The Ambassador hotel in Jerusalem was the setting, on Wednesday, November 26, for a press conference called under UN auspices to announce the launching of the “2009 Consolidated Appeal,” a fund-raiser with a goal of bringing in $462 million for UN and NGO humanitarian assistance programs in the “occupied Palestinian territories” (by which is meant Judea and Samaria, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem). While 159 projects are expected to benefit, $275 million is earmarked for UNRWA – the UN Relief and Works Agency, responsible for Palestinian Arab refugees.

Presentations – by Maxwell Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator; Philippe Lazzarin, Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; and Filippo Grandi, Deputy Commissioner-General of UNRWA -. focused on the hardship endured by the “oPt” residents as a result of Israeli practices.

Of primary concern was the Israeli closure of Gaza: Gaylard reported that the Israeli position is to keep crossings into Gaza closed as long as rockets [shot from Gaza into Israel] continue, with humanitarian goods permitted to go in if the rockets stop. But, he said, with crossings frequently shut down, even basic supplies are not reaching the people.

In any event, he declared, “we want more than this.” While allowing that the rockets attacks are to be condemned, he explained that the UN wants the crossings opened more fully, with imports and exports moving in and out. What’s happening now, he stated, is “collective punishment.” When queried by a journalist as to whether he was demanding that Israel open the crossings fully even if the rockets kept flying, he skirted the question.

Lazzarin made it clear that from a UN perspective there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Gaylord concurred, indicating it was so severe that the closure represented an “assault on every human right.”

A brief discussion was held regarding the growing number of blackouts in Gaza caused by failure of an electric transmitter, either because fuel or parts for repair were not available.

Grande lamented the fact that during the truce [the last five months of relative calm] there has been only a disappointing 20% increase in the transport of goods into Gaza, so that UNRWA still has not been able to bring in sufficient humanitarian supplies. He noted that 12 UNRWA trucks bearing supplies were expected to be allowed through that day.

A subsequent interview with Shlomo Dror, spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Defense, provided a perspective vastly at odds with that presented at the press conference. In some instances, Dror directly refuted statements made by the UN representatives:

Most significantly, he stated that it is absolutely not Israeli policy to allow humanitarian supplies into Gaza only when the rockets stop. While a broader opening of the crossings is keyed to a cessation of rocket attacks, humanitarian supplies are permitted in whenever it is possible to open a crossing. Evidence of this is provided by the fact that trucks went into Gaza on November 29, the day of the press conference, even though rockets had been launched that day, and for three days prior. Grande referred to 12 UNRWA trucks, but there are also other agencies at work. In total that day, 40 trucks went through.

The point ignored by UNRWA, when it complains about closed crossings, is that the crossings themselves are often under attack – by bombs and shootings, and the Israeli operating personnel endangered. What UNRWA officials are actually demanding is that Israelis risk their lives so that goods can move through.

Yet, never, said Dror, has he heard a word regarding Hamas culpability. Never has there been a demand by the UN that terrorists stop targeting the crossings, because this makes it impossible for Israel to open them.

It is a mark of Israeli intentions that funds were spent revamping the Keren Shalom crossing to permit passage of a greater number of trucks.

Dror explained that sometimes when there is a lull in rocket launchings into Israel, the crossings are still targeted and must stay closed. But even then Gazans seeking medical help are allowed into Israel. And water and electric power supplied to Gaza by Israel continue to flow without stop. (As Israel supplies 70% of Gaza’s electric power, and Egypt another 5%, it makes little sense to talk about blackouts because a generator isn’t working.)

Dror categorically denies there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. There are dozens of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, and every sort of material imaginable moves into Gaza, with the exception of generator fuel.

“Even cows are brought through the tunnels.”

Last January, when the fence at Rafah was breached and Gazans by the thousands moved into the Sinai, it was said these were people suffering a lack of essential goods. But, said Dror, many were seen bringing back TVs and satellite dishes.

END

Arlene Kushner, senior policy analyst for the Center for Near East Policy Research, writes extensively on UNRWA. Her most recent report, just completed, is “UNRWA: Overview and Policy Critique.”

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When I left the U.S. in 2001, and came to Israel as an olah (a new immigrant) I was eager to share personal impressions and solid information about the situation here. Thus was my listserve born. This list has grown, and its content and style have been refined. Now I do several postings a week, offering both reliable data and analysis.

Shortly after initiating my listserve, I began to work professionally as an investigative journalist for the Center for Near East Policy Research. Today I serve the Center in a consultant capacity. I work, as well, as a freelance writer.

New Jersey born and bred and a resident of Maryland for several years, I have been living in Jerusalem since shortly after my arrival in Israel.

If there has been a constant in my work over time, it has been my writing, but in many ways my background has been eclectic.

My bachelors degree is in psychology and my masters in counseling and human services.  I took up the cause of the Jews of Ethiopia in the 80s and early 90s, via the American Association for Ethiopian Jews; I worked in the field with people newly arrived in Israel, and assisted with relief and rescue efforts from the States.

I then turned to designing softskills software -- training in the computer on diversity, stress reduction and using your whole brain effectively -- and producing Jewish educational software and hard copy materials.  Simultaneously, I conducted live workshops on stress reduction, Jewish identity and more.

For a period of time, I worked with a top non-governmental anti-terrorist in the US.  This led, fairly directly, to my investigative journalism.

My articles have appeared in such venues as Azure MagazineThe Jerusalem Post, FrontPageMagazine.com, American Thinker, Arutz Sheva, YNet, National Review Online, The (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent,  MidstreamPresent TenseThe New York TimesBaltimore Jewish TimesOutlookAmitThe Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia), and The Aish website.

I have produced several major reports on UNRWA for the Center for Near East Policy Research, as well reports on the true nature of Fatah, the dangers of funding PA security forces, the Israeli NGO Adalah, and more.

I have written three books: Disclosed: Inside the Palestinian Authority and the PLO in 2004, and Falasha No More (for children) andTreacherous Journey: One Man's Escape from Ethiopia, both in 1985.

I have done interviews with BBC online, FrontPageMagazine.com, Voice of America, IBA English News (Israeli TV), and IsraelNationalNewsTV.

I am on the Board of Advisors of EMET, a Washington based organization dedicated to providing policy makers in the US with accurate information.

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