In May 2012, the then newly appointed UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza, Robert Turner, paid a visit to the Hamas regime’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Planning where he met the then deputy prime minister, Mohammad Awad, and the deputy foreign minister, Ghazi Hamad.
During that visit, Turner reportedly remarked that “Gaza was not receiving the deserved attention and that [it] was their [UNRWA] duty to correct this situation”, going on to pledge that he would “launch a campaign to draw attention to the difficult conditions in the Gaza Strip” and expressing his wish “to build cooperative relations with the Palestinian government in Gaza in order to ease the suffering of people from the Gaza Strip”.
Apparently, such ‘co-operation’ between a UN representative and a proscribed terrorist organisation is not deemed inappropriate by Robert Turner and his superiors, even in light of the frequent racist statements made by Hamas leaders in general, and in particular Ghazi Hamad who, in 2006 in his former post as Hamas spokesman, said that:
“Israel should be wiped from the face of the Earth. It is an animal state that recognises no human worth. It is a cancer that should be eradicated”.
Just three days after his meeting with Turner, Mohammad Awad was in Tehran where he “thanked the Islamic Republic of Iran for its practical support for the Palestinian cause” (emphasis added) and declared that “[t]he liberation of Palestine has been promised by Allah, and we must make new initiatives and lead efforts to realise that promise”. Seemingly then, UN bodies also have no qualms about ‘co-operation’ with protegés of the terrorist-arming and financing Tehran regime.
Fast forward three and a half months and Robert Turner can be found apparently keeping his pledge to the Hamas regime by launching a new report together with Maxwell Gaylard, who holds the posts of “Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and the United Nations coordinator for humanitarian and development activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.
The report, entitled “Gaza in 2020 – a liveable place?” , was published by the office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process – a fact worth bearing in mind as one trudges through 20 pages of almost astrological assumptions, guesswork and speculations – all of which completely exonerate Hamas of any responsibility whatsoever for the situation, present and future, of the population of the Gaza Strip.
True to his word about getting more attention for Gaza, Robert Turner had an article published at the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ on September 9th which repeats many of the claims made in the report and also offers a ‘cure’ to the problem.
“Our prescription to avert this looming but avoidable catastrophe is simple. While the UN has condemned the rockets many times, we continue to demand a lifting of the blockade, which is costing the international community hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Allow the people of Gaza to enjoy the standards of development and economic prosperity for which they yearn. They are capable of self-sufficiency. They do not want the current levels of 80% aid dependency to continue and neither do the world’s taxpayers who fund the international aid agencies. Let us address the root causes of this looming disaster rather than expecting the international community to foot the bill to mitigate their disastrous consequences.”
Get it? Turner is informing you that your tax bills are higher than needs be because those stubborn Israelis insist on keeping up a blockade against terror and refuse to make do with (very sparse) UN condemnations of missile attacks against civilian communities.
Ironically, the Turner/Gaylard press conference at which the report was released came just a day after Israeli children in Sderot had started their new school year under attack by rockets fired from Gaza. No condemnation of that appears to have been forthcoming from Turner and his UN colleagues, and neither does he have anything to say about the cost of those rocket attacks to the Israeli tax-payer, including the need to fortify schools at $27.5 million a time, build air raid shelters and foot the bill for damage to homes and businesses.
Much of the report upon which Turner bases his CiF article is in turn based on information from politically motivated bodies such as Oxfam, Gisha, ARIJ, and UN OCHA. It also relies very heavily indeed on information from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCSB) – the President of which has himself declared to be somewhat less than reliable.
This tendency by United Nations and other bodies to rely upon information provided by partisan organisations with clear political agendas – and to reach conclusions on the basis of that – is far from new. We see the same phenomena occurring time after time in reports submitted by the World Bank – some of which are also used as a source in the ‘Gaza 2020’ report. In certain cases, it may be reasonable to conclude that some of the officials concerned are unable to identify the partisan nature of their choice of background information because its political undertones dovetail with their own. In the case of the UN Country Team for example, one only has to view its website to understand its political leanings – as expressed, for example, in its reaction to the Mavi Marmara incident in a joint statement made with UNRWA.
The apparent unwillingness of UN bodies such as UNRWA and the Office of the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process to recognise factors such as the high rate of population growth in Gaza – 7th in the world in 2011 according to the CIA Factbook – as a contributing factor to the territory’s difficulties in meeting demand on healthcare, education and social services is very revealing.
Their ability to produce a report including, for example, the subject of problems with sewerage in the Gaza Strip without acknowledging the real root causes of those issues is no less informative.
The fact that they (and in particular UNSCO: a body supposedly charged with coordination of the peace process) elect to perpetuate the underlying causes of the blockade by maintaining a system which both adopts and promotes a completely blind eye to terror – and frees up Hamas’s resources to allow that terror to continue – is symptomatic of the UN’s redundant approach to the whole subject of Middle East peace.
The fact that they then blame all Gaza’s woes exclusively upon Israel whilst concurrently ignoring the fact that the Gaza Strip also has a border with Egypt – is a clear indication of the political motives behind this speculative report.
However, it seems that the efforts of Robert Turner and Maxwell Gaylard have not particularly impressed Turner’s Hamas hosts. According to the New York Times:
“Mohammed Awad, Hamas’s minister of planning, said the report did not take into account the positive changes that Hamas brought to Gaza, including increased security and “good governance.” He also said it did not emphasize the degree to which the blockade was responsible for the lack of development.
“The siege obstructed many development projects, especially those related to water,” he said. “The report should have called for and recommended achieving stability in the region so our government would be able to implement its development plans.” “
Oh dear: a C + at best. But should Mr Turner aspire to improve his Hamas-allocated grades, he can quite safely assume that the Guardian – which has made quite a fetish out of the serial blaming of Israel for everything from ‘blue babies‘ to wife-beating in Gaza – will be only too willing to provide yet more column space.