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Int'l Community Promises to Rebuild Gaza ... with Sweat Shops to Exploit Palestinian Workers

By       Message Max Blumenthal       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Reprinted from AlterNet

As Israeli officials vow to turn Gaza into Darfur, the international community pledges billions to sustain the brutal status quo.

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The Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip has brought with it a depressingly familiar ritual: The Israeli military destroys large swaths of the ghettoized coastal enclave, leaving tens of thousands homeless, a trail of carnage and piles of rubble. Then, Western and Arab diplomats rush to some Middle Eastern capitol to play janitor to the Jewish state, pledging billions in aid to clean up Israel's mess. And like clockwork, Israel destroys everything all over again just a year or two later, bombarding Gaza with unprecedented ferocity.

When Israel's international janitorial crew gathered this week in Cairo with a pledge to raise $5 billion to help rebuild the $8 billion in damage Israel caused to Gaza's civilian population, it was assured by Israeli Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz that its efforts were utterly futile. "The Gazans must decide what they want to be Singapore or Darfur," Katz remarked, leveling the threat of genocide against the fantasy of economic prosperity. "They can pick between economic recovery and war and destruction. If they choose terror, the world should not waste its money. If one missile will be fired, everything will go down the drain."

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The message was not lost on the diplomats assembled in Cairo. As one told AFP, "We have seen infrastructure projects that we have contributed to which have been destroyed." The diplomat complained that the sustained Israeli assaults on Gaza's infrastructure had prompted "considerable donor fatigue."

Johan Schaar, the head of Development Cooperation for the Swedish Consulate in occupied Palestine, conceded that Israel's limitless capacity for violence had rendered the conference a fruitless endeavor. "No one can expect us to go back to our taxpayers for a third time to ask for contributions to reconstruction and then we simply go back to where we were before all this began," he moaned. "That is out of the question."

Only about half of the $5 billion pledged at Cairo would actually be budgeted towards Gaza reconstruction. The rest, according to the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, would help keep his unelected government afloat in the West Bank, where 44% of its civil service corps are employed in the security sector -- paid to police fellow Palestinians on behalf of Israel's occupation. Under the guise of restoring the basic functions of Gaza, an entity that will be uninhabitable by 2020, according to the UN, and which is substantially unlivable today, the diplomats in Cairo found a backdoor channel to sustain the police state that rules the West Bank's ever-shrinking Bantustans.

"Without a [political breakthrough] I think we'll probably end up giving but it will be repackaging the assistance that we already give," a European diplomat told the UN news service, IRIN. "In reality none of it will be new money. There isn't a terrible amount of political commitment or hope."

Even the diplomats gathered in Cairo knew the donor conference was a farce that would do little to relieve the suffering of Gaza's besieged population. Yet none appeared willing to stray from the status quo.

Ignoring the occupation, legitimizing the dictator

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The destruction that rained down on Gaza this summer was discussed in Cairo as though it was the result of a random natural disaster and not the malevolent wrath of an anachronistic settler-colony armed to the teeth by the world's lone superpower. Indeed, Israeli violence against Gaza's civilian population was scarcely mentioned at all, nor were any diplomatic measures against it proposed. And with Hamas barred from participation in the conference, the government of Gaza was unable to raise the issue.

When Kerry appeared at the lectern, he pledged a piddling $212 million to Gaza, nearly $700 million less than the US gave after the 2008-09 Israeli assault known as Operation Cast Lead. He then proceeded to gush over the "efforts" of Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, whose primary achievement since winning a fraudulent election has been suffocating Gaza from the south, wrecking the tunnel economy that enabled the importation of everything from medical supplies to construction material.

"I think it's fair to say, [Sisi has] really helped to reaffirm the pivotal role that Egypt has played in this region for so long," said Kerry, conferring legitimacy on a despot torn from the script of Woody Allen's "Bananas." The military coup and subsequent massacres of peaceful protesters that Sisi oversaw were now forgotten, as were the 40,000 political prisoners languishing in Egyptian jails. Hours after the event, Kerry met privately with Sisi to promise a shipment of 10 Apache attack helicopters -- his reward for a job well done.

Kerry praised Israel as a generous nation taking "positive steps" to help the sustain Gaza's economy and get the beleaguered territory back on its feet. He trumpeted "new measures that should allow increased trade in agricultural goods between Gaza and the West Bank, and more permits for Palestinian business leaders to enter Israel," omitting the fact that Israel had banned rebuilding materials to Gaza, indefinitely delaying 60 truckloads from entering. "We hope to see many more positive steps announced and implemented in the coming weeks and months," Kerry declared.

Finally, Kerry touted a little-understood economic plan called the Initiative for the Palestinian Economy, claiming it was a recipe for reducing Palestinian unemployment to 8 percent -- the same rate as in the US. He credited McKinsey and Company, the US-based management consulting firm that helped Enron exploit California's energy crisis, with producing the initiative's analysis of the Palestinian economy.

"We're talking about real investment that produces real jobs and opportunities for thousands of Palestinians," proclaimed Kerry, "and that is what is going to make the difference over the long term."

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Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post,, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. He is a writing fellow for the Nation Institute. His book, (more...)

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