Thursday, November 12, 2009

Who are Miles of Smiles?

Today, after a month long delay, Egypt allowed a convoy of medical aid to arrive in Gaza:
The European medical aid convoy “Miles of Smiles” arrived in Gaza late night Wednesday night after spending 25 days waiting on the Egyptian side of the crossing.

Hamdi Sha’th, head of the committee against the siege, told Ma’an over the phone that the convoy will stay in Gaza only 48 hours and will leave on Friday after the noon prayer. The short trip was part of the terms negotiated by Egyptian border officials.

The group brings into the Strip 100 small trucks loaded with medical aid and nearly 260 wheelchairs in addition to a number of ambulances, 102 cars for transportation of the disabled and computers for schools damaged during the last war.
Their visit is not only humanitarian but also political:

Sha’th said the convoy consisted of 60 individuals from 10 different European countries, who would travel to the northern Strip where they would meet with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, then head to the Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, which bore the brunt of casualties from Israel's last war on the area in December and January. Later in the day the delegation will meet families of prisoners being held in Israel, and finally a meeting with de facto government officials.

Minister of Labor and Social Affairs in the de facto government Ahmad Al-Kurd said in a news conference after the convoy arrived in Gaza that it was carrying a moral message to the world, demanding they “stop besieging one and a half million Palestinians," and will carry the "devastating humanitarian impact” of the siege back to their countries and spread the word.
Both Hamas and Miles of Smiles seem to be on the same page that, like Free Gaza, their goal is not to help Gaza children but to spread Hamas propaganda.

Miles of Smiles is run by a group called Partners for Peace and Development for Palestinians (PPDP), and it was created specifically as a political organization:
Our mission is to establish a continuously expanding Palestinian network made up of a number of sectors from various professional committees and operating from different international centres. Through strategically managed programmes of co-ordination and co-operation, PPDP will be the umbrella organisation that facilitates exchanges of information and enhances knowledge and expertise between the established committees. The ultimate objective will be to create a situation where PPDP can contribute substantially to peace and development for a free Palestine.
It is not an NGO created to deliver aid. It delivers aid to further the political goals of Hamas.

They are associated with a Swiss group called "Driot Pour Tous" which says that it has admirable, universal goals:
It aims at long term, to address injustice throughout the world and wants to contribute to the application of international law in all parts of the world. It wants to fight against all forms of racism, antisemitism and discrimination.

It even states specifically:
We wish to establish clearly a difference between [anti-]Zionism and antisemitism and to vehemently condemn those who support the crimes of Hitler and who advocate anti-Jewish doctrines!

Yet DPT's activities are all centered on one topic: Palestinian Arabs. While it claims to be against "all forms of terrorism," I could not find a single article on their site that was against Arab terrorism (or against anti-semitism.) To its credit, it does not call for the wholesale destruction of Israel via a "right of return" and does not seem to go beyond UN resolutions.

DPT does, however, repeat the Arab trope that there can be no "peace without justice," which is a keyword meaning the expulsion of a half million Jews from their homes and no Jewish sovereignty over any Jewish holy place. It also links to at least one article that compares Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto (article no longer available.)

Although these groups do not seem as transparently deceptive as Free Gaza and the ISM, they both make it appear that they have a more universal focus than this one issue. PPDP, in particular, seems to be far more pro-Hamas than pro-PA.