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15 March 2018

Save Gaza from Greenblatt

By: Daoud Kuttab
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It was dubbed as a meeting to save Gaza. The meeting summoned by the US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt was called a humanitarian mission and the American convener asked everyone to park their politics outside.
 
The problem is that the Gaza Strip does not have a humanitarian problem. No earthquake has hit the strip and the World Health Organisation has not declared the breakout of an epidemic affecting Gaza’s nearly two million people.
 
Gaza’s problem is totally political and the main source of the humanitarian crisis is the illegally imposed Israeli siege on it. Yet, in the 1,500-word opening statement proudly reprinted on the US State Department's website, the term "siege" is not even once stated. In fact, throughout that opening statement that excluded the key party, the Palestinians, not a single word, statement or hint was given to Israel’s responsibility.
 
Naturally, as far as Greenblatt is concerned, there was a lot of blame to be placed on the doorstep of the Islamic Hamas movement which, according to the American official, bears total responsibility for the huge humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
 
Greenblatt, whose tweets are full of words of sympathy for every killed or injured Israeli settler, has finally found the time to "balance" his posts by expressing sympathy for Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who has escaped injury in a Gaza bombing by unknown assailants on Tuesday.
 
Greenblatt wants representatives of neighbouring countries to feel with the Gazans by visiting Israeli towns bordering the strip and reviewing the tunnels that Hamas has built. He also wants Hamas to return bodies of Israeli soldiers without mentioning the fact that Israel is also holding bodies of Palestinian fighters as well as Palestinian prisoners without trials or charges for months and years. No comment on administrative detentions will ever come out of Mr. Greenblatt’s mouth of course.
 
Yes, Gaza is going through a humanitarian problem that is the result, first and foremost, of the Israeli siege and the pressure by Israel on Egypt not to allow free access on their side.
 
But regardless of the reason for this humanitarian crisis, some international groups are, in fact, busy trying to help mitigate it as much as possible. One such agency is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Considering the fact that nearly 70 per cent of the population of Gaza are refugees, the need to support this important agency that provides medical, educational and social support to Palestinians is a no brainer. The world community, including the US that helped create UNRWA as a temporary agency to support and aid Palestinian refugees, has been generously supporting this UN agency, whose work is totally apolitical despite claims by right wing Israelis to the contrary. Even top Israeli military officials have praised UNRWA for its important humanitarian work.
 
So, one would think that an American official who claims to be interested in addressing the manmade humanitarian problems in Gaza would be supportive of UNRWA. But this has not been the case.

 
The Trump administration, to which Greenblatt belongs, arbitrarily froze $65 million of pledged aid to the UN agency under the strange justification that it is doing this to get Palestinians back to the negotiating table. First, the UN agency has no control over Palestinian politics and secondly, there is no negotiating table for Palestinians to return to. In his speech to the UN Security Council on February 20, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke for 30 minutes about all the efforts that the Palestinians have made to be part of negotiations. He even said that although he hates walking, he is willing to walk anywhere in order to participate in negotiations.
 
There is clearly a split personality going on here, as there is in Israel. On the one hand, Americans make a passionate plea for humanitarian aid and, at the same time, they are barring their own support and are not even admitting the role of the biggest elephant in the room, the Israeli occupation and their siege on Gaza.
 
So, with all the pleas to save Gaza, what is needed the most now is to not save Gaza from a humanitarian crisis but to save Gaza from Greenblatt.
 
With friends like Greenblatt, who needs enemies?

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net



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