Consider this: The United States gives some $4.5 billion in military aid to Israel each year, while a fraction of that would guarantee a basic level of care for Palestinians still living in the rubble from last year’s Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
It’s preposterous but true. This is while the decision by the UN Relief and Works Agency to reduce its services by 85 percent to Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza is making the situation worse – with catastrophic consequences.
A year on from Israel’s 51-day military operation, not a single one of the 11,000 destroyed homes has been rebuilt. The region is still reeling after the loss of over 2,200 Palestinians, hundreds of whom were children. There are still over 7,000 undetonated bombs and shells that pose a threat to anyone unlucky enough to stumble across them.
Most of the 100,000 Palestinians displaced by the war continue to live in makeshift shelters, often in the rubble of their former homes, and the landscape is littered with apocalyptic decay where homes, shops, and restaurants once stood.
Strange enough, the task of large-scale reconstruction work has been entrusted to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, a UN-brokered agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which would oversee the distribution of building materials entering Gaza.
To date, only 5.5 percent of the building materials needed to repair and rebuild homes and other damaged civilian infrastructure has entered the enclave. Failed promises by donor countries plus Israel’s siege and continued restrictions on materials entering the territory have all impeded reconstruction efforts.
The UN is directly responsible for the program’s failure, as the terms of the agreement have entrenched Gaza’s underdevelopment by granting Israel control over nearly every aspect of the rebuilding process. The usurper regime has deep power over the program and Palestinians cannot build a house if Israel says no!
So the residents of Gaza are virtually stuck. At this pace, it could take 20 years to finish just the rebuilding of homes destroyed in the war and at least 76 years to build all the new homes that the enclave needs!
It’s utter depravity, as it effectively offers “legitimacy” to the Israeli blockade and places exclusive reliance on Israel’s willingness to allow the flow of reconstruction materials for success of the mechanism. The policy is criminal because it places the civilian population at the mercy of unfulfilled international promises and Israel.
The tragic part is that the city had already been destroyed completely in previous wars. The UN-brokered agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has not changed anything. It harms the Palestinians by heightening the blockade.
The United Nations is commemorating World Humanitarian Day while the residents of Gaza still have no support from the UN, nor the majority of the major world powers. The international community has the power to help end the Israeli blockade on Gaza the same way it did help overcome Apartheid in South Africa. Unless the international community forces Israel to lift the blockade, Gaza will not be rebuilt.