A guest post by AKUS
It is possible that on Sunday, August 22, a ship (incorrectly named a “flotilla” in most media accounts) will set sail from Lebanon for Gaza?
Attempts have been made to paint this as a “women’s initiative”, but it is quite clear that the moving spirit behind this is Yasser Kashlak, a male Syrian of Palestinian origin. Kashlak’s ship is ostensibly bringing needed medical supplies (including unnamed “cancer drugs”!), food to pile onto Gaza’s already overloaded market stalls and squeeze into the well-stocked UNRWA warehouses, and “educational supplies” (one can only guess what those are) for the benefit of Gaza’s children.
If the much-delayed ship leaves port it will carry a group of women to “break the blockade” of Gaza. The use of a group of women has been heavily publicized as a way to demonstrate Israeli “brutality”, if the ship is intercepted by Israel, and to whip up anti-Israeli hysteria. Press TV, for example, has already run a clip claiming that Israel intends to kill the women. As an additional PR ploy, Kashlak has renamed the ship the “Mariam” (the Virgin Mary) to attract the attention of Christian groups. It is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that this ship is nothing more than yet another propaganda stunt aimed at Israel.
There are no flotillas being sent to the refugee townships maintained as true prison camps by the Lebanese in Lebanon where refugees have been kept bottled up for 60 years:
Unlike the Palestinians in Gaza, they have had neither right to work or own property, nor any representation in Lebanon’s government. It was only on August 17th this year that the Lebanese parliament granted Palestinians the right to work in Lebanon – a move opposed by the Christian factions despite their support for the SS Virgin Mary. In fact, rather than sending flotillas or other forms of aid to these refugees, Lebanese have been at the forefront of murderous attacks on Palestinians, reminiscent of King Hussein’s Black September slaughter in Jordan. The Lebanese army ruthlessly destroyed most of Nahr-el Bared in 2007, shelling the town of 30,000 Palestinians indiscriminately, and Lebanese Phalangist Christians carried out the Sabra and Shattila massacre.
As accurately reported in that article, “The Lebanese constitution prohibits the naturalisation of the refugees.” But that is not surprising – the love of Palestinians among Middle Eastern Arabs increases as their distance from the Palestinians increases, and their treatment by their Arab “brothers” throughout the Middle East has been abominable. These good Christians, so concerned about Gaza, do not want another large Muslim group having equal rights in Lebanon. (As a sidebar, I have never seen an article by those so vociferously proposing a “one state solution” for Israel propose the same for Lebanon or Jordan).
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, some 20 million Muslims have been swept out of their homes by the floods in Pakistan. Thousands are already dead, and additional thousands are missing, presumed dead. With the inevitable onset of typhus and cholera, it is probable that the death toll will be in the hundreds of thousands or more.
There are no flotillas being sent to Pakistan.
Aid is trickling in, limited in part by a world exhausted with the efforts to provide massive assistance to Haiti and the logistical difficulty of assisting 20 million refugees in the flooded and impassable areas affected. Despite the enormous scale of this catastrophe, the Western “activists”, the Lebanese, the Syrians, the Iranians, and much of the rest of the Muslim world keep their eyes resolutely glued to Gaza. Despite resistance from the Pakistani government, the reviled USA and European governments have responded to the need for assistance while the “humanitarian rights activists” focus on publicity stunts to delegitimize Israel. Even India has pledged $5 million, reluctantly accepted by the Pakistani politicos. Only the Saudis appear to have stepped up to the plate from the Islamic countries.
The goal is to raise $500 million on behalf of 20 million Pakistani refugees, or roughly $25 per capita. To put that in perspective regarding the flotilla issue, UNRWA’s budget for “for 2010 and 2011 is US$1.23 billion, although expenditure is likely to be less because of forecast shortfalls in donation income.” This budget, according to UNRWA, serves “The 1948 registered refugees and their descendants [who] now number over 4.7 million, and mainly reside in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon or Syria.” In other words, this amounts to roughly $262 per capita. In addition, there are billions of dollars outside of UNRWA’s budget funneled to the Palestinian Authority by the USA and EU countries to pay salaries and for infrastructure development and it is clear that the Iranians are massively funding Hamas illegally.
Pakistan will get $25/head, and Palestinians $262/head. UNRWA reports that “Operating through more than 10,000 staff in over 200 installations, UNRWA delivers education, health care, relief and social services, micro credit and emergency assistance to registered Palestine refugees in Gaza.’
Yet it is Gaza that gets the flotillas, not Pakistan.
The indecency of these flotilla stunts should be obvious to anyone not blinded by their hatred of Israel, fed daily by malicious and inaccurate reports in papers like the Guardian and blogs like the Huffington post.
A friend of mine mentioned that he heard a news broadcast from Pakistan in which a Pakistani indignantly claimed that “if a frog dies in Gaza they send ships. But when millions of Pakistanis have no homes or food, they do nothing”. Food, shelter and medicines are desperately needed in Pakistan, but not in Gaza. Daily shipments of all of these supplies arrive with clockwork regularity in Gaza. There, over-supply has driven prices below those in neighboring countries. Yet Gazans will get 10 times the aid, per capita, that is being proposed for Pakistanis, where the total bill for the flood is now estimated at $43 billion.
The attention unnecessarily lavished on Gaza, with its water parks, posh restaurants, five-star hotels and, yes, some poor people, sucks the air out of much more desperate situations elsewhere, like Pakistan. Al Ahram journalist Ashraf Abu Al-Houl reported from Gaza in July this year:
“I was last in Gaza in mid-February. Returning three weeks ago, I found it almost unrecognizable…. A sense of absolute prosperity prevails, as manifested by the grand resorts along and near Gaza’s coast. Further, the sight of the merchandise and luxuries filling the Gaza shops amazed me.
The reality [in Gaza] proves that the siege was broken even before Israel’s crime (sic) against the ships of the Freedom Flotilla in late May; everything already was coming into the Gaza Strip from Egypt. If this weren’t the case, businessmen would not have been able to build so many resorts in under four months.”
Several months ago, Gaza had only one luxury resort, Zahrat Al-Madain. Today, another one opens up every day, such as Crazy Water, Aqua Park, and Al-Bustan. Most of them are owned by members, or associates, of Hamas. In addition, the Hamas municipalities [also] charge high fees, in Gaza terms, for the use of public beaches.”
Not for nothing did Egyptian journalist Muhammad Hamadi enviously report on June 29, 2010:
“If this is what it’s like in Gaza under siege, then the Egyptian people, who have been burned by the fire of prices and who peel off part of their limited income to save the besieged Gaza residents, [should] pray to Allah to smite them with [such a] siege, if the siege will lead to lower prices and make it possible for every common citizen to buy eggs, meat, and poultry like the Gaza residents do.”
The flotilla stunts are just that – stunts built around small quantities of unneeded “humanitarian” supplies which might actually benefit any of a score of groups in desperate circumstances elsewhere, sent on ships in an effort to embarrass Israel. It is clear that the driving force behind the ships and flotillas is not love of the Gazans, but hatred of Israel. Once again, as has been the case for 60 years, Palestinians are being used by others in the great game that is being played, now led by Iran and its proxies, to delegitimize and ultimately destroy Israel. Only the players have changed somewhat to include Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas – the game remains the same as the Arab League established in 1948 or even before.