Gaza: What Are Promises of Humanitarian Aid Worth?

By Stuart Littlewood – London

We keep hearing from the British government that they have spent £millions in humanitarian aid for Gaza. But nobody is saying exactly where the money has gone and who benefited.

Of course, if they had done what they were supposed to and (with the rest of the international community) made sure the Palestinians were left in peace to run their own affairs with their homeland intact, there would be no need to endlessly raid taxpayers’ pockets for aid.

Here’s the text of a letter to foreign secretary David Miliband…

“Some two months ago, on 10 November, Lord Brett announced that the British Government had "pledged £30 million at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference, of which £20 million was allocated for reconstruction and £10 million for early recovery. We are already funding a number of early recovery projects, such as cash for work schemes employing people to clear rubble and repair agricultural roads, and expect to spend the full £10 million allocated for this purpose by March 2010. However, due to restrictions on the entry of building materials into Gaza, the UK has not yet been able to spend any of the funding earmarked for reconstruction. We stand ready to provide support as soon as the situation improves, and continue to press the Israeli Government for improved access to Gaza for aid, aid workers and reconstruction materials.

"The UK has spent £16.9 million in the West Bank and Gaza so far this financial year, including £5.2 million in humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and £10 million in support to the Palestinian Authority to enable it to provide essential public services. We have also provided nearly £20 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to provide support to Palestinian refugees, of which around half is allocated to Gaza and the West Bank."

Exactly what have Britain’s efforts amounted to so far? How much humanitarian aid has Britain succeeded in bringing to bear on the crisis and human suffering in Gaza? Where has it been spent and by whom?

On 5 January Mr Michael Foster of the Department for International Development said: "The €32 million pledge for Gaza made by the Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy in March 2009 was for humanitarian aid and early recovery activities… Like the DFID the EU has been unable to spend money on formal reconstruction activities in Gaza due to Israeli restrictions on the import of essential materials."

How long is this inaction likely to continue and why are Britain and the EU merely "pressing" Israel to no effect instead of forcing the issue? If the intended reconstruction aid has been blocked for nine months why was the money not reallocated to other critical humanitarian needs such as medical care and public health? What is stopping you, for example, asking Gaza’s ministry of health for a list of hospital spares and shipping them direct?

What concerns so many people out here is that there is no sense of urgency or determination within the Foreign Office or Number 10 to actually deliver real help into the living (and dying) hell that our so-called friends in Tel Aviv have created in Gaza, and that consequently Britain is made to appear complicit in prolonging the criminal devastation when our duty is surely clear enough.

Miliband and his chums need to understand that the death toll of Palestinian hospital patients due Israel’s blockade of life-saving facilities is nearing 370, itself a scandalous crime against humanity that can be added to the long list of Israel’s other atrocities.

Perhaps the authorities in Gaza – government and non-government – would please tell the world how much humanitarian aid they were hoping to receive and how much has actually been allowed to reach them?

The siege was inhumanly severe two years ago when, after visiting Gaza, I was sent a list of urgently-required hospital spares by the Ministry of Health, which I forwarded to the British government. To my eternal shame it was ignored. Would our beleaguered healthcare friends in Gaza like to send an up-to-date list to see if that too is rejected? I would suggest they send it to all three UK party leaders, who are in moralizing overdrive with elections looming, and we’ll see what each one is really made of.

British prime minister Gordon Brown likes saying that “the only solution is a peace settlement between an Israel that needs security within its borders and a Palestine that needs to be a viable economic state”. How long have people like him been saying tosh like that? No, Mr Brown, you simply don’t get it. The only solution is compliance with international law and the dispensing of justice, not more shabby peace ‘negotiations’ dictated by a massively strong side subsidized by powerful friends, armed to the teeth with state-of-the-art weaponry and holding a gun to the head of an impoverished side weakened by 40 years of brutal occupation and equipped only with makeshift weapons and smuggled small arms.

Incidentally, note how western leaders always stick to the Israeli script and never acknowledge that Palestine is equally entitled to “security within its borders”.

We have the worst British government in my lifetime, guilty of the most disastrous foreign policy blunder of the last 100 years – Iraq – and happy to blindly make other lethal mistakes. In centuries past, politicians were parted from their heads for treachery or incompetence. Nowadays they are allowed to profit while innocent masses pay with their lives.

Hopefully this perverse government will be kicked out in the coming elections. Before they go, however, let us see if they can do one decent thing.

And with reports coming in of Israel massing its military strength in the western Negev and elsewhere near the Gaza border, presumably for a second Gaza war as if last year’s wasn’t unforgivable, and the US storing extra ordnance in Israel presumably for the IDF to use against Palestinian civilians, it’s time Dogsbody Britain finally snarled a little at the bloodthirsty lunatics in Tel Aviv and Washington instead of sitting at their feet and wagging its tail.

– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. Visit: www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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