On Monday, August 5th, US AID, the Agency for International Development, Scheduled a press conference in Gaza to present their report on the state of malnutrition in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
After Israel Resource News Agency alerted US AID to the fact that a Gaza venue would prevent Israeli reporters from taking part, and mitigate against any serious questions, because of censorship policies of the PA, US AID changed its venue to the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem.
The findings of the US AID report had already appeared in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune on July 26th. US AID spokespeople said that this was because of a Palestinian leak. In all fairness, US AID has met with both PA and Israeli officials on July 15th. The Israeli Civil Administration officials sat on the report while the PA officials placed it on more than a dozen Palestinian media websites.
The US AID press conference was a highly biased highly politicized event that came in the guise of a non-political scientific report.
The report’s author began with the conclusion that conditions regarding malnutrition in the refugee camps is “far worse” than those of sub-Saharan Africa, where starvation is wiping out millions of men, women and children in an epidemic of global proportions.
The study, (funded by uninformed American taxpayers at an unknown cost) was largely based on anecdotal evidence and blood tests, sites the shortage of beef, chicken, lamb and fish in the refugee daily diet. Given that Gaza sits directly on the Mediterranean, the stated lack of fish protein was at best, difficult to comprehend.
These shortages have an average duration of three days to two weeks.
There was no information as to health conditions and dietary content prior to the border closings made available, despite the fact that “chronic” malnutrition takes longer than two weeks duration to become “chronic” in nature. (Hence the meaning of the word, chronic…)
It was also stated that health problems were far worse for children, pregnant women and the poorest members of Palestinian society with little or nothing left to sell within the community as payment for needed food.
When asked if the PA would accept food from Israel, the members of the panel said that they would check into it and get back with the correct answer.
US AID personnel and Palestinian medical professionals all spoke about the root cause of the issue of acute malnutrition: the fact that the Israelis are doing blockades and curfews.
Nowhere in the report nor at the press conference did either the US AID officials mention what an Israel Ministry of Health official, Dr Yaakov Adler, reported to the media, which was that the Palestinian Authority has forbidden Israeli health officials from providing the basics of medical And nutritional assistance to the PA for the past two years.
At no point did US AID hold the Palestinian Authority esponsible for their own behavior — which was not repesented as being part of the problem or even part of the solution. The only “problem” was the blockades and curfews. The “solution” was lifting the IDF blockades and curfews.
Palestinian Authority responsibility could have been stated as:
- Curtailing terrorist actions
- Failing that, to curtail the PA policy of allowing terrorists to hide amongst the civilian population
- To ensure that all funds donated by third party nations for humanitarian relief is utilized for humanitarian relief, are not diverted for graft (the P.A.) or for propaganda or weapons
- To provide instruction to the population via Health Services and NGOs on how to get the most nutrition for the amount of money they have to spend and
- To renew cooperation with the Israelis and receive offered assistance.
A truly objective approach would have been: the Israelis are responding to terrorist actions that are not tolerable for any nation (and in fact, being blown apart by a bomb represents a more severe health problem than malnutrition). Given this reality, and the fact that until the terrorism ends there will be some blockades and curfews that exacerbate a situation of malnutrition, we must all work together to see what remedies are possible during this crisis situation. This means monitoring international assistance, bringing in stores of food, distributing vitamins and iron pills, educating the populace, encouraging the Palestinian heath authorities to work with their Israeli counterparts and accept their assistance, working with the Israelis to see in what ways they can be of assistance, etc.
However, the persistent answer of the panel was to remove the blockades, until one Palestinian panelist said, “Well we could feed them, but that wouldn’t address the root cause of the malnutrition”
A scene fit for Mad Magazine.