Thursday, May 27, 2010
"The Restaurant and the Swimming Pool"
To hear certain parties tell it, the poor people of Gaza are suffering so horrendously because of the Israeli "siege" or "blockade" that they can barely live. Particularly problematic, we're told, is the refusal of Israel to let in building supplies, so that houses destroyed in the Operation cannot be repaired.
We'll get to those "certain parties" in a moment...
I have already provided information put out by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs that puts the lie to this: Since our Operation Cast Lead, which ended in January 2009, we have permitted approximately a million tons of humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza -- almost a ton per person there.
ou can see a detailing, week by week, of what goes into Gaza here:
According to the spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) goods go into Gaza via two different avenues.
Some goods go under the auspices of humanitarian organizations -- UNRWA, World Food Plan, etc. Israel makes every effort to allow through all humanitarian supplies (food and medicines, etc. ) that these organizations seek to bring in -- although sometimes there are items that are questioned or prevented from going in.
Totally aside from the goods transported by humanitarian organizations -- which are distributed to those in greatest need -- are those permitted in commercially. The PA cooperates here in determining what the needs of local merchants are, and those goods are shipped by truck. On an average week, roughly 500 trucks will go into Gaza with such merchandise. Products allowed in include meat, fish and chicken; grains; staples such as sugar, salt, flour and yeast; spices; dairy products; legumes; fresh fruits and vegetables; cooking oil, a variety of other foodstuffs; animal feed; medicines; clothing; and hygienic supplies.
What is notable is that there are also specialty items that are permitted in:
Last November, for example, Israel permitted in 12 new transformers and other pieces of electrical equipment for the power plant in Gaza and 7,000 heads of cattle were imported for the Eid al-Adha holiday. While in December, six advanced water desalination systems were transferred to the Gaza Strip; glass was brought in for home repairs before the onset of winter; 750 tons of aggregate were transferred for maintenance of the North Gaza Wastewater Treatment plant.
But let's move now beyond even this.
Tom Gross, writing in the National Post (Canada) on Tuesday, describes middle and upper class life in Gaza -- which the media routinely avoid mentioning.
Within this article, Gross mentions two luxury facilities that I want to call to your attention.
One is the Roots Club in Gaza, frequented, says Gross, by UN and NGO personnel, Hamas officials and journalists (who neglect to inform their readers about this place). Nor is this the only nice restaurant in Gaza. See here a promotional video in English for this place. Gross verified its legitimacy:
At about 2 and 1/2 minutes into the video you can even see Hamas's Haniyeh and Fatah's Abbas dining together, apparently unconcerned about starving people.
And then you have the news about Gaza's first olympic-sized swimming pool, which was inaugurated at the As-Sadaka club on May 18. The opening was attended by "Gaza government ministers, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, leaders of Islamic and national governing bodies." And we know this is so, because Gross secured information on this from the Palestinian Arab news agency Maan:
One has to ponder how this pool was possible, when the charge is that no construction material is getting into Gaza, and that water is in horribly short supply.
And so, kol hakavod (well done!) to Gross for this excellent work.
And now it's our turn. Since those promoting this "Freedom Flotilla" are out to make Israel look bad, it's our job to make sure the realities are known.
Please! Circulate this as broadly as possible. Write letters to the editor. Post this on blogs. Share it with everyone you know.
Also, in the US, contact your representatives in Congress. No big explanations are necessary. Tell them, simply, that Israel is being maligned by those promoting the "Flotilla" going to Gaza, and that you want them to know the truth about conditions in Gaza.
Whether by fax or e-mail communication, include the URLs I've provided here: from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, documenting what does go in, and then for the video of the restaurant and the Maan article on the swimming pool. See for yourselves, tell them.
If you want to include more, copy and paste the information I provide above from COGAT.
For your Congresspersons:
For your Senators:
Now, as to those seeking to malign Israel with charges of humanitarian suffering in Gaza. We are looking at a conglomeration of anti-Israel activists who, describing themselves as "human rights activists," work under the rubric of the "Free Gaza Movement." The movement, with international assistance -- from Turkey, Greece, Sweden, Malaysia, etc. -- has put together a flotilla of seven ships that will be headed towards Gaza in the next few days. The claim is that they are bringing "humanitarian goods" to the people of Gaza, to alleviate their suffering. The reality is that they are out to do Israel damage.
Our navy says they will be stopped, but I am not altogether certain of this. For those on board take every advantage of this outrageous situation to make Israel look bad. We are so vile, would go the press, that we even stop humanitarian supplies from reaching the people.
What I wanted to particularly address here is the key role that UNRWA -- that ostensibly humanitarian organization responsible for the so-called Palestinian refugees -- played in this action.
Key personnel in UNRWA routinely bad-mouth Israel. For example, in April, UNRWA commissioner-general Fillipo Grande declared that the problems faced by Gaza – as a result of the “blockade” – “are not just humanitarian,” but “encompass every aspect of society.” He pronounced the situation as being “increasingly dire.”While John Ging, head of operations in Gaza, spoke about the people's "struggle to survive."
And it was Ging, in an interview in early May with a Norwegian newspaper, who kicked off the idea for this flotilla:
“Israel refuses to act reasonably,” he declared.
“Therefore we ask the international community: Bring us the supplies we need to rebuild schools and run them, bring us the equipment we need to hospitals and health centers. Everybody knows how desperate the situation is in the Gaza Strip after almost three years of blockade. We need action now…
“And who would stop the ship with such things as teaching materials and materials to building schools? In that case we would get a new reality for the international community. Then the purpose of the blockade would be to destroy Gaza, not to protect Israel.”
Nice guy. But let's best him!
Prime Minister Netanyahu has been invited to the White House next week. I will follow with more on this and other matters in due course.