By Ricard Gonzalez
A good-hearted global citizen would assume that the amount of money raised in an international conference of donors under the title “for the reconstruction of Gaza” is for that purpose. However, they would be wrong. The official declaration of the conference that took place in Cairo last Sunday, stated that the donor countries would give “$5.4bn dollars for the Palestinian people, and half of it for the reconstruction of Gaza” during the period between 2014 and 2017.
Why was aid not related to “the reconstruction of Gaza” included in the final statement of the summit? And what is the allocation of the other half, that is, that $2.7bn? At the end of the conference, no one seemed to know. Journalists were not even given a copy of the final statement, and the text was just read by one of the co-chairs of the event in the closing session.
Two members of the Egyptian delegation, which was in charge of organising the conference jointly with the Norwegian, did not agree about it. One said that the other $2.7bn would be spent on projects in Gaza not directly related to its reconstruction. The other argued that the amount would be for several different purposes, among them, to support financially the Palestinian National Authority. Therefore, it could well be spent in either the West Bank or Gaza.
“Presently I don’t have any further information regarding the allocation,” declared Frode Overland, spokesperson of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, when asked by e-mail about more specific information on the funds two days later.
The absolute lack of transparency seems to be aimed at hiding an important fact: the real amount of money raised for Gaza on Sunday is much lower than the $4bn that the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked for at the conference. This is the sum the Palestinian government deems necessary to rebuild the Gaza after the war against Israel last summer that ravaged the strip. Most of the infrastructure of the Gaza strip, such as power plants and hospitals, was destroyed and more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed.
By adding other funds to the $2.7bn allocated for Gaza, the donors tried to create confusion in order to conflate the real numbers. A misleading tweet from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry informed that “5,4 billion dollars for Palestine” had been promised at the conference. Many international media assumed that all those billions were for the “reconstruction of Gaza”, and they published that figure, not the real one. Given the lack of critical thinking among the mass media, the “strategy of confusion” worked very well.
Unfortunately, we cannot even be sure that the official amount of $2.7bn dedicated to Gaza is real. The Spanish Vice-Minister of International Cooperation, Jesus Garcia, admitted in a press conference that Spain’s contribution included some funds for development projects that had already been approved before the war. Therefore, their target can hardly be the reconstruction of Gaza.
Taking this into account, one wonders how much money was really raised strictly to rebuild Gaza last Sunday and how much really will arrive to the strip. According to the Palestinian authorities, only 60% of the aid promised after the 2009 war against Israel has been delivered. Poor Gazan people.
Ricard Gonzalez is a freelance journalist who works in Cairo for several media, among them the Spanish newspaper EL PAIS. Previously, he worked as correspondent in Washington between 2007 and 2011. He graduated in International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University.