The prevailing scenario in Gaza is that the UN’s prediction of the besieged territory being rendered unlivable by 2020 is becoming reality. According to the UN Relief and Works Agency’s Director of Operations in the Gaza Strip, responsibility for the delays in reconstructing the devastated territory lies with Israel. Bo Schack made his comments in a recent press conference.
It is worth recalling that the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism was based upon hypothesis and marginalisation. In the aftermath of Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge, Hamas was excluded from discussions once the ceasefire was implemented. This resulted in decisions being taken by Israel, the UN and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, all of which share in varying degrees complicity in the aggression against Palestinians in the enclave.
The Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism fact sheet says, “If implemented in good faith this mechanism represents an important step towards the objective of lifting all remaining closures, and a signal of hope of the people of Gaza.” This premise is already far-fetched, given that the primary actors are in no way disposed to contributing towards a possibility of this objective being achieved. The fact sheet also states, “Its overall objective is to enable construction and reconstruction work at the large scale now required in the Gaza Strip.” It is noteworthy that one of the conditions for construction and reconstruction is addressing “Israeli security concerns related to the use of construction and other ‘dual use’ material.” The level of conformity to Israeli demands is absolute and prioritised over the well-being of Palestinians in Gaza.
Two years later, ostensibly under the pretext of regurgitated security concerns, reconstruction delays have been traced back to Israel. “Israel hasn’t yet approved a list of names of Gaza citizens submitted in May 2015 whose houses have been damaged during Israeli military offensives and need construction,” explained Schack.
It is important to avoid dissociation here. Disregard and delays can be traced back to Israel as the colonial aggressor; that fact must not, conveniently, be forgotten. Two years is a brief time frame compared to decades, yet it is also likely that as time passes, the uninhabitable quagmire that is now Gaza will be discussed as just another isolated humanitarian concern, rather than a direct ramification of Operation Protective Edge and, ultimately, Israel’s colonial occupation.
While UNRWA’s direct reference to Israel can be construed as a beginning, more awareness needs to be raised, particularly when it comes to the political and humanitarian contexts, which are intertwined. In particular, the international intent to marginalise Hamas from the entire process should be addressed. It is futile to speak about Hamas’s evolution into a political entity, which has occurred at a great cost to the movement, while at the same time refusing to engage on a political level due to the international insistence about the Fatah-run PA being the sole representative of the Palestinian population.
During the aggression, the PA derided resistance while Hamas attempted to navigate a situation in which both resistance and diplomacy were employed. If such trends continue, Israel will be rewarded undeservedly through further intentional fragmentation of the Palestinian population.
It is all too easy for Israel and the international community to focus upon the different needs of Palestinians and treat each group as an entity on its own, as opposed to a collective which has been impacted in different, severe, but related ways. UNRWA has given us a prelude; it should now be incumbent upon all entities to define Israel’s accountability properly and accurately.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.