ITV News posted a report on their website (“Inside the Hamas summer training camp for Gaza teens”, July 27th) by Geraint Vincent on the notorious teen military camps throughout Gaza.
ITV News predictably downplays the role of Hamas in reporting on deprivation in the territory two years after the war and casts Palestinians as victims of Israeli oppression.
When visitors arrive, there’s none of the usual kerfufﬂe of a Palestinian welcome, with gilt-edged cups of beltingly strong coffee and bowls full of fat dates. There’s no running water for a start, and the electricity only comes for a few hours a day. Besides, there’s nowhere for us to sit.So Hamzi al-Masri stands in front of me, his shoulders slumped in the punishing summer heat, trying to convince me of the wealth of the life he once had.
His wife Yasmin is embarrassed by their circumstances, busily shooing away her children to distract attention from the hospitality she can’t offer.
Following these purely evocative and tendentious passages, they then precede to the putatively ’empirical’.
Hundreds of millions of pounds of aid money was promised to people like the al-Masris after the destruction wrought by weeks of Israeli bombing. But the construction materials it has paid for still haven’t arrived. There are lots of political and bureaucratic reasons for that, but the biggest one is Israel’s continuing economic blockade of Gaza, which the UN has condemned as ‘communal punishment’.
However, the claim that Israel’s blockade is the main cause of slow reconstruction is categorically untrue.
As we’ve noted on these pages previously, the only items for Gaza which Israel restricts are those with a military dimension, or a potential military dimension (dual use items). The blockade does not limit cement or other vital building materials.
Since the end of the war, and the implementation of (and Israeli cooperation with) the UN Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), more than a million tons of building materials – 1,430,012.595 tons to be precise – have arrived in Gaza for projects coordinated by international groups, foreign countries, the PA and private parties.
The reasons for the relatively slow pace of reconstruction are as follows:
First, donor countries have only delivered only a portion of the promised reconstruction funds. According to the World Bank, only 40% of the $3.5 billion of the promised funds have been dispersed. According to a report by the Washington Institute, Western donors have given the most aid and almost met their full pledges. However, Qatar and Turkey have fulfilled only 10% and 29% of their pledges, while “Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have all given less than 13% of their pledge.”
Second, a large percentage of the cement meant for civilian homes is illegally diverted by Hamas to be used for attack tunnels and other military infrastructure projects. Hamas reportedly often raids civilian construction sites to seize cement.
Finally, the long running dispute between Hamas and the PA has hampered reconstruction. As Nabil Elaraby, the secretary-general of the Arab League, said: “the internal differences and the absence of cooperation between the PA and Hamas are behind the delay in reconstructing the Gaza Strip.”
Moreover, the specific inaccuracy in their report concerning the cause of slow reconstruction serves to advance a broader misleading narrative – suggesting that the militarism of Gaza’s youth is a natural byproduct of the ‘humiliation’ Palestinians feel under Israeli restrictions. Young Palestinians, the argument goes, enthusiastically train to kill Jews not because of Hamas’s extremist indoctrination or endemic societal antisemitism, but because of cruel Israeli policies which incite otherwise peaceful people to pursue jihad.
There are many elements within the UK media’s institutionally inaccurate reporting on Israel and the Palestinian territories, but perhaps the most egregiously misleading meta-message absorbed by British news consumers relates to this stubborn insistence on infantilizing Palestinians by denying them moral agency.
Until reporters and editors cease to view Palestinians as victims merely, and begin to take them seriously as agents of their own fate, no serious understanding of the complex problems plaguing their society and the overall region is even possible.