[News] Under cover of reconstruction, UN and PA become enforcers of Israel’s Gaza siege

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 17 17:56:34 EDT 2014


*Under cover of reconstruction, UN and PA become enforcers of Israel’s 
Gaza siege
*
Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Fri, 10/17/2014 - 16:42
*http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/under-cover-reconstruction-un-and-pa-become-enforcers-israels-gaza-siege*

Details given in a confidential briefing this week confirm that the UN 
has agreed to become the chief enforcer of Israel’s ongoing siege of Gaza.

Under the guise of reconstruction, the UN will be monitoring and 
gathering private information about Palestinian households to be passed 
onto Israel, which will have a veto over which families get aid to 
rebuild their homes.

This was presented as part of an effort to try to entrench and 
legitimize the Israeli-backed Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority of 
Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza.

Under the arrangements, Israel will be given even more intrusive control 
over the lives of Palestinians in Gaza, who will be subjected to onerous 
ongoing monitoring as they try to rebuild their houses, communities and 
lives following Israel’s summer massacre.

UN agencies estimate that almost 90,000 homes must be rebuilt, in 
addition to hundreds of schools and other major infrastructure 
systematically destroyed in Israel’s attack, or degraded by years of 
blockade.

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 
<http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/who-benefits-billions-pledged-gaza-reconstruction> 
to fill holes in the PA budget.

This week UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/ban-ki-moon>, who has faced forceful 
Palestinian criticism 
<http://electronicintifada.net/content/uns-ban-ki-moon-partner-israels-crimes/13716> 
for his own inaction and complicity in the face of the Israeli attack, 
visited the devastated Gaza Strip.

There, he said <http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49074> the 
destruction caused by Israel was “beyond description.”


    The next stage of Israel’s blockade

The high-level briefing was given by Nicholas O’Regan, country director 
of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and a 
colleague, in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

It was attended by more than a dozen heads and senior officials from 
international nongovernmental organizations and joined by colleagues in 
Gaza by telephone.

An attendee gave The Electronic Intifada a detailed account of the 
briefing because they were alarmed at its contents and felt Palestinians 
had a right to know what was being kept from them.

But the attendee asked to remain anonymous because they were not 
authorized by their agency to speak publicly about the matter.

The UN factsheet below provides an overview, but not all the details of 
what was revealed in the briefing.

The attendee said that at the outset O’Regan warned participants, “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.”

But the attendee concluded that O’Regan was using the plight of 
Palestinians to cover up the controversial political aspects of the deal 
which was brokered between Israel and the PA last month by Robert Serry 
<http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48730>, United Nations 
Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), last 
month – although its details have been kept under wraps.

“This is the next stage of Israel’s blockade of Gaza,” the attendee 
said. “It started with a very crude blanket blockade, where pencils and 
coriander were not allowed in, but now it is becoming much more 
sophisticated, like the occupation of the West Bank. And now, the 
international actors are being embedded and made complicit in the siege.”


    Sullen resignation

The secretive nature of the negotiations and now the details of the 
agreement have antagonized international aid groups working in Gaza.

The mood at other key UN agencies appears to be one of sullen 
resignation rather than enthusiasm.

“We welcome the new mechanism and hope it becomes functional as soon as 
possible to ensure that Gaza’s reconstruction needs are fully met,” 
Chris Gunness, spokesperson for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine 
refugees, told The Electronic Intifada.

But he added, “While the mechanism must facilitate full reconstruction 
it cannot be a substitute for the complete lifting of the blockade 
including for exports, a position which UNRWA and the international 
community strenuously demands.”

“Gaza has moved beyond the realm of humanitarian action alone. We also 
need political action to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict. 
Without this and accountability for violations of international law by 
all parties to the conflict we fear a return to the unsustainable 
pattern of blockade, rockets and destruction,” Gunness said.


    “Legitimate government”

According to the attendee, O’Regan said repeatedly that the UNSCO deal 
is all about the “legitimate Government of Palestine rebuilding Gaza.”

O’Regan claimed that the UN had only gotten involved at the request of 
the “Government of Palestine” and that the “process is owned and led by 
the Government of Palestine, under the Ministry of Civil Affairs.”

But despite the PA – the so-called “Government of Palestine” – serving 
as the public front, the details revealed in the meeting indicate that 
the UN is now colluding to entrench, not lift, Israel’s siege.

This could be seen, the attendee said, in the four-stage mechanism for 
individuals to rebuild their homes in Gaza.

Before reconstruction gets underway, vendors – authorized businesses 
that will procure building materials and distribute them to end-users in 
Gaza – must be approved. UN officials have already paid visits to six 
out of an expected twelve vendors.

Vendors are nominated first by the PA and then the UN inspects them. 
Selection criteria include such things as having secure facilities, CCTV 
cameras and an inventory system to account for every bag of cement.

The restrictions are motivated by Israel’s demand that Palestinians be 
unable to use so-called “dual-use” items to exercise their right of 
resistance and self-defense against Israeli occupation and repeated attacks.

No such international controls have been placed on Israel, the occupying 
power that is in violation of dozens of UN resolutions, to prevent it 
from obtaining weapons or other supplies it uses to occupy and colonize 
Palestinians or to attack Gaza.


    Information passed to Israel

Then comes the four-stage process Palestinian households must go 
through. It begins with a needs assessment for families whose homes were 
destroyed. Data for each household including confidential information 
like family ID card numbers, GPS coordinates of the family’s home and 
other personal information is then put into a database ostensibly under 
the control of the PA.

