[News] Why has UN rebuilt just one house in Gaza?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 30 14:27:56 EST 2015


  Why has UN rebuilt just one house in Gaza?

Ali Abunimah <https://electronicintifada.net/people/ali-abunimah>
29 November 2015

In the whole period since Israel’s lethal and devastating 
summer 2014 attack on Gaza, the United Nations has provided assistance 
to just one family to rebuild its totally destroyed home.

“I held the new keys in my hand; at that moment, I felt relieved and 
happy, and I wanted to give the keys to my wife and show her the house 
and everything in it,” Atef al-Zaza said 
as he took possession of the home he will share with his spouse Fatima 
and their 12 children in eastern Gaza City, last October.

It replaces the home the al-Zaza family lost in July 2014, during 
Israel’s bombardment.

Pierre Krähenbühl 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/pierre-krahenbuhl>, the head of 
UNRWA <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/unrwa>, the UN agency for 
Palestine refugees, confirmed the stunning fact 
earlier this month that this remains the only totally destroyed house 
the UN has helped to rebuild.

He also revealed that as of 18 November, his agency’s engineers had 
confirmed that 9,117 homes in Gaza were totally demolished, a similar 
number suffered severe or major damage and another 123,000 suffered 
minor damage.

In July, the UN children’s agency UNICEF published this video 
highlighting the situation of some of the thousands of Gaza children 
still living in rubble:

UNRWA has given money to about half the households needing minor repairs 
and to just over 1,000 families for repair of severe or major damage.

But why are none of the totally destroyed homes being rebuilt?

Palestinian groups say a key reason is UN complicity in the so-called 
Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism 

    End the secrecy

Last week, 28 Palestinian civil society organizations wrote to 
Nickolay Mladenov 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/nickolay-mladenov>, the UN special 
coordinator for the Middle East peace process, to express concern over 
the glacial pace of reconstruction.

They are urging the UN to end the secrecy around the Gaza Reconstruction 

“Since its creation in September 2014, the agreement has not been 
publicized and Palestinians have been left without details or timelines, 
which in fact conflicts with the principles of transparency and 
accountability as well as fundamental human rights and humanitarian 
principles,” the letter, a copy of which was sent to The Electronic 
Intifada, states.

The Palestinian groups – which include Ma’an Development Center 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/maan-development-center-0>, the 
Gaza Community Mental Health Programme 
Badil <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/badil> and the Union of 
Agricultural Work Committees 
– also launched an online petition 
to press the UN to break the logjam. It has almost 1,000 signatures.

As The Electronic Intifada revealed in October 2014 
the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism involves a complicated system of 
surveillance and Israeli pre-approval that gives the occupation 
authorities even more intrusive control over the devastated lives of 
Palestinians in Gaza.

As part of the system, both the UN and the Palestinian Authority collect 
detailed information on Palestinian families that is then passed on to 

“So rather than ease and eventually end the siege, the [Gaza 
Reconstruction Mechanism] entrenches and institutionalizes the blockade 
and perpetuates the status quo by reinforcing Israel’s control over the 
Gaza Strip,” the 28 groups say in their letter.

In August, the Israeli group Gisha 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/gisha>, which monitors Israel’s 
siege of Gaza, published a report 
illustrating the ways the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism and its onerous 
procedures, combined with Israel’s ongoing siege, prevents reconstruction.

Due to the devastation to Gaza’s economy, those lucky enough to obtain 
building supplies such as cement through the Gaza Reconstruction 
Mechanism often sell them on the black market merely to make ends meet.

One major obstacle is that Israel bans or severely restricts so-called 
“dual use” construction materials which Israel says can be used for 
military purposes, such as building tunnels, as well as for civilian needs.

    Broken promises

But another level of international neglect and complicity is also 
responsible for the fact that so much of Gaza remains in ruins.

UNRWA head Krähenbühl also revealed that more than 47,000 refugee 
families have received permission to repair their homes through the Gaza 
Reconstruction Mechanism.

But none has received a single dollar “due to lack of sufficient 
funding.” Another 7,200 families who have received permission to rebuild 
totally destroyed homes are in the same boat.

Last month, The Electronic Intifada profiled 
one family, that of Ahmad al-Hamayda, his six siblings and their elderly 
parents, who are in this situation.

In October 2014, international donors pledged $5.4 billion 
dollars to rebuild Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah announced it would siphon off 
about half that money for its own use.

But a year later, only a third of the funds pledged for Gaza had 
actually been paid.

UNRWA says 
that just $247 million has been pledged for its emergency shelter 
program, leaving a shortfall of almost half a billion dollars.

    Hold Israel accountable

In his most recent briefing to the UN Security Council on 19 November, 
UN special representative Mladenov only briefly mentioned Gaza.

The Bulgarian diplomat did try to put a positive gloss on the utter 
failure of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, including lauding 
unspecified bureaucratic changes.

He welcomed Israel’s removal of aggregate – gravel and sand used in 
construction – from the list of dual-use items.

But what Israel gives with one hand, it takes away with the other.

“The good news, however, has been tempered by the addition of other 
items, including timber, to the list this year,” Mladenov admitted.

Officially, Israel doesn’t allow in wood planks more than a centimeter 
thick. But according to Gisha 
it all but bars any import of wood into Gaza. “These additions hinder 
Gaza’s reconstruction, and I call on the Israeli authorities to 
reconsider their decisions,” Mladenov said.

But there’s absolutely no reason to expect such mild-mannered pleas to 
change Israel’s behavior.

That’s why the 28 groups that wrote to Mladenov last week want a totally 
different approach.

“We call upon the UN to rethink its strategy from one of working around 
the blockade to one which holds Israel accountable for the crisis in 
Gaza and pressures it to immediately and completely lift the blockade,” 
they say.

Their first demand is for the UN to publish the secret agreement with 
Israel governing the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism.

After all, if the system is as effective and benign as UN bureacrats 
claim, what do they have to hide?

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