'Inappropriate' Gaza letter
Madam, – Dr Michael Woods, chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs, has criticised as “inappropriate” as well as “unnecessary and undermining” my sending of a letter to the committee in advance of the appearance before it of John Ging, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza (World News, November 26th).
The intent of the communication to the committee was simply to establish a context for Mr Ging’s testimony, since no Israeli representative was invited to participate.
My letter to the committee sought to do two things: first, to set out the deeper reasons for the situation in Gaza; second, to give the up-to-date facts as to the transfer of civilian goods and humanitarian aid through the land crossings from Israel to Gaza. The nature of the Hamas terror organisation (regarded as such by the Irish Government itself), its part in the killing of 1,200 Israelis, including 125 Israeli children, and its firing of more than 8,000 rockets and mortars into Israel, the majority of them after Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the area, were essential points made in the letter.
As Mr Ging told a Tel Aviv-based journalist in a recent interview, “People in Gaza have to prove to their neighbours that they are truly committed to peace . . . The economy of Gaza has collapsed during the period of Hamas governance creating unprecedented levels of impoverishment.” Israel, in intercepting vessels bound for Gaza, acted no differently from Irish governments that stopped vessels en route to their shores when suspected of involvement in terrorist activity (in the cases of the Claudiain 1973 and the Eksundin 1987 the ships arrested were carrying Libyan-supplied weaponry bound for the IRA).
Israel’s guiding principle is to keep weapons, combat support materials and terrorist operatives from entering and exiting Gaza, while letting in civilian goods and humanitarian aid that cannot be used for terrorist purposes.
The import of construction materials is approved for projects authorised by the Palestinian Authority in consultation with the international donor organisations. Israel’s only role relates to security considerations. There is no humanitarian crisis and no hunger in Gaza.
Food shops and stalls are full and the recently-opened luxury mall is crowded. Life expectancy, infant mortality and literacy rates are better in Gaza than in many Arab and even some EU countries.
Testimonies of previous witnesses before the Committee on the Gaza situation have failed to give this vital context. Unintentionally or otherwise, they have been used to minimise or deny the role of Hamas in the conflict and to single out Israel for disproportionate blame for the problems that exist in the area. It was for this reason that I felt it necessary to send the letter. It is difficult to see why telling the broader truths of the situation should “undermine” the narrower truths of day-to-day statistics.
Finally, it is disingenuous to say that the “details” of Mr Ging’s security arrangements were exposed in the letter. The fact of his armed protection was already well established from media reports and TV footage. By the same logic, it could be argued that The Irish Times is guilty of revealing Mr Ging’s security details by reporting on Friday: “In March 2007, gunmen fired at Mr Ging’s armoured car as it travelled through the territory. A second attack some months later left one Palestinian dead and several wounded.”
I hope that this letter may bring some clarity to the issue. – Yours, etc,