Sunday, November 23, 2014

23-Nov-14: Gaza's wealth and where it is - and is not - going

Khaled Mashaal: Almost inconceivably wealthy
Hamas top dog, in his non-Gaza residence
A flurry of recent reports, like this one from Haaretz and a post of ours ["16-Nov-14: Gazan money, Gazan terror"], say that Hamas is now the world's second wealthiest terror organization. It has income on the order of a billion US dollars per year. And it's not just the organization: among its kleptocratic leadership are some newly-super-wealthy career-terrorists, prominent among them Mousa Abu Marzouk and Khaled Mashaal, Arafat would have admired their cynical brazenness.

Keep that in mind as we revisit the matter of how the damage from this summer's war with Israel is (or is not) being repaired.

A BBC report ["Gaza reconstruction facing obstacles despite aid"] reminds us that the International Donor Conference in Cairo on October 12, 2014
ended with pledges to Gaza that added up to about $5.4bn (£3.4bn)... a powerful signal that help was at hand. The reality is slightly more complex... Of that $5.4bn,, about half has been earmarked for the direct repair of war-damage - the reconstruction of buildings, roads, electricity supply lines and sewerage systems. It is not immediately clear how the rest of the money will be spent - but Gaza has no shortage of needs.
(About that mystery, the rest of the money is likely intended to be appropriated by Fatah officials. Which when you think about it - and this April 2014 post of ours can help - is quite outrageous.)

Most people will understand those Gazan needs to include improved water supply and sewage disposal, better roads, schools that begin to approach the needs of a 21st century society, decent hospitals, medical supplies, and so on. Not a short or inexpensive list. You don't need a great imagination or deep familiarity with Gaza's generations-old misery to figure that out.

Osama Hamdan, one of those senior expatriate Palestinian Arab "leadership" figures, is quoted during October by a sympathetic online publication saying
"Hamas is not going to spare any effort to support the reconstruction mission... The real goal of the reconciliation [with Fatah, with whom there are in reality endless cat fights] is to serve the Palestinian people and their cause,"
To illustrate what Hamdan means about Hamas serving the Palestinian Arabs, and what is truly on the top of the Hamas collective mind, here's a new video. It was posted just yesterday by a Palestinian "news agency" with the usual sort of agenda ("to expose the crimes of the occupation against the Palestinian people"). And as clearly as video can, it demonstrates the current reality: what's being done right now with the Gazan Palestinian Arab people's resources:

The military-sounding audio track, the typical grinding chant of the male voices, the manly men with guns and uniforms - as if this were a real military with discipline, rules, principles and so on - make clear that Hamas - far from acknowledging that they brought destruction onto the heads of the Gaza beleagured population - are on the road to the next installment of their ongoing jihad. And let the consequences fall where they may.

That, plainly, is their message to their own people in their own language. What they tell the world, and especially the money sources, is an entirely other matter.

So let's go back to what the donor governments who are providing that astronomical quantum of money were told it's all for (source: the Donor Conference website):
The goal of the conference is to strengthen the basis of the ceasefire and improving political solution prospects for the conflict through:
(i) Strengthening the Palestinian government's ability to assume its responsibility in the rehabilitation of Gaza Strip.
(ii) Enhancing the existing UN mechanism for import and export of goods and materials to and from Gaza.
(iii) Providing the financial support required for reconstructing Gaza Strip.
Not much evidence in the Hamas video clip above of those goals being achieved. In fact, not even a whisper. The tax-payers of the main giving states might want to ask their treasury people whether the cheques are already signed. They include Qatar ($1bn). Saudi Arabia ($500m), Turkey ($200m), United Arab Emirates ($200m), the European Union ($568m), the United States ($212m) and the United Kingdom ($32m).

Looking on the slightly-less-dark side, we can hope the analyst from the BBC was right when he wrote:
It is a simple truth that governments do not always honour pledges they make to good causes at moments of international crisis. Palestinian officials have said that most of the money pledged after Gaza's conflict with Israel in 2009 for example never came. So for the moment that $5.4bn has a rather theoretical feel to it - but it is reasonable to assume that a substantial amount of money is on its way.
For the sake of the victims of the Hamas Billionaire's Club, let's hope he's right about the first part of his assessment. And wrong about the second.

And a request: if anyone finds online video of Gaza reconstruction and repairs now underway, please email us right away. That would be something worth reporting. Then again, as the BBC notes
However quickly and completely those donor nations cough up the cash, the truth is that without some sort of political progress between Israel and the Palestinians - of which there is absolutely no sign - there is no guarantee that anything rebuilt in Gaza this year or next year won't simply be destroyed again in the next conflict.
That very likely includes those shiny new, concrete-lined millions-of-dollars-each terrorism tunnels.

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