World has broken faith with the people of Gaza, British NGOs charge

World has broken faith w

A host of UK charities accused the international community on Tuesday of "betrayal" for failing to take action to end the Israeli blockade on Gaza that they claim is "preventing reconstruction and recovery." Released to coincide with the first "anniversary of the start of Israel's military offensive in Gaza," the 16 charities and Christian groups - including Amnesty International, Oxfam, Christian Aid and Medical Aid for Palestinians - lambasted world powers for not doing enough and blamed Israel for not allowing Gazans to "rebuild their shattered lives." "The people of Gaza have been betrayed by the international community, which can and must do far more to end this illegal and inhumane blockade," the 18-page report says. The groups call on the European Union to put a hold on relations with Israel until the Jewish state makes progress on human rights and implementing international law. "The EU should confirm publicly that the upgrading of relations with Israel is put on hold, pending tangible progress in Israel's respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, which should include its actions with regard to the blockade of Gaza," the report's authors say. "It is not only Israel that has failed the people of Gaza with a blockade that punishes everybody living there for the acts of a few, world powers have also failed and even betrayed Gaza's ordinary citizens," says Oxfam's executive director Jeremy Hobbs. "They have wrung hands and issued statements, but have taken little meaningful action to attempt to change the damaging policy that prevents reconstruction, personal recovery and economic recuperation." Oxfam, which recently campaigned alongside groups that support a complete boycott of Israel, advocating for clearer guidelines on produce originating from settlements, also called on Palestinian groups to do their bit and refrain from violence. "Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, too, must maintain their current de facto cessation of violence and permanently cease all indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza. And all the Palestinian factions also need to intensify their reconciliation dialogue to pave the way for a reunified Palestinian government able to effectively provide for the needs of its civilian population," Hobbs said. Amnesty's most recent report on Israel claimed its water policies denied Palestinians an adequate standard of living - including rights to water, food, health, work and adequate housing. "The wretched reality endured by 1.5 million people in Gaza should appall anybody with an ounce of humanity," said Amnesty's director Kate Allen. "Sick, traumatized and impoverished people are being collectively punished by a cruel, illegal policy imposed by the Israeli authorities." Amnesty - which launched its recent water report with anti-Israel activist Ben White, author of the book Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide, at the press conference - called on all states to intervene. "Israel's responsibility to protect its citizens does not give it the right to punish every man, woman and child of Gaza. All states are obliged under international law to intervene to put an end to this brutal blockade, but their leaders are failing in this fundamental measure of their own humanity." The report said Israel had imposed a ban on construction materials and items vital for reconstruction and recovery in Gaza. This included industrial fuel and the claim that Israel had allowed only 41 truckloads of such materials to enter Gaza since last winter's Operation Cast Lead offensive against Hamas. Responding to the claims, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday: "The problem in Gaza is that Hamas systematically commandeers such shipments for terrorism and its own sectarian interests. "Hamas also uses such materials for the building of bunkers and other fortifications. So obviously, only once we can get assurances that these materials won't be used by terror groups, we are unable to allow their free circulation into Gaza." Palmor added that there were no restrictions on the supply of industrial fuel into Gaza. "However, one must bear in mind that Hamas has targeted a fuel terminal at Nahal Oz [where fuel enters Gaza from Israel] in the past, so naturally Israel has to remain cautious in its dealings with regards to fuel [shipments] into Gaza." Palmor added that there were "no restrictions whatsoever" on the flow of humanitarian supplies into the Strip. "Israel remains committed to humanitarian supplies of food, medicine and power. At the same time, materials that can and have been used in the past by Hamas and other groups to build war equipment, have to be closely controlled," he said. Palmor also said that the organizations making the claims "would gain credibility if they mentioned that Gaza also has a border with Egypt, which is naturally not under Israeli control." "By concealing this basic fact of geography," Palmor said, "these NGOs make it clear that their aim is not to help Gaza with humanitarian supplies but to simply single out Israel for politicized bashing." The Foreign Ministry is currently trying to work out a deal with the UN to allow materials into Gaza in a way that ensures the materials do not go toward the building of weapons or the launching of rockets. NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research organization, said the report "reflects the primacy of advocacy and the biased agendas of organizations claiming to promote 'humanitarian aid.' The central thesis of the report, that 'primary responsibility lies with Israel' to end the blockade, repeats the unsupported legal claim that Gaza remains occupied, as well as the false allegation of 'collective punishment.'" NGO Monitor said the report's authors minimized the responsibility of Hamas for "mass terror and for blatant incitement to violence," and for being silent on the continued captivity of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. Abe Selig contributed to this report.