It’s been two months since a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Gaza was agreed to following Israel’s 51 days of relentless shelling and massacring of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, and efforts to rebuild after the destruction have only just gotten underway. After committing what were undoubtedly war crimes by any objective standard, one would think this would be the perfect time for the world to force Israel to lift its cruel and inhumane 8-year siege on Gaza which is literally suffocating the Strip’s inhabitants. However, it appears the Israeli regime, with the complicity of the so-called “Palestinian Authority” and even the UN, is tightening the siege even further by implementing the most appalling and invasive rebuilding measures imaginable. This is according to attendees who were present for a briefing in Jerusalem about the details of the new plans. The plans were laid out by the director of the United Nations Office for Project Services, Nicholas O’Regan, and are based on agreements made in secret between Israel, the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas, and UN envoy Robert Serry – not one of them actually representing the people of Gaza. Details of the briefing were leaked to The Guardian and The Electronic Intifada by attendees who chose to remain anonymous because they’d not been given authorization to speak about the plans, with O’Regan even warning attendees, “Be careful what you put out from this meeting. Don’t undermine this. Think about all the people who want to have their houses rebuilt.”
The destruction visited on Gaza during Israel’s inanely-named “Operation Protective Edge” over the summer razed some 20,000 homes, displaced around 500,000 people (of a population of 1.7 million), injured more than 11,000 people, and ended with a death toll of about 2,150 Palestinians – around 75% of those deaths being civilian casualties. The costs for reconstructing after the immense devastation wrought by Israel amounts to around $8 billion, which is larger than Gaza’s overall GDP. Video captured of the Strip’s destruction by a drone was acquired by the BBC:
Including the 20,000 homes that were utterly destroyed, 90,000 overall have suffered severe damage. Hundreds of schools need to be rebuilt as well as other government infrastructures destroyed or damaged during the summer-long attack. According to The Electronic Intifada:
At a recent donor conference, $5.4 billion was pledged to help rebuild Gaza, but as The Electronic Intifada reported, half of the money will be diverted to fill holes in the [Palestinian Authority] budget.
The Palestinian Authority, by the way, is in the West Bank, not Gaza. Mahmoud Abbas does not represent Palestinians in Gaza, but is being put in charge of the reconstruction efforts because Israel and the United States see him as someone who can be pushed to do things on their own terms. Hamas, an organization which stands for resisting the occupation instead of complying with it, is designated by most Western countries as a “terrorist group”. The UNSCO director O’Regan consistently referred to the PA Authority as “the legitimate Government of Palestine rebuilding Gaza” as it is the the authority that Israel – the occupier – prefers.
According to The Guardian report, some “international officials involved in the discussions around the reconstruction told the Guardian that Israel was one of those pushing hardest to find a mechanism to get materials for reconstruction into Gaza.” Apparently these “international officials” are taking this as a sign of good will on the part of Israel, when in reality it should have been a red alert for what this mechanism would entail. The reconstruction method which the UN agreed to be the enforcer of puts Israel’s needs way above the needs of the beleaguered people of Gaza. This is not an exaggeration. Of the five top priorities listed in the official UNSCO Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, priority #1 is “to satisfy Israeli security concerns related to the use of construction and dual use material“. And it gets worse. The new mechanism carries a “requirement for homeowners needing building materials to register their ID number, address/locality [and] family status for a database that will be available to Israeli officials, including its intelligence agencies.” All reconstruction is “predicated on the establishment of a central IT database” for the purpose of keeping track “of suppliers and consumers”. Israeli drones will be flying around monitoring the use of all materials. The UN will now become complicit in enforcing the brutal siege, with its workers being tasked with conducting routine invasive inspections. “Big Brother” has arrived in Palestine, with the UN placing the job of conducting these intrusive inspections to a military contracting company called CTG Global. For all “large-scale works”, such as schools, work factories and government buildings, the rebuilding projects must first be submitted and assessed for approval “in accordance with government of Israel specifications”. This includes video monitors being installed to keep watch over Gazans as they try to rebuild what the occupier has destroyed, with the added burden of the occupier watching their every move and possessing ultimate power to determine what, where and how everything should be built. Pouring even more salt on an open wound is the near certainty that Israel will be the main profiteer from the sale of reconstruction materials. The sales will be administered in Israel allegedly through the Palestinian Authority, which is largely seen as co-enforcer of the occupation in the West Bank.
For what purpose are all these extra-repressive measures being included, especially in light of the fact that Gaza is already one of the most repressed places on earth? Does the UN think the Israeli regime really gives a damn about anybody living in Gaza? According to one international NGO who was briefed on the details of the “agreement”, the entire thing is “based on Israeli discretion and goodwill” (a nonstarter) and contains “no mechanism for dispute resolution”. The UN itself knows this is recipe for disaster, as a September 14th “risk assessment” listed the probability of Israel to backtrack on the terms of ‘agreement’ as “high risk” or even “catastrophic”. Comments by top ranking Israeli officials like the Minister of Transportation, Israel Katz, don’t do much to inspire much confidence either. Speaking last week to a gathering of members of the ruling Likud Party, Katz cautioned that perhaps “the world should not waste its money. If one missile will be fired [from Gaza], everything will go down the drain.” Other comments he made to the crowd could be interpreted as genocidal:
“If one Protective Edge was not enough, you will get two and three until Hamas terror ends. I prefer 1000 Palestinian mothers crying than letting one Jewish mother cry.”
Katz’s narrative is of course nowhere close to being in line with reality. Ever since Israel imposed its cruel blockade of Gaza in retaliation for electing Hamas, an organization opposed by Israel because of its inability to be corrupted, Israel has routinely violated the terms of every ceasefire ever agreed to by the two parties (including more than one violation a day in the month of September alone). These almost constant violations include Israeli forces firing on fishermen, shooting at workers on farmlands, detaining suspected members of Hamas, conducting targeted assassinations of Hamas members, and continuing to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank. In the eyes of governments in the West, however, the “right to self-defense” applies to Israel and Israel alone in this conflict. The moment a single object is fired from Gaza into Israel after constant ceasefire violations on the part of the latter and an ever-tightening blockade, the American media awakes from its slumber to alert the public of so-called “terrorist attacks” on Israel.
All this leads one to wonder if the UN sees this insane mechanism as the only available alternative because they know the U.S. will continue blocking any and every resolution to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes and force it to lift the blockade. America’s role in not only maintaining the blockade but tightening it should be clear for all the world to see. When the Palestinian Authority began discussing the possibility of mounting a possible effort to charge Israel (or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) with war crimes before the International Criminal Court, who could the Prime Minister rely on to fly over to Israel from the United States to pledge they would fight efforts for accountability at the ICC? It was members of the United States Congress of course. At the end of the day, whether it is openly stated or not, America is in a sense encouraging Israel to continue its siege, occupation, and overall process of ethnic cleansing of Palestine by constantly defending the indefensible. Thanks largely to the U.S., there is no international institution in which to hold the present Apartheid state accountable.
[*At the time of this writing, an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council has been called over the situation in Jerusalem and the West Bank, where Israel is continuing to demolish Palestinian households and mosques for the purpose of building more Jewish-only settlements in defiance of international law. Some analysts are wondering if a Third Intifada is inevitable. More on this to come.]