March 12, 2009 | Scripps Howard News Service
Money to Burn?
If this was a successful donors' conference, you don't want to see the failures.
This month, there was an “International Conference in Support of the People and Economy of Darfur,” and billions of dollars were raised not just from America and Europe but also from Arab and Muslim states concerned over the war crimes — including mass murders and mass rapes — being perpetrated against the people of Darfur, most of whom are black and Muslim.
You realize, of course, that I made that up? Not the part about the terrible things happening in Darfur, that’s precisely true, but the part about international donors’ meeting on behalf of Darfurians. Scores of donors gathered instead at an “International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza,” in Sharm El-Sheikh, a resort in Egypt where a total of $4.5 billion in pledges was collected.
The people of Gaza have long been receiving more aid per capita than just about any other group in the world — a high multiple of what Darfurians receive — but Gaza is in an especially sorry state these days. The reason: Gazans elected Hamas to rule them, and Hamas has vowed to exterminate Israel and, in pursuit of that goal, routinely fires missiles at Israeli towns.
In response, about two months ago Israel invaded Gaza and went after Hamas leaders and fighters. Many in the “international community” criticized Israel’s response as “disproportionate” despite the fact that it did not succeed in stopping the missile attacks. There have been over 100 since the “ceasefire” on January 18. Logically, doesn’t that suggest that the response was insufficient, rather than excessive?
What’s more, Richard Kemp, former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, carefully examined the Israeli military action and came to this conclusion: “I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare where any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of civilians” than did the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza, he told the BBC.
But the worsening crisis in Darfur has not gone entirely unnoticed. Hamas, as well as Hezbollah and their mutual sponsor, Iran, spoke out strongly — in defense of Sudan’s militant Islamist president, Omar al-Bashir, the individual most responsible for the death and destruction in Dafur.
Hamas supporters in Gaza even held a march in support of al-Bashir, who recently expelled 13 aid agencies that had been attempting to assist Darfurians — not by constructing new buildings, but simply by providing food and water, which are in very short supply in Darfur right now. Shocked by this defense of an oppressor, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference issued statements sharply critical of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran.
Actually, that’s not correct either. The Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference said not a word critical of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran. On the contrary, the Arab League said it would send a delegation to the United Nations to argue for the suspension of an international arrest warrant against al-Bashir.
It’s worth noting: There is one nation in the Middle East that has opened its borders to refugees from Darfur. That nation is Israel. Perhaps Israelis see a parallel between Darfur — which has been undergoing genocide — and their nation, which was created after the genocide known as the Holocaust, and which is under genocidal threat from Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.
I don’t mean to seem callous about the hardships being endured by Gazans. But I do mean to emphasize their responsibility — and the fact that, unlike the Darfurians, they could alleviate their suffering by tolerating Israel’s existence and pursuing peace.
So long as they are led by Hamas, however, they must be guided by the Hamas Charter, which not only pledges to “obliterate” Israel but states plainly that “there is no solution to the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” With the exception, perhaps, of conferences that put dollars and euros in their pockets.
Why should it be so difficult for international donors to say to Gazans: “Look, you can have reconstruction, or you can have perpetual war, but you cannot have both. If you launch missiles at Israelis, kidnap Israelis and hold them captive (Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and has been held since 2006 without access even to the Red Cross), plot terrorist attacks, and vow to ethnically cleanse every inch of land between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan, you have to expect that Israelis may lash out from time to time — and that means any buildings we construct now are likely to be rubble next year.”
At the conference in Egypt, the U.S. pledged $900 million: $300 million in humanitarian aid for Gaza and about $600 million in development aid to the Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank and would like to have more clout in Gaza, but has been no match for Hamas in that territory.
The intention is to use the funds to strengthen Palestinian moderates, but if money flows into Gaza before Hamas at least agrees to a complete and prolonged ceasefire, it will appear that Hamas has been rewarded.
Actually, it may be more than just an appearance: Rep. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) has noted that Hamas has a habit of appropriating aid intended for others. “To route $900 million to this area, and let’s say Hamas was only able to steal 10 percent of that, we would still become Hamas’s second-largest funder after Iran,” Kirk told a reporter.
Nevertheless, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the donors’ conference “very productive” and said it could lead to a “comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.” But, she added, that can happen only when Palestinians desire peace more than conquest, when they love their children more than they hate Israelis, and when they give up their attachment to the radical, supremacist, and belligerent versions of Islam practiced by those who rule Sudan, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda.
No, she didn’t really add that. But let’s hope she knows it’s true.