JERUSALEM—What else is new?
John Holmes, the United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs indicated he was shocked by a “grim and miserable” situation he found in Gaza. He traced it to Israel’s closing of the borders, and allowing in limited supplies of food, fuel, and other goods.
Holmes said that only 10 percent of the previous flow of goods was going into Gaza. ” . . . people are not able to live with the basic dignity to which they are entitled . . . what is essentially needed is an opening of the crossings, a lot more goods coming in.”
If Holmes’ views accomplish anything, they are likely to add to Palestinian misery. The United Nations already feeds more than 80 percent of Gazan residents. This is not a new program reflecting current miseries, but represents an activity that has been going on since 1950. It is a large part of Palestinian dependence, and their refusal or inability to deal with what happened to them six decades ago.
The visit did not set the region on its toes. The Jerusalem Post published a story of about 450 words in length. I found no reference to the visit in Hebrew-language papers with much larger circulation. Israel’s government spokesman did not exactly grovel at the claims of the Undersecretary-General. He said an improvement depended on an end to rocket fire. “If terrorists in Gaza were to cease firing rockets into Israel, trying to kill our people, the situation could very quickly return to where it was,”
The Post indicated that Holmes was scheduled to visit Sderot. So far no news about his impressions there.
Outside of Israel the noise was not much greater. The Washington Post had a brief article, shorter than that in the Jerusalem Post. The New York Times seems to have avoided it altogether. If there was anything in the internet edition of Al Jazeera, I could not find it. The BBC web site reproduced a story virtually identical to that in the Jerusalem Post, but without mentioning Holmes’ plans to visit Sderot.
More prominent than the visit of the man from UN with an elaborate title is news about an explosion in Gaza that killed a key operative of Islamic Jihad and five of his family members, and injured more than 40 others. While some Palestinians are claiming that the explosion resulted from a missile fired by the Israeli Air Force, the IDF has denied conducting any operations in the area. Hamas own police are saying that the cause of the explosion was unclear, and that it may have been a “work accident” (i.e., caused by someone who did not know how to handle munitions).
Islamic Jihad has promised retaliation. So this may join the list of self-inflicted wounds used to justify yet another barrage of rockets aimed at Israel. We will have to see how many of those explode on the way to the launching site, or fail to reach Israel and land on a Palestinian.
The tragedy that links the dismal proclamation of the UN official and the explosion in a Palestinian workshop is insistence on blaming Israel for Palestinian suffering. Their self-assigned fate is to be an international basket case. Thanks to the weight of Muslim countries in international forums, there is a bit of food in the basket, and no end of visiting dignitaries who cluck their tongues and speak about misery. There can be no national dignity or a functioning state until Palestinians can take responsibility for themselves, and throw away the beggar’s bowl.