While searching the internet for ways a private citizen in the U.S. could support humanitarian projects in the West Bank and Gaza through charities based in the U.S., I was not surprised to find that it takes some digging to find opportunities, especially in Gaza.
In 2008, the U.S. government convicted five Palestinian-Americans associated with the Holy Land Foundation (HLF). The HLF, a Muslim charity based in Texas until it was shut down by President Bush in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks, was accused of sending funds for Palestinian charities–funds that somehow benefitted Hamas (Hamas has governed Gaza since 2007 and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government). If this sounds vague and inconclusive, so was just about everything connected with the prosecution of the “Holy Land Five”, including secret evidence and testimony from an anonymous Israeli “expert” witness. The five humanitarians are serving sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years.
In other parts of the world, Gaza is often seen for what it is: a densely-populated prison where Palestinians live with the constant threat of Israeli incursions and deadly attacks from a highly-sophisticated, U.S.-supported military. Yes, there is Palestinian resistance and yes, crude rockets are launched from Gaza into Israel, but the power and control belong to Israel. Many will remember Israel’s interception of the 2010 Gaza aid flotilla in international waters. The passenger ship Mavi Marmara was boarded by Israeli commandos and nine passengers were killed, including a U.S. citizen. Israel, with U.S. support, has been ruthless in its efforts to maintain the blockade and total control of Gaza.
Check out this poster (“Help children in Gaza”) photographed at an airport in Spain. Scott Roth, the photographer, asks “Would you ever see this in an airport in the U.S.?” The answer has long been no, although courageous organizations including Electronic Intifada, If Americans Knew, Jewish Voice for Peace, and U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation are working overtime to educate the American public beyond the mainstream media spin that almost exclusively supports Israel and minimizes or ignores the suffering of the Palestinians.
One of the sites I found for charities supporting the occupied Palestinian territories is http://www.globalgiving.org/. In the left column, under “projects by region”, I clicked on “Middle East” and found a number of opportunities. Support for Gaza includes The Rachel Corrie Children’s Center, named for the young U.S. citizen who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to protect a Palestinian home from being destroyed, and Maia Project: Clean Water for Children in Gaza. Donations for both projects go through MECA, the Middle East Children’s Alliance in Berkeley, California. An additional project in Gaza, “Let the Children Play and Heal”, is listed on MECA’s website. The project began after Israel’s 2008/2009 assault on Gaza. During the three weeks of attacks, over 300 Palestinian children were killed.
Another good option is PCRF, The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, with headquarters in Kent, Ohio. Part of the organization’s mission is “to improve the quality of medical care in the Middle East by sending medical equipment and supplies to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as training local Palestinian medical personnel to improve the quality of care and services within the public sector.”
ANERA, American Near East Refugee Aid, is “one of the largest American non-profits working solely in the Middle East”. ANERA’s Gaza page includes a long and wide-ranging list of projects. ANERA’s staff in Gaza “are from the communities they serve and includes engineers, pharmacists, educators and agricultural specialists. They know the problems Gaza faces because they often face them too.”
For those who want to do their own digging, there is more to be found. Some of the larger charities, including Mercy Corps and Save the Children, are doing important work in the West Bank and Gaza and accept non-region-specific donations to support their work around the world.
I encourage anyone who finds a project and wishes to help to not be discouraged by the urgency or funding needs of the project versus whatever amount one chooses to give. There is a well-known story, originally by Loren Eiseley, about a young person on a stretch of beach covered with countless starfish, beyond the reach of the tide and slowly dying. An adult out for a walk sees the young person returning one starfish at a time to the ocean and asks what difference it can possibly make when there are miles of beach with stranded starfish. The young person, returning another starfish to the ocean, replies “It made a difference for that one.”