Two new UN reports on the Palestinian situation

Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar has written this week about two new UN reports on the Palestinian situation:

1. OCHA – The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

To fully appreciate this item, a little background — Kevin Kennedy is a former U.S. Marine, who became a “star” in Kofi Annan’s UN, and whose rise continues…]

“If it did not deal with human beings, including infants, the latest report published over the weekend by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in the occupied territories, on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip would be one of the funniest documents ever published here.

The report, which relates to the period between June 28 and July 5, reveals that the situation is anything but pleasant. It is estimated that 75 percent of the workshops in the Gaza Strip are not operating at all or are operating at less than 20 percent their usual activity due to a lack of raw materials.

However, the report states that the situation is not all that terrible. ‘Humanitarian imports into Gaza between June 25 – July 1 through Kerem Shalom, Sufa and Karni have met 70 percent of the minimum food needs of the Gazan population’.

Basing himself on UN World Food program (WFP) figures, the coordinator notes that this is ‘a significant increase from the prior week, where only 21 percent of the food needs were met’. The authors of the report do not confine themselves to general data. They append a table that details daily local consumption in the Gaza Strip alongside the level of imports and the local supply. Not only in metric tons; someone went to the trouble of calculating the percentages for them. And there is also a total of the two.

The report’s implication is that if there is no flour, let them eat animal feed. If there is no rice, drink oil. If there is no hummus, lick sugar. What is important is that the total amount of essential foodstuffs reaches 70 percent. Behind these dry numbers lurks a juicy story about the tense relations among the UN organizations operating in the territories. It turns out that at OCHA’s Jerusalem offices they are quite ashamed of this document, which bears their organization’s name. The instruction to publish it came from the office of Kevin Kennedy, the humanitarian coordinator in the office of Michael Williams, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy to the territories.

In this branch of the UN they are trying to curry favor with the Israelis and the Egyptians, who, as everyone knows, are not going out of their way to enable Hamas to maintain orderly life in Gaza.

The envoy’s office stands firmly behind the Israeli position, which insists on operating the Kerem Shalom crossing point in particular, despite strong objections by the Palestinian side.

The office also supports Egypt’s objections to opening the Rafah crossing point without European inspectors. Members of the Meretz Knesset faction, who returned yesterday from a visit to Cairo, were told in the Egyptian capital that ‘it is necessary to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza’, but ‘it mustn’t become too good there’…

Kennedy’s office has responded that there is no significance to the calculation of the average supply of various foodstuffs and hence to the ostensible improvement in the humanitarian situation. It was promised that this would be fixed and would not be repeated in future reports”…

Read the full Haaretz article by Akiva Eldar here.

2. UNWRA – The Un Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees

Akiva Eldar’s article in Haaretz is entitled:

    Border Control / Who told them to give birth at night?

“The small village of Azun Athma is located in the southeastern part of the West Bank, not far from Qalqilyah and too close to Israel and the Jewish settlements of Etz Efraim, Elkanah, Sha’are Tikva and Oranit, which surround it in all directions. To ensure the security of the residents of Israel and for the sake of the settlers’ convenience, the Palestinian village has been encircled by a fence and has become an enclave closed on all sides. In order to partake of essential services in the West Bank, the inhabitants of Azun Athma pass through a gate controlled by the Israel Defense Forces. They undergo physical searches each time they exit and enter. At 10 P.M. the soldiers close the gate and only open it again the next morning at 6 A.M.

It is common knowledge that the Palestinians suffer from a serious lack of discipline, which starts in their mother’s womb. There are fetuses that insist on coming into this world right at the time when the Israeli soldiers go to sleep. What is to be done with these babies when Azun Athma only has a clinic providing the most basic services for two hours, twice a week? To make sure they will receive proper medical care during the birth, pregnant women (in an average year about 50 babies are born in the village) tend to leave their homes and move in with relatives, who reside in places where one can obtain accessible and good medical services. Thus, of the 33 babies that were born to inhabitants of the village between January of this year and the beginning of June, 20 were born outside the village. The others were born in their mothers’ homes without the aid of a doctor or a qualified midwife.

According to a report published yesterday by the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the publication of which coincided with the third anniversary of the ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague concerning the security fence, the 10 Palestinian communities surrounded by the fence have no access to 24-hour emergency services. The authors of the report estimate that when construction of the fence is completed along the planned route, about 50,000 people will find themselves in a similar situation.

Their examination of 57 Palestinian communities also shows that the ruling of the International Court of Justice has not resulted in a dramatic change in the situation: of the 61 passages in the fence, only 26 are open all year round for the use of Palestinian farmers, while less than half the farmers enjoy direct and regular access to their lands; the gates are open only$ 64 percent of the planned and declared time; in 72 percent of the communities there have been complaints about routine humiliation and verbal harassment on the part of the soldiers; 24 percent of the communities complained of damage caused to produce as a result of being refused entry to agricultural areas; and 85 percent of traditional roads have been ruined and cut off by the fence”…

Read the full Haaretz article by Akiva Eldar here.

So what happened in the hearing?

Basically, the Administration blindly and wilfully maintained its vicious prosecutorial position — it said it was relying on the “contemporous” testimony of the complainant, an employee of an NGO in Geneva with a fragile personality and a desire for  revenge, who told me that she “wanted to teach the UN a lesson”.

Of course, everytime we hear that phrase, we should cringe, knowing that something awful and completely unjust is about to happen.

The Administration also said that it was relying on the photographic evidence — which showed nothing at all, except for two persons peacefully and voluntarily together in various public places at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.  Oh, the Administration lawyer said, it is very unfortunate that the photos that show a crime and an act of harassment just happen to be missing, due to technical failures.  This was said with a perfectly straight (if nonetheless twitching) face.  No concession that the photos don’t exist because the alleged crime and harassment didn’t exist….

This Administration lawyer said that the case was being prosecuted in the context of abuse by peacekeepers in MONUC,  the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo!!!

*So, you are persecuting this man in Geneva because of what UN peacekeepers did in the DR Congo”, I exclaimed!

The Administration lawyer took issue with my use of the word persecute …

Looking at the lights of the UN Secretariat Building from across the street

Sorry for the lengthy absence — after having been in and out of Gaza, and back to Geneva, I’ve now arrived this evening in NYC, and am presently looking at the lights of the UN Secretariat building across the street.  Tomorrow, there will be a hearing in which I will participate that may help bring some justice and relief to a totally mistreated former UN staff member — but I think that it is more likely there will be peace in the Middle East before there will be adequate justice within the UN secretariat.