Friday, June 04, 2010

When humanitarian aid becomes a political game

Hezbollah's television station Al-Manar mentions that Fatah official al-Ahmad said that the Gaza Strip does not need humanitarian food or supplies as the Palestinian Authority secures the needs of the Gaza Strip on a daily basis.

“I confidently say that Gaza does not need humanitarian or food supplies because the PA is securing all of this. The PA sends 200 trucks into Gaza, not through Rafah but through other crossings,” he told the German News Agency. “These trucks are always full of food supplies, medicaments, and fuel,” he added.
In case of a so-called humanitarian crisis, you would expect that all aid is welcome. But it's not in the Gaza Strip where aid is not always greeted with enthusiasm as the German weekly Der Spiegel points out:
"People who are not in with Hamas don't see any of the relief goods or the gifts of money," Khadar says. On the sand dune where his house once perched, there is now an emergency shelter. The shelter is made of concrete blocks that Khadar dug from the rubble, and the roof is the canvas of a tent that provided the family with shelter for the first summer after the war. "Hamas supporters get prefabricated housing, furnishings and paid work. We get nothing," Khadar complains. (...)

The reason his family receives nothing: Like many of his neighbors, Khadar is a die-hard supporter of the Fatah party, the sworn political enemy of the more radical Islamists in Hamas. That's why Khadar has little hope of seeing any of the 10,000 tons of aid that the activist flotilla heading for the Gaza Strip tried to bring to Gaza's harbor at the start of this week. (...)

The bulk of the goods, which were temporarily confiscated, have since been released by Israel and brought to the Gaza border. But now there's another problem: Hamas is playing politics. The autocratic rulers of the Gaza Strip have placed conditions on aid delivery. The goods are not to be brought into the territory piece by piece, but all at once. All or nothing. By making these demands Hamas wants to ensure the building materials are all handed over. (...)

And he appeals to aid organizations to do everything they can to try and deliver their goods directly to the citizens of Gaza. Hamas should not be allowed to get hold of it. Khadar becomes particularly enraged when he talks about his neighbors behind the dune. The Hamas prime minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, recently gave them a brand new house, complete and ready for them to move in.

And indeed, Khadar's neighbor, Aderauf al-Batsch's front door boasts a commemorative plaque celebrating that memorable event. The 35-year-old homeowner does not dispute his relationship to Hamas, but he does dispute any accusations of preference. "The construction ministry held a lottery to win a new home. And I just happened to be the winner," Batsch explains. Does he think it's a strange coincidence that he, the neighborhood's only Hamas supporter, should have won the contest? No. "Sometimes in life you get lucky," he says.
And guess what? If it is not part of a political game, it's bad for business:
There are people in Gaza though who will never be happy about the arrival of the aid. "Everything that arrives here, and is distributed free of charge, is bad for business," says one Palestinian pharmacist, who studied in Germany but preferred not to give his name for fear of reprisals. Every medicine and every toy that well-meaning Westerners donate endanger the few jobs that still remain in Gaza, he explains. A colleague at another pharmacy agrees. "We are being bred into dependency," he says, repeating the universal adage that guides international aid: "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. But if you give him a fishing rod, you feed him for a lifetime."
But even though the internal ideological problems and the oppressive behavior of radical organizations such as Hamas are exposed, they still believe that in order to let the PalArabs to stand on their own feet the Israeli blockade must first end. It is a shame that Der Spiegel did not ask when they think Israel would end its blockade. Because that answer seems obvious: when the hatred and the attacks from Gaza will stop.