Gaza: The Continuing Politics of Siege and Destruction. Report by Katja Hermann, director of RLS about the Round Table on the situation in the Gaza Strip, Ramallah, 8 June 2015
Gaza: The Continuing Politics of Siege and Destruction
Report by Katja Hermann, director of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Regional Office Palestine, about the RLS Round Table on the situation in the Gaza Strip, Ramallah, 8 June 2015
After almost a year since the last devastating Gaza war during the summer of 2014, not much progress can be seen with regards to reconstruction and still more than 100,000 people are without a home. According to a report by Medico International, so far, not a single house that was destroyed during the war has been rebuilt. In addition, no long term ceasefire has been agreed upon. Although most urgent, there are no plans at all for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip. To critically discuss the reasons behind this situation and to avoid drawing attention to Gaza in times of war only, RLS Regional Office Palestine has conducted a Round Table on 8 June 2015 in Ramallah on the issue. Dr. Ghassan Khatib, former Palestinian Minister of Labor and Planning and current Vice President of Birzeit University, gave an overview on the current political structures and challenges of the Gaza Strip. Dr. Nora Lester Murad is a writer and activist, as well as co-founder of the aid-critical initiative Aid Watch Palestine, a partner organization of RLS. She highlighted the reconstruction-hindering role of the so called Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) and the role of the overall aid system in the maintenance of the Israeli system of blockade and occupation. Nobody would question humanitarian aid in times ofcrisis; however it is critical not to question the reasons behind decades of humanitarian aid without considering that perhaps humanitarian aid has become part of the problem. Murad advocated for a critical view on aid structures in Palestine and for accountability of all those living and working within the system. She explicitly warned against becoming complicit in the blockade and occupation system. Murad highlighted the existence of creative and committed civil society organizations in Gaza despite the weak constitution of Gazan civil society – which is a result of the tense political and socio-economic circumstances in the coastal strip, but also as a consequence of the aid hierarchy where donors dictate policy and most donor money is sent to the West Bank while Gaza based organizations receive little long term investment. Also Dr. Ala Tartir, program director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network and discussant at the event, connected the critical situation of Gaza with a fundamental critique of the international aid system in Palestine. He argued that the aid system created after the Oslo Accords has failed since it did not achieve its proclaimed objectives, namely to contribute to lasting peace, to effective and accountable Palestinian institutions, and to sustainable economic development. Without a radical deconstruction of the aid approach, based on the equation that has been originally described by the scholar Anne le More and extended by Tartir that “the US decides, the World Bank leads, the EU pays, the UN feeds, and Israel destroys,” Palestine does not appear as a stakeholder, there would neither be any hope for an end of occupation nor the possibility for real reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. A further waste of funding would be the only consequence. Tartir highlighted the importance of reinventing the aid system where he believes everyone should join this task since it is insufficient to only criticize the status quo. Responsible authorities and stakeholders from all parties, including Palestinians, should be confronted with the failure of aid in order to open the way for new and different dynamics.