The dust has settled temporarily in Gaza with at least one fact clearly established - a badly bloodied but unbowed or unrepentant Hamas still remains firmly entrenched in occupation and control of Gaza’s civilian population.
Its estimated terrorist army of 20,000 fighters pledged to bring about the destruction of Israel has only been reduced by 500 at the most - perhaps only by as few as 48 if you want to believe Hamas.
Whilst the Hamas arsenal of rockets and mortars may have been seriously depleted, the ingenuity and determination of its political leaders and backers virtually guarantees full re-supply within six months - no matter what steps are taken by the international community to try to stop the flow of weapons into Gaza.
Doubtless this success - and the hatred engendered by Israel’s invasion - will encourage others in Gaza to join the ranks of this army that fights in mufti from houses, shelters, hospitals, schools and mosques using the civilian population as human shields.
The price paid by Gazans in deaths, injuries, and property losses for Hamas continuing its rocket barrage of Israeli civilian populations after the end of a six months ceasefire in December has been catastrophic.
The temporary ceasefire now prevailing - and the conditions demanded by Hamas for its continued operation - make it highly likely that hostilities will be soon resumed again rather than permanently suspended.
Into this scene of chaos and at a conference on Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Gaza held at Sharm El Sheikh on January 18 rides the United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon. His contribution at that conference is to tell those assembled:
“As the Secretary-General for the United Nations I have a broad responsibility to take care of all humanitarian sufferings by the people in Gaza. I am going to dispatch early this week a humanitarian needs assessment team to Gaza, organized and led by the United Nations and together with the World Bank and other donor organizations, Within ten days I think we will be able to make an assessment report and we will issue an urgent humanitarian flash appeal, and within three weeks, we will be able to present an assessment report on early recovery and essential repairs. I urge and certainly hope that the major donor countries will generously contribute to this appeal.”
Why would the Secretary-General not be urging the conference attendees to consider offering Gazans permanent resettlement - or at least evacuation - until the political situation in Gaza is finally determined?
It makes no sense to pour billions of dollars into the reconstruction of Gaza and the attempted rehabilitation of its traumatized citizens in situ with the more than likely possibility that the money spent will once again disappear down the tunnels still left untouched by Israel’s bombs or into the Swiss bank accounts of corrupt officials as has occurred so often in the past.
Gaza is a hell hole - and has been so for the last 60 years - whether occupied by Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. Its surviving residents have been subjected to inordinate suffering whilst political solutions have been vainly pursued during that time.
The population of Gaza is 1.5 million of whom 750000 are children. Offering them the chance of going to a safer haven permanently - or even temporarily - until an acceptable political solution is found seems to be a far better use of the billions of dollars that will be thrown to the wind in keeping the Gazans confined to Gaza and Hamas in control whilst that political solution is worked out.
The Secretary-General’s escape into fantasyland in believing a political solution could be soon achieved was revealed when he then declared:
” …we urgently need to bring back this Middle East peace process on track. We have already experienced sufferings and tragedies in 2006 in Lebanon, the situation in Gaza has been a repetition of the failure of this peace process, this is a failure of political will, at the level of people and at the level of leadership, all international community, particularly the Arab countries, should fully support and encourage this peace process on track. As a member of the Quartet, I will fully participate in trying to help the Middle East peace process,”
The United Nations has been a sponsor of the Middle East process - the Roadmap - for the last 6 years. It has gone nowhere and is dead as a dodo.
Neither the Roadmap - nor the Arab Peace Initiative first proposed in 2002 - have any chance of succeeding whilst the Arab demands for their successful conclusion require Israel to cede every square metre of the West Bank and Gaza and allow millions of Arabs the right to emigrate to Israel.
In the meantime the Secretary-General has no better idea for ending the suffering of Gazans than letting them continue to live in Gaza to continue enduring the tribulations that have plagued them since 1948.
On the 6th January 2009 Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, said in an interview in the Italian online newspaper Il Sussidiario.net.:
“Defenceless populations are always the ones who pay. Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp,”
When the Allies encountered the remnants of European Jewry in the Nazi concentration camps at the end of World War 2 they opened the gates and set them free. Surely the Secretary-General cannot be so heartless as to deny Gazans the same opportunity to leave if they wish to do so.
The international outcry at the humanitarian crisis in Gaza should ensure that a large number of countries would be prepared to offer themselves as a permanent or temporary haven for Gazans.
The money outlaid in rehousing and rehabilitating the new arrivals in those host countries would be infinitely more better spent than being poured into Gaza and would make the provision of assistance to those refusing to move much easier to implement.
Hamas might seek to restrain the evacuation of the population preferring to hold them as hostages in pursuit of their fanatical drive to eliminate the State of Israel. The United Nations should not be deterred in ensuring Hamas is not allowed to prevail and frustrate this vital humanitarian objective.
The Secretary-General needs to act with firmness and authority. More of the same is simply not good enough.