Palestinians Need Help, Not Charity

By Aijaz Zaka Syed – Dubai

This is a strange world. All those who stood around and stared while Israel pounded Gaza for three weeks have now come together apparently to rebuild it. From UN chief Ban ki-Moon to the so-called Middle East Quartet’s so-called envoy Tony Blair to new US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, all the global movers and shakers turned up for the international donors’ conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt this week. 

Of course, Hamas hasn’t been invited. How could they have invited the terrorists any way? So what if the Palestinians elected them and they still control Gaza?

At the Sharm El Sheikh meeting, everyone talked about reconstruction and committing billions in aid for Gaza. The Arab states came up with $1.65 billion in aid. Saudi Arabia led the charge with its billion dollar commitment. The European Union committed itself to 436 million Euros. And the mighty United States did not disappoint either by offering $900 million of which $300 million is to be paid up front in urgent aid. All in all, $5.2 billion have been promised to rebuild Gaza.

All this is very noble, of course. It’s indeed heartening to see the international community respond sincerely to the United Nations call to rebuild Gaza and help a people who have survived one of the deadliest bombing campaigns against an incarcerated, besieged population. 

As US Congressman Keith Ellison, who recently visited Gaza with former presidential candidate John Kerry, put it, what Israel unleashed on Gaza is “destruction beyond description!” 

So I am almost moved to tears as the world community is overwhelmed by the milk of human kindness. I hate to spoil this euphoria and ‘feel-good’ moment of the civilized world. But will all this aid wash away our guilt and our sins against the people of Gaza? I wouldn’t think so.  

Many of those offering to rebuild Gaza today looked the other way when the Palestinians cried for help during the bombing that started a day after Christmas. For 22 days, Israeli jets and tanks turned the entire Gaza Strip into a target practice area employing and experimenting with all sorts of banned weapons and chemicals against the Palestinians.  And the world just stood by and watched. More than 1300 people were killed in the Gaza carnage, nearly 500 of them children.

All this international help now being offered is more than welcome. And venerable world leaders made some rather fine speeches in Sharm El Sheikh. But will all this charity bring back all those lost lives? Will it bring back smiles to Palestinian children or to their parents? 

I still can’t forget those five young sisters who were killed in Beit Hanoun when Israelis bombed the mosque next to their asbestos-roofed home. They looked like angels, still smiling as they died in their sleep.  

The findings published in the UK’s medical and research journal, Lancet, last month reveal atrocities greater than any television images or news pictures could convey. 

According to British physicians Dr. Ghassan Abu Sittah and Dr. Swee Ang, who managed to get into Gaza during the war, while there’s plenty of evidence the Israelis used the banned white phosphorous against the totally exposed civilians, the massive liver necrosis seen in many Palestinian victims couldn’t have been caused by white phosphorous alone.  

The doctors’ duo found evidence of Tungsten DIME, which truncates people’s limbs without bleeding, and use of experimental weapons like the silent bombs that vaporize everyone and everything in the vicinity. The residual effects of all those deadly chemicals and substances will haunt survivors for years to come. That is, if they survive!

All this never figured in the Gaza donors’ conference, of course. But is there no platform on the planet where these crimes against humanity could be tackled? How long will Israel continue to get away with murder, literally?

All these rebuilding and relief efforts in Gaza deserve everyone’s support. But why did the world allow Israel to destroy Palestinian homes and cities in the first place? Why did it not do more to stop Israeli atrocities?

Every time a Gaza-like outrage takes place, the irrepressible lot that the Palestinians are start from scratch, painstakingly rebuilding their homes, towns and lives. And every time Israel destroys them all over again, obliterating all their valiant efforts and precious resources and keeping them locked in a perpetual, vicious cycle that never ends. Why can’t the powers that run this region and the world save all this bother and simply ask Israel to behave?

For it is not the destruction of Gaza or Hamas rockets, which Israel uses as an excuse to bomb the Palestinians, that is the real cause of this conflict.

The elephant in the room that everyone pretends not to see is the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and continuing persecution of its people. 

The US, EU and others are flaunting billions in aid but insist none of it will go through the Hamas government in Gaza. Why? Because Israel says so. The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas insists money should only be funnelled through PA government.

How does it work when Hamas controls Gaza and Abu Mazen’s Fatah cannot step out of Israel-controlled West Bank? But who really cares? World leaders needed to make some more solemn speeches and hollow promises which they have done. Who cares if it’s not in the end going to make any real difference to Palestinian existence?

It’s this hypocrisy and moral spinelessness of the world community that constantly encourages and emboldens Israel to continue playing its little cat-and-mouse games with the Palestinians.

Even as world leaders were holding forth on the virtues of peace and loving one’s neighbors in Sharm el Sheikh, a new Israeli plan to build another 70,000 houses for Jewish settlers in the West Bank blew up in their faces. The revelation by the Israeli peace movement, Peace Now, coincided rather nicely with Secretary Clinton’s historic visit to Jerusalem after she took over from Condoleezza Rice. 

Even if the magnanimous Israelis agree to allow a “peaceful and viable Palestinian state” to come into being, there’s no land left for the Palestinians to build such a utopia.  The Zionist dream of creating the greater Israel, from river to river and from sea to sea, is almost a reality. 

If the world indeed wants to help the Palestinians, it should go beyond these reconstruction projects and pious peace pledges. There will be no peace in the Middle East as long as Israeli occupation continues and Palestinians remain prisoners in their own land. You rebuild Gaza today; Israel will destroy it tomorrow. So before building peace, prepare Israel for peace. Palestinians do not need our charity. They need our help.

-Aijaz Zaka Syed is Opinion Editor of Khaleej Times. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: aijaz@khaleejtimes.com.

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