Gaza is sinking deeper in its burgeoning humanitarian crisis — all purposely done through an Israeli-US scheme aimed at exacting political concessions from the Palestinian leadership. However, the narrative that the US is currently promoting to justify this man-made crisis is that Arab governments have failed Palestinians.
On August 24, the US government decided to cut nearly all aid allocated to Palestinians this year — $200 million (Dh734 million), mostly funds spent on development projects in the West Bank and humanitarian aid to Gaza.
This decision followed an announcement by Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs, Rosemary Di Carlo, on August 23 that “UN emergency fuel, which sustains some 250 critical facilities in Gaza has now run out.”
The relatively negligible amount of $4.5 million needed to fuel UN relief operations in the Strip, was another casualty of the US government’s decision last January to choke off the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) — of badly needed funds.
Di Carlo’s comments followed even more distressing news. On August 12, the Palestinian Ministry of Health revealed that it would no longer be able to treat cancer patients in the Israel-besieged Strip.
“Colon and lung cancer, as well as lymphoma patients cannot be provided with the necessary therapy now,” said Dr Mohammad Abu Silmiya, director of Abdulaziz Al Rantisi Hospital for Children.
Israel is ultimately responsible for the Gaza siege which has extended for more than 11 years. With direct US backing, Israel has launched three major wars on Gaza in the name of fighting terrorism, destroying much of the tiny region’s infrastructure. A hermetic siege has punished ordinary Gazans who now lack everything, including the most basic needs of clean water and electricity.
With Israeli’s urging, Washington has done everything in its power to isolate the impoverished Strip. It warned Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party against reconciliation with its Hamas rivals. It fuelled and sustained the Israeli war and siege on Gaza. It also backed Israel politically on every available platform to shield Tel Aviv from its war crimes in the Strip and throughout the Occupied Territories.
While the Trump administration brazenly defied international law by moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to [occupied] Jerusalem last May, it also took a series of measures to financially punish international bodies that extended recognition, political support or any sort of aid to Palestinians. In the course of a few months, the US took on the United Nations culture agency, Unesco, pulled out of the UN Human Rights Council and has cut aid to UNRWA.
The attack on UN organisations was led by the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who has played a central role in the exacerbated anti-Palestinian discourse.
But she is not alone. In an article for CNN, Haley, along with US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, senior adviser to the President, Jared Kushner and US representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, articulated an American viewpoint that read like a textbook Israeli Zionist narrative.
They placed all the blame on Palestinians, sparing Israel from any wrongdoing.
“Unfortunately,” they wrote, “Hamas’ malign activity is pushing Israel to engage in increasingly significant acts of self-defence. As in the case of past conflicts, Hamas starts a clash, loses the battle and its people suffer. That is the reality that needs to change.”
That was on July 23. A day later, Haley chastised Arabs for failing Palestine and Palestinians. In an 8-minute address to the UN, Haley spoke as if she was a pro-Palestinian activist, agonising over the losses and suffering of the Palestinian people.
“Country after country claims solidarity with the Palestinian people … Talk is cheap. No group of countries is more generous with their words than the Palestinians’ Arab neighbours,” she said.
She lamented: “But all of the words spoken here in New York do not feed, clothe or educate a single Palestinian child. All they do is get the international community riled up.”
While the Arabs are expected — in fact, required — to stand in solidarity with their Palestinian brethren, the primary reason for the subjugation of the Palestinian people is the continued US support for Israel.
According to US Congressional Research Service, as of April 2018, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since the Second World War.” This means that, to date, “the United States has provided Israel with $134.7 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defence funding.”
Most of that military assistance has been used to fight Palestinians and their Arab neighbours, to support the Israeli military occupation of Palestine and to reinforce the Israeli blockade of Gaza. For Haley to rebuke Arabs for not doing enough to help Palestinians is simply disingenuous.
As harmful as US military support for Israel and the manipulation of the comparatively limited aid to Palestinians has been, US interference in Palestinian political affairs has been equally destructive.
The blatant American meddling in Palestinian politics is juxtaposed with complete subservience to the Israeli government, regardless of the fact that Tel Aviv has moved sharply to the right, and is increasingly shedding any claims to true democracy.
Considering that the US anti-Palestinian and pro-Israel stances have accentuated in recent months, one is hardly moved by Haley’s hypocritical ‘sympathy’ with Gaza and the Palestinian people.
Only weeks before she criticised the lack of Arab support, she lectured the international community on Israel’s benevolent approach to what she saw as Palestinian violence.
“No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has,” she said on May 15, shortly after many UN ambassadors stood up for a minute’s silence to mourn 60 Palestinians who were killed while peacefully protesting the siege at the fence separating Gaza from Israel.
Haley’s peculiar attacks on unsupportive Arab governments is designed to distract from the US’ own role that has emboldened Israel and held Palestinians prisoners to military occupation and an inhumane siege for far too long.
It is also meant to further pressurise the PNA, in Ramallah, and Hamas, in Gaza, with the aim of giving Israel more political capital to continue with its colonial project unhindered.
Ramzy Baroud, PhD, University of Exeter, UK, is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Centre for International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara.