse are the big NGOs which follow the guidelines of their fat cat benefactors, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, anything connected with George Soros. You can probably throw in Human Rights Watch and perhaps Amnesty International, frequently useful, sometimes not.

    The best bet are the smaller NGOs, however, they are a mixed bag, frequently an unknown quantity. Worse, as you mention, there is the threat of the US accusing US contributors of “funding terrorism” and locking critics up and seizing assets under our recent draconian “anti-terror” laws and precedents. Our options increasingly limited as we descend into a type of police state.

    Taken as a whole, it seems to me that NGOs are a modern, secular version of missionaries. Many do demonstrably good deeds which, nonetheless, support and reinforce imperial policy. They are an essential feature of imperial control and repression.

    As an aside, any opinions on MADRE?

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