Friday, December 19, 2014

"Unconscionable Delay" in Gaza Reconstruction

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) are raising serious concerns about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The two Quaker agencies have joined other religious and secular organizations in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Dr. Rajiv Shah of the U.S. Agency for International Development, urging action.

The crisis caused by the tremendous destruction of homes and infrastructure in July is now compounded by severe flooding, the onset of winter, and an unconscionable delay in the movement of reconstruction materials across the Israeli-Gaza border.

Quoting from the letter: “Despite the much-touted Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) . . . just 2.9 percent of the materials needed for reconstruction and recovery plans have entered thus far, with fewer reconstruction materials entering Gaza in November than over the past three months. . . The Popular Committee for Monitoring the Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip estimates that at the current pace it will take at least 20 years to rebuild the Gaza Strip.” This “clear result of policy inaction and failure,” the letter continues, is repairable if certain steps are taken. The organizations ask, among other things, that:

·        the U.S. increase its financial commitment to the reconstruction effort, and ensure that these funds are disbursed immediately to relevant United Nations agencies and NGOs
·        the U.S. urge Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza, allowing full freedom of movement of people and goods and lifting restrictions on import and export, “a crucial step for recovery and development of the local economy”
·        the U.S. urge Egypt to open the Rafah crossing
·        the U.S. work with the U.N., Israel, and the Palestinians to “resolve problematic aspects of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism,” such as requiring homeowners receiving building materials to register in a database accessible to Israeli intelligence agencies
·        the U.S. help ensure that “Israeli companies that operate in settlements or are complicit in violations of international humanitarian law do not profit from reconstruction efforts”

We are heartened to see that Quaker organizations have joined the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church, the Mennonite Central Committees in the U.S. and Palestine, among many others, in proposing specific ways that the U.S. can work to ease the suffering in Gaza. Friends can respond personally by writing a letter to Secretary Kerry and President Obama; posting on social media or telling a friend about the situation in Gaza; and/or by donating badly needed funds for emergency relief to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Gaza Appeal. 

We are inspired by the resiliance of the Palestinian people