Palestinians hurting themselves

The Palestinian Victims of the West’s Israel Obsession

Evelyn Gordon | @EvelynCGordon

 Commentary Magazine February 18, 2015


I’ve written frequently about how the West’s obsession with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians helps perpetuate global misery by diverting attention from people in far greater distress (think Syrians or South Sudanese). Yet this obsession also perpetuates suffering among the one group it’s ostensibly supposed to help–the Palestinians. Three Jerusalem Post reports over the last week show why.

One warned that a leading Palestinian hospital is at risk of closure because of a $30 million debt. A major reason for this debt is that for years, the Palestinian Authority has failed to pay Mokassed Hospital for many of the patients it treats. This isn’t because the PA lacked money; it has ample funds to pay generous salaries to thousands of terrorists sitting in Israeli jails. Rather, it’s a matter of priorities: On the PA’s scale of values, paying terrorists for killing Israelis is evidently more important than paying doctors for healing Palestinians.

Almost 40 percent of the PA’s budget consists of foreign aid, with the vast majority coming from Western countries. The West is therefore uniquely placed to pressure the PA to alter its spending priorities. But it has never tried to do any such thing, because it only cares about what Israel does or doesn’t do.

Thus one factor that has recently exacerbated Mokassed’s problems has elicited worldwide condemnations: Israel’s withholding of tax revenues from the PA over the last two months in response to the latter’s egregious violations of the Oslo Accords, including joining the International Criminal Court. Yet even if Israel handed over that money tomorrow, there’s no reason to think the PA would suddenly start using it to pay Mokassed when it never did so in all the years before Israel halted the transfers.

In short, pressuring Israel won’t actually solve the problem; only pressuring the PA would do that. But since the West doesn’t care what the PA does, Palestinian patients will continue to suffer.

In the second report, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon criticized the PA for failing to take control of Gaza’s border crossings as it promised to do after last summer’s war. This failure, he noted, has greatly delayed Gaza’s reconstruction, since the reconstruction mechanism devised by the UN and Western donors mandated PA control of the crossings in an effort to minimize diversions of dual-use materials to Hamas’s war machine.

But because Israel has never sealed its border with Hamas-controlled Gaza completely–it has sent in 62,000 tons of construction supplies since August despite the PA’s absence from the crossings–the real hardship has occurred along the Egyptian border. The Rafah border crossing is Gaza’s main gateway to the world, but it has been closed almost hermetically for months, because Cairo considers Hamas a terrorist organization and refuses to reopen Rafah as long as Hamas controls it.

A particularly horrific consequence ensued in November, when an 11-year-old Palestinian died because the Rafah closure prevented her from entering Egypt for needed medical treatment. So why didn’t she go to Israel instead? Because Hamas refuses to talk to Israel directly, so requests for medical entry permits from Gaza are sent through the PA. But according to Razan al-Halkawi’s relatives, the PA refused to forward her request because it was embroiled in one of its periodic spats with Hamas.

In short, the PA refused to do what was needed to enable al-Halkawi to get treatment in either Egypt or Israel. And so she died.

As the PA’s major donor, the West could be pressing the Palestinians to live up to their post-war commitments. But it won’t, because if Israel can’t be blamed, it doesn’t care.

Report number three: Thousands of Palestinians who bought homes in the new Palestinian city of Rawabi can’t move in because the city isn’t connected to the water system. Why? Because all West Bank water projects need approval by the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee, which the PA has refused to convene for the last five years. Evidently, it would rather deprive its own people of better housing than agree to meet with Israeli officials.

Here, too, the West could use its financial leverage to press the PA to convene the panel and let Rawabi open. But it hasn’t, because if Israel can’t be blamed, it’s not interested.

In short, in numerous cases where the West could use its leverage over the PA to better the lot of ordinary Palestinians, it has refused to do so, because it only cares about Israel’s actions. And thus the biggest victims of the West’s Israel obsession have ended up being not Israelis, but the Palestinians themselves.

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