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Politics Unmercifully Trespass Humanitarian Borders in Gaza

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The major political players who are involved in sealing off 1.5 million Palestinians into an open air prison in the world's most densely populated 360-square-kilometre area of the Gaza Strip are unmercifully trespassing humanitarian borders there; they perceive in the collapsing economy of the Mediterranean coastal strip, which is rapidly developing into a humanitarian crisis, a political "window of opportunity."

Ironically they are counterproductively citing security and peace making as their casus belli, but they are creating on the ground an explosive humanitarian disaster that could blow off the local as well as the regional security in a way that precludes any credible efforts towards reviving a deadlocked peace process, moribund since 2000. Human rights and morality as well as realpolitics are facing a critical test in the Gaza Strip, where the culprits of the tragic status quo perceive a "window of opportunity."

According to Yoram Meital, Chairperson of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies & Diplomacy at Israel's Ben-Gurion University ( on August 6), the first to point to this "window of opportunity" was the U.S. president, George W. Bush, who last month vaguely proposed an ambiguous public relations "international" conference on Middle East in the fall with the aim of advancing the peace process. In parallel, the Israeli prime minister suggested an "agreement of principles" for a final-status deal with the Palestinians. On August 8, Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni joined Bush's new "vision" on the opportunity: "Gaza creates a security threat for us, while the other part (West Bank) controlled by the new Palestinian government (of Salam Fayyad) can create an opportunity," she said.

A flurry of diplomatic traffic followed. Bush's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the region and met with Palestinian President Mahmoud abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before they held their latest bimonthly meeting in Jericho, the special envoy of the Quartet of the U.S., U.N., EU and Russia Tony Blair also made a regional visit, which coincided with another historic and first of its kind by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Ahmed Aboul Ghei, and Jordan, Abdul-Ilah Khatib, to Israel to present the Arab Peace Initiative of the League of Arab States. None of these events cared to put the looming disaster in Gaza on the agenda.

Ignoring the time bomb that is clicking in Gaza, their message was conveyed by way of default and contrast. Making the life of Palestinians under the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank look easier, economically promising, and diplomatically and politically in interacting contact with the civilized world is meant to be a contrast for comparison by their compatriots in the "liberated" Gaza Strip, locked in by the Israeli military siege, the economic blockade and the political and diplomatic isolation.

'Beware of Greeks bearing gifts'

To confirm their message and sustain the inter-Palestinian divisive status quo, Bush recently unveiled a U.S. aid package for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, which is expected neither to alleviate the economic distress in the West Bank nor avert the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, but would exacerbate the Gaza's isolation as well as its political rift with the northern compatriots.

Bush promised to provide the Palestinians with $190 million in aid and $80 million in security assistance. The biggest chunk - $140 million - is the budget that is already scheduled for the UNRWA. The other $50 million of the $190 million in aid is money attached to political conditions to be channeled through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator and senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think-tank based in Washington, said: "The president continued to promote deepening divisions among the Palestinians, insist on preconditions to a two-state solution and display an unwillingness to outline his own parameters for an Israeli-Palestinian endgame deal," Levy told IPS.

Linda S. Heard in an opinion column on Online Journal on August 2 quoted "an old expression that goes, 'Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,' which has its origins in Virgil's rendition of the Trojan horse legend. Another translation reads 'Trust not their presents, not admit the horse' ... change the word 'Greeks' to 'Americans' (and) the warning may well be valid today."

More than ten billion dollars of donors' aid since 2000, $6 billion of European taxpayers' money given in aid to Palestinians between 1993 and 2004, an annual average of $350-450 million injected into the PA from 1994-2000 and about $650 million annually from 2001-2007, which amounts to over $7 billion, more per capita than anyplace in the world except for Israel, which is heavily subsidized by the U.S., have all failed to stave off the current collapse of the Palestinian economy, polity and society or to secure a permanent opening of even one border crossing between Gaza and the outside world.

All those billions of donors money were squandered in vain, because: "The Palestinians have been too grateful and too helpless for too long to be critical of the political agenda of their donors who have practically nailed them down as political hostages to the donors' money, which was promised initially to help build an independent Palestinian state, but ended up as a political instrument effectively used by the Israeli occupying power," as this author wrote in the Middle East Times on September 7, 2006.

"The internal political crisis is only a result of the deeper economic and humanitarian crisis, which is crushing the Palestinian people to the brink of a "social revolt," especially in the "ticking time bomb" of Gaza Strip, and the donors-sustained Palestinian Authority (PA) to the brink of collapse since the donors tightened the Israeli military siege by imposing a suffocating financial blockade early in the year. The ensuing Palestinian divide is being further exacerbated by the donors' public siding with one party of the divide, to the detriment of the people whom the donors are trying in vain to reach out for," this author added. Less than one year on, this donors' role is reinforced.

Had Gandhi Been Alive

Only an international nonviolent resistance project, "The Free Gaza Movement," is "taking action" to alert the world public opinion to the threatening status quo in Gaza to hopefully awake to the danger simmering there and defuse the clicking time bomb. Up to 100 international volunteered Palestinian, Israeli, American, European, African and Asian rabbis, imams, Christian and Buddhist clerics, British MPs, entertainment celebrities, and internationally known journalists as well as Nakba and Holocaust survivors will sail from Cyprus to Gaza in 2 to 6 seagoing vessels of 12 to 60 passengers each, prospectively on August 15.

Their declared mission is to: "1.To open Gaza to unrestricted international access, i.e. Palestinian sovereignty, 2. To demonstrate that Israel still occupies Gaza, despite its claims to the contrary, 3. To show international solidarity with the people of Gaza and the rest of Palestine, 4. To demonstrate the potential of nonviolent resistance methods." More than 35 organizers from 13 countries have consulted Greenpeace among others for logistical support to sail safe through expected highly risky Israeli security impediments and restrictions.

The Daily India, on August 4, reported that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi alias Mahatma Gandhi, the world's spiritual leader of nonviolence and "Father of the Indian Nation," would have headed for the Gaza Strip to fight for the freedom of Palestinians had he been alive, says his 72-year-old grandson. According to Professor Rajmohan Gandhi, the son of Devdas Gandhi, the Mahatma's youngest son, "If he (Mahatma Gandhi) was around today, my grandfather would have been in the Gaza Strip, shoulder-to-shoulder with the Palestinians."

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
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