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Emergency, Humanitarian Aid to Gaza Strip Counterproductive without Political Aid

Thursday 15 January 2009, by Alternative Information Center

The Israeli military assault on the Gaza Strip has resulted in the deaths of hundreds, injury of thousands and long-term physical and psychological harm to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. While it is currently impossible to estimate the physical damage to infrastructures and buildings in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli media reports that the infrastructure in Gaza has essentially been destroyed. The immediate and long-term costs of the loss and injury to human lives and spirits, in addition to the irreparable damage to roads, schools, hospitals and clinics, water and electricity sources, will reach horrifying levels of historic proportions. The humanitarian crisis created by the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip will take decades from which to recover.

The Palestinian people of the Gaza Strip require and will require emergency and humanitarian assistance in order to meet the most fundamental needs for human existence. However, the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip is the result of Israeli political policies and their attendant military actions. Without addressing the root problems that caused the current humanitarian crisis, international donors will simply enter another cycle of providing emergency and humanitarian assistance for infrastructures and projects that will once again be compromised or destroyed by Israel at a later date.

The root cause of this humanitarian crisis is Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967, including the Gaza Strip, effective and total control over which Israel continues to yield even following its redeployment of troops in 2005. Without work by the international community, including governments and civil society, to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, there simply can be no change in the situation.

Humanitarian and emergency aid, though offering relief in the short-term, also informs the Israeli occupation. Aid projects are used by Israel to evade its own responsibility, explicit in international humanitarian law, to the occupied population under its control. While aid saves lives, it also helps to fund the next Israeli attack, and the next mass killing of Palestinian civilians.

The Alternative Information Center asks that governments and international aid agencies:

Demand information: Gather, analyze and disseminate information about the situation in Gaza. Refuse to allow Israel to dictate the quality and quantity of reporting on its attacks and their consequences. Share information with other organizations and the media.

Hold Israeli accountable for its destruction of the Gaza Strip: Hold Israel accountable for the destruction it has caused to infrastructure and projects funded by your agency and government in the Gaza Strip. Contact the relevant Israeli authorities and demand explanations and compensation for the destruction of civil infrastructures. Publicize those projects destroyed.

Use your political power to enforce international human rights, humanitarian law: Israel is dependent on international aid to ensure the well-being of the Palestinian population, thus freeing it to take decisions unilaterally and with no consideration for the Palestinians. Donors thus have leverage over the Israeli government and can use it to demand compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law.

Don’t assist Israel in economically benefiting from its attacks on Gaza: The United Nations estimates that 45% of international aid sent to the Occupied Palestinian Territories flows back into the Israeli economy. The Paris Accords often render it less expensive to import goods to the OPT from Israel rather than neighboring or European countries. Demand that Israeli taxes on emergency and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip be frozen.

Demand right to freely implement emergency and humanitarian projects: Demand free passage into and out of the Gaza Strip, in addition to unhampered movement within the Gaza Strip in order to implement projects. Protest Israeli limitations on work, including the associated higher costs in storage and shipping that result accordingly.

Support political negotiations grounded in international law between the Palestinians, Israelis: The Oslo Accords are irrelevant and the Annapolis process has failed. It is time the international community publicly recognizes this reality and focuses on implementation of all United Nations resolutions and international laws applicable to the Israeli occupation and the Israeli-Arab conflict.

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