Monday, February 20, 2012

20-Feb-12: Strategically, what is the most striking aspect of Israel's response to the ceaseless rocket attacks from that nest of terrorist vipers, the Gaza Strip?

We had rockets raining down on the heads of Israelis living in southern Israel in the cold dark hours of this past night, and before that on Saturday night. The previous rocket attacks from the same source were a few days before that. And the rocket attack before them was a few days earlier.

There have been so many rocket attacks, entirely of a terrorist nature and with not the slightest connection to a military assault (they don't even claim to be firing on our army, and even if they did claim it, it would be a complete nonsense) that even the most concerned resident of the Israeli communities under bombardment will have a hard time recalling one attack from another.

Goods vehicles lined up to deliver supplies to the Gaza Strip
[Source: IDF] 
We keep track of the numbers in the box on the right side of this page (Challah Hu Akbar's Counter of rocket attacks on Israel). But anyone who has had to face up to terror knows it is not the numbers that change lives. What really impacts on you is the daily (and nightly) fear that accompanies the raising of children, living constructive lives and building a community worthy of the name, while just over the fence are people ready to give up their own children if only they can inflict pain on you. Becoming aware of this does change your life.

But while it's not the numbers, today we do want to share some numeric data.

Week after week, the military of this country are engaged in constant interactions with the people responsible for the Gaza Strip. This is no mere abstraction; it comprises countless trivial steps that, together, allow life to go on for the people on both sides. Thankfully, we don't need the army intervening in the day to day minutiae of our lives - Israel is a robust society in every sense. But the lives of most Gazan Arabs, manipulated by several generations of Egyptians, Palestinians, "allies" and NGOs, are a well-documented catastrophe. Phenomenal, unprecedented sums of foreign aid - relatively little of it coming from Arab nations for reasons too shameful to detail here - poured in over decades have kept people alive. But they have done virtually nothing to turn their lives and communities into something sustainable and better. Gaza's electric power supply is subject to massive shortages with frequent blackouts in the past few days - no small problem in this unusually chilly winter. Unusual too is that few voices are blaming Israel for this. Yes, of course there are people who are responsible for the mess. But it's not the Israelis, so the miserable situation does not rise to headline-level news. It's just not news-worthy if Israel can't be blamed for it.

What's also not news is the volume of food, supplies and materials that pass through Israeli hands into Gaza week after week without fanfare. This goes literally unreported on a constant basis. Why? Not worth explaining if it's not obvious to you. According to the IDF (statistics here), deliveries into Gaza in the six days starting Sunday February 12, 2012 included

  • More than a thousand cargo trucks delivering 25,342 tons of goods including 905 tons of cooking gas.
  • 169 international organization staff members entered Israel via the Erez Crossing
  • 206 international organization staff members left Israel to go into the Gaza Strip (Erez)
  • 307 Gazan Arabs entered Israel for medical treatment (Erez)
Every box, every package, every crate passed through border crossings that frequently come under shooting attack from gunmen of the terrorist groups that have made Gaza a by-word for chaos, stagnation and cynical exploitation of the weak.

UNRWA, the unique refugee agency about whom it is sometimes said that it does more to perpetuate than to solve the problems of the one refugee group for which it has responsibility, cares (according to its own promotional materials) for no less than 80 percent of Gaza's 1.5 million people

It has more than 2,000 people on the ground in Gaza, an astonishingly large, non-indigenous public service. Still, given the astronomical wealth of so many of the Arab potentates and states in the area, we should not be complaining about such petty matters like waste, inefficiency and hidden agendas. 

But wait. We have just gotten some additional data. It's about the funding that enables the very strange work of UNRWA to go on for decades while leaving Gaza dark and miserable. These numbers scream out for an explanation.

While we created the table, these are official donation numbers
provided by UNRWA itself [source] covering all donations for the year 2010
and ranked by size of overall contribution.  "Overall" includes payments for the core programme,
projects, emergency appeals for West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and NBC.
Count the Arab countries in this list. Look again and notice that there is only one non-Western country/union, the Islamic Development Bank, in the table and it comes in at nineteenth place, with a contribution that is 3% the size of the hated Americans' and 3.5% of what Australia (Australia!) contributes. Why? The answer may be in the IDB's mission which is "to foster the economic development and social progress of member countries and Muslim communities individually as well as jointly in accordance with the principles of Shari'ah".   

Clear enough?


Elisa said...

Very interesting to see this put down in hard numbers, I will take a look at UNRWA's site to see how these numbers are compiled as I'd like to use them. Great blog by the way.

This Ongoing War said...

Sorry for the delay in posting your comment, Elisa - we ran into a small technical problem. The data on the UNRWA site are quite revealing. Leaves you wondering why so little attention is paid to the way it's Western countries that pick up the tab. Surely there are some resounding questions worth asking about this phenomenon. Yet they remain largely unasked.