Friday, December 26, 2014

  • Friday, December 26, 2014
  • Elder of Ziyon
The Guardian has a rare piece of real reporting that isn't obsessed with bashing Israel:

Amid mounting criticism of the pace of the rebuilding effort, the Guardian has established that a controversial UN-designed mechanism to control the supply of building materials – and prevent them falling into the hands of the militant group Hamas – has been widely corrupted.

The mechanism for allowing the entry of materials into Gaza – including the monitoring of the distribution and use of concrete – was designed by the UN special envoy Robert Serry to satisfy Israeli government concerns that cement should not be diverted to Hamas for military purposes, including tunnel building.

But some within the UN and international aid groups had privately expressed fears that the mechanism – which involves inspection, registration and monitoring – was vulnerable to corruption.

Under the scheme householders are assessed to see if they qualify for rebuilding materials, then registered and issued with a coupon allowing them to buy a specified amount of materials from warehouses monitored by a UN-administered inspection regime.

During a recent visit to cement warehouses in Gaza, however, the Guardian [saw] cement being resold a few feet outside the warehouse doors at up to four times the cost within minutes of being handed over to householders with coupons.

Elsewhere, the Guardian heard allegations of officials taking bribes to produce coupons for more concrete than was needed by householders, so the excess could be resold on the black market, with licensed dealers either turning a blind eye to fraud or participating in it.

At his warehouse, one of the biggest in Gaza City, manager Maher Khalil complained about the complexity of the system. “We do what we are supposed to do,” he told the Guardian. “There is a list published with people’s names which we post outside. They check their name and come with their coupon. We check the ID and then give them the cement.

“We told the UN inspectors who came to see us we can only check what is going on inside the warehouse, not what is happening outside. Inside we sell the concrete for 500 shekels [£81] a tonne. Outside they sell it for 1,600.”

Walking out of the warehouse the Guardian immediately encountered men with horse carts loaded with cement who offered to both buy and sell concrete. One man offered to buy a bag – usually costing 27 shekels – for 70 shekels, saying he would sell it for 90. Another street trader with a laden cart offered to sell concrete by the tonne.

At the bottom of this food chain was Adham, a scrawny boy of nine who was collecting the concrete dust off the carts to put into a bag that he planned to sell for 5 shekels to buy snacks for himself and his brothers.

“It is a disgrace what is happening,” said economist Omar Shaaban. “The new reconstruction mechanism has reproduced the Israeli siege of Gaza, only this time it is the UN that is regulating it. The UN is trading stability for cement – and not very much of it. And most of the cement that is coming in is being sold on the black market. Israel knows it. Serry knows it. The mechanism was a licence for corruption. It is a licence to prolong the siege. It is a licence for big salaries for the UN officials running it. What is absurd is that none of it is preventing Hamas rebuilding.”

In Shujaiya, one of the areas most heavily hit during the war, the rubble had been cleared from the streets but there was little evidence of anyone rebuilding.
Meanwhile:
International donors have so far failed to deliver billions of dollars in aid money that was promised to rebuild the war-battered Gaza Strip, a Palestinian official said Monday, saying the rift between rival Palestinian factions is deterring foreign governments from sending aid.

In the wake of a 50-day war between Israel and Palestinian fighters over the summer, international donors promised $2.7 billion to help rebuild Gaza at a conference in Cairo in October. But Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa said "not even one penny" has been received from major donors such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

"Frankly speaking, what is happening now is not encouraging," Mustafa said. He said just a trickle of money has been received, but refused to elaborate.
And this:
Over the past several days, residents of Netiv Ha’asara, a cooperative agricultural community located near Israel’s border with the Strip, reported a number of instances where bulldozers and trucks were spotted conducting heavy excavation activity close to the security fence, according to Israel Radio.

The residents further reported that a 200-meter-long dirt mound had been raised in the area, with Palestinians workers periodically raising emblems of the Islamist terrorist group above it.
All those pledges for Gaza, especially from the Arab nations, have (as usual) been shown to be empty. The homeowners prefer the black-market money to the concrete. Hamas gets money from its friends in Qatar and Turkey and buys what it needs for tunnels as families prefer to use free shelters from UNRWA or from families to rebuilding on their own. UN officials are getting rich from the bribes. Israel is selling all the cement that people are willing to pay for under this mechanism but the money isn't there despite the pledges. The PA, which is whom the official scheme has been negotiated with, is no doubt also profiting from this as well. And UNRWA, whose officials are part of the corruption, uses the problems as an excuse to do even more fundraising.

(h/t Ronald)



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