Once the information is in the database, Israel will be given 
forty-eight hours to object to any name on the list.

According to the attendee, O’Regan said that the UN itself was not 
sharing information with Israel, but that this sharing would be done by 
the PA and it would be up to the PA to decide what information to share.

But, according to the attendee, “this is nonsense. If the UN is doing 
the needs assessments along with the PA, then it is a joint 
information-gathering and information-sharing effort.”

The attendee said that giving Israel an effective veto over who gets aid 
violates a fundamental principle of humanitarian aid agencies against 
beneficiary vetting based on such criteria as religion or political 
affiliation. “But that’s what the database allows, with the support and 
complicity of the UN,” the attendee said.

“Throughout this whole talk [O’Regan] tried as much as he could to make 
the UN seem a very naive player who is just doing this to support the 
PA,” he observed.


    Profiting Israel

Once the needs assessments are done, the approved vendors will order 
supplies through Israel and vendors will have to be able to track every 
item down to the last bag of cement.

Orders will be done in bulk through the PA, which will work with the 
vendors. This raises concerns not only about the high potential for 
corruption and profiteering by PA-linked middlemen, but the likelihood 
that Israel will be the main beneficiary.

With Israel severely restricting their access to world markets, 
Palestinians must buy the bulk of their cement from an Israeli 
near-monopoly called Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises, a company deeply 
involved in exploiting the occupied West Bank, including the 
construction of illegal colonies.

In the third stage, after vendors have received the supplies, families 
will be able to pick up their building materials on presentation of 
their IDs. They will receive only the exact amount of supplies called 
for in the needs assessment.

And then many families will be subject to strict monitoring. UN monitors 
will perform a “desk review” of ten percent of cases and then up to a 
fifth of those will have on-site spot checks by some one hundred monitors.

Job notices for “supply chain specialists” to monitor the building 
materials coming into Gaza have been posted by a United Arab 
Emirates-based multinational contractor called CTG Global, which works 
for governments and militaries around the world 
<http://ctgglobal.com/profile.asp> and which has apparently been 
contracted by the UN to enforce the new regime.

O’Regan presented this inspection regime – reminiscent of the controls 
Iraq was placed under during the decade before the 2003 US-led invasion 
– as being about “reconstruction with integrity, to make sure the most 
needy receive their aid.”

The process for large-scale projects – schools, roads, the power plant 
and sewage facilities – will be similar to the one for individual 
households. The PA will submit each project proposal to Israel and 
Israel will approve the projects on a case-by-case basis, leaving it in 
overall control.

The timeframe for such approval has not even been agreed. O’Regan told 
the briefing that the mechanism is already up and running and the first 
bags of cement have already entered Gaza.

And while O’Regan described the arrangements as “temporary,” they have 
no end-date – giving a high likelihood that like so many other 
“temporary” arrangements governing the lives of Palestinians, this one 
too will become permanent.


    Gaza as SuperMax Prison

The details of the UNSCO arrangements come just days after revelations 
in the Israeli media about Israel’s new approach to the besieged Gaza Strip.

As Israeli journalist Dimi Reider reports for /Middle East Eye/ 
<http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/gaza-reconstruction-new-israeli-strategy-289476965>, 
the new Israeli strategy “represents a decisive shift away from the idea 
of negotiating an independent state for the Palestinians and toward a 
tightly monitored ‘conflict management’ approach. Under this approach, 
Palestinians will be allowed greater freedom of movement and greater 
autonomy, but under close Israeli and international surveillance.”

What this means for Gaza is alarming, as Reider reports:

    True, the influx of construction material and other goods into the
    Strip will doubtless be a great relief to the artificially starved
    Gazan economy. But the tight, almost dystopian new controls
    envisioned in the plan underline Israel’s approach to the Strip as
    being first and foremost a gigantic prison – only it is being
    upgraded from a third-world prison camp to an American cutting-edge
    SuperMax facility. Much of the more tantalizing promises should be
    taken with a heap of salt: complete freedom of movement except where
    security concerns are raised is pretty much what Gazans enjoy today;
    it just so happens that all of them, together and apart, are seen as
    security concerns.

He adds: “The reconstruction sites will then be monitored by Israeli 
drones, to make sure no materials are used for any other purpose and 
that each bit of materiel is accounted for.”

And matching the attendee’s account of the briefing, “Private homes will 
be rebuilt by private but also Israeli-vetted Gaza contractors, who will 
manage the construction materials through special software accessible 
also to Israel, and whose works will also be monitored by drones.”

The attendee’s account of O’Regan’s briefing given to The Electronic 
Intifada also accords with an account of the arrangements leaked to /The 
Guardian/ earlier this month 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/03/gaza-reconstruction-plan-un-israel-blockade>.

“Critics argue that plans for monitoring the import, storage and sales 
of building materials – including installing video cameras, setting up a 
team of international inspectors and the creation of a database of 
suppliers and consumers – are more appropriate for a suspect nuclear 
program than a postwar reconstruction effort,” /The Guardian/ observed.

Dr. Ramy Abdu, chair of Euro-Mid Observer For Human Rights, also exposed 
details about the plan 
<http://www.alaraby.co.uk/politics/a50a1623-015c-4f2f-b739-9452c0595227> 
in an article in Arabic at /Alaraby Aljadid/ earlier this month.

Gaza is to become ground zero for disaster capitalism, profiting from 
the suffering and incarceration of an entire population.

This is the Gaza Siege 2.0. And it is brought to the Palestinian people 
with the full complicity of the UN, the Palestinian Authority and the 
so-called “international community.”

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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