Gaza’s deterioration can be summed up by the two inconsistencies in the introduction of the 2012 UN report “Gaza in 2020: A Liveable place?” penned by UN Humanitarian Coordinator Maxwell Gylard.
Gylard wrote, “Building on what is known, the resulting study seeks to highlight the formidable developmental, humanitarian and social imperatives which need to be addressed and resolved, irrespective of the political context.”
In addition, the solution to Gaza’s humanitarian predicament according to Gylard is “a peace process which leads ultimately to a solution of two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and harmony.”
The report identified Palestinians’ vulnerability in terms of social and economic deficiencies. Since the Israeli-imposed illegal blockade on the enclave in 2006-2007, Gaza’s isolation, compounded with regular aerial bombardment by Israel, has resulted in extreme deprivation.
However, the references to Gaza becoming unliveable by 2020 did not enter mainstream rhetoric until the aftermath of the 2014 Israeli aggression known as Operation Protective Edge. The large-scale devastation of basic infrastructure and homes, as well as the increasing numbers of internally displaced Palestinians who were forced into homelessness by Israel, prompted the UN to point out, at intervals it deemed suitable, that Gaza was heading into an irreversible position.
Despite the looming deadline which is now upon us, UN officials persisted in glorifying humanitarian aid as the solution for the problems faced by Palestinians in Gaza.
As 2020 approached, the media reminded the UN of its predictions. On the other hand, the UN remained largely silent. Despite the looming deadline which is now upon us, UN officials persisted in glorifying humanitarian aid as the solution for the problems faced by Palestinians in Gaza. Yet, the UN also had no qualms about encouraging various political actors to work towards maintaining the humanitarian situation to prevent political solutions. This includes the refusal to consider an alternative to the two-state paradigm, which keeps Palestinians tethered to humanitarian aid.
Since 2014, when Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas expressed that the resistance in Gaza should be cautious in its defense against Israel’s aggression, the UN has been seeking a return to PA influence in Gaza. This was clearly spelled out in 2018 by the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Jamie McGoldrick when he stated that a PA return to Gaza would make “our job easier, and hopefully create an atmosphere that people can see hope.”
Nothing was mentioned of the PA’s sanctions against Gaza in a bid to force Hamas to cede its political power. The message implied was that the UN would work with any entity contributing to the deprivation in Gaza. To support this narrative, Goldrick claimed that the Palestinian people are not interested in the politics dictating the absence of basic necessities. “I think most people here just want to get on with their lives,” he declared.
Getting on with their lives, however, is impeded by Israel’s ongoing violations. So far, Israel has destroyed $500,000 worth of crops in Gaza by flooding agricultural land in January 2020. The political implications for such measures are clear. If Palestinians in Gaza are constantly preoccupied with their survival, the chances of organised resistance and, as a result, imparting of political demands, become negligible.
The UN Humanitarian Response Plan for 2020 acknowledges a deficit in humanitarian aid funding. For one million Palestinians in Gaza, this deficit means that they will not be receiving any outside humanitarian assistance.
Of particular note in the UN’s report is how the absence of proper intervention will affect Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories. Gaza is specifically mentioned in terms of psychosocial distress, education, contaminated water, health risks, and internal displacement.
What started off as a cause for alarm in 2012 became normalized as Israel’s actions against Palestinians in Gaza became more overtly supported by the international community.
What started off as a cause for alarm in 2012 became normalized as Israel’s actions against Palestinians in Gaza became more overtly supported by the international community. Such normalisation was evident in the May 2019 bombardment of Gaza, when UN and EU officials exclusively blamed Palestinian rocket fire, thus classifying Israel’s aggression as retaliation.
Gaza becoming uninhabitable by 2020 became a catchphrase referral until its deadline. Now, it has become obvious that the report, albeit accurate in its assessment, achieved nothing other than ridicule for Palestinians for two reasons: the international community’s acceptance of Israel’s violence and the insistence upon the two-state paradigm as the purported solution for Palestinian politics and independence.
However, the UN fails to mention that the two-state imposition is also dependent upon humanitarian aid. State building, which is the focus of the Oslo Accords along with security coordination, is one of the illusory projects which enable the neo-liberal framework to thrive. From 1993 until 2006, the PA received $34 billion in humanitarian aid, yet the international community has failed to create, through its own financing, a sustainable Palestinian government.
In 2018, the World Bank noted a decline in donor funding and declared Gaza needed a strategy “that combines an immediate crisis response, with steps to create an environment for sustainable development.” Israel, meanwhile, “could support a conducive environment for economic growth by lifting restrictions on trade and allowing the movement of goods and people.”
The World Bank’s statement is as dissociated from reality as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). For Palestine, attaining these goals is impossible unless Israel’s colonial existence and military occupation are reversed. In Gaza, these effects are more pronounced, as the population is forced to exist under violent Israeli impositions that the international community records for reference yet fails to address. Thus, before speaking about sustainable development, it is imperative that the UN addresses the political error created in 1947 with its approval of the Partition Plan.
With the UN’s tacit agreement, Israel is working towards Palestinians remaining on the brink between survival and death.
In the early days of 2020, it must be remembered that the UN has consistently failed Palestinians, even on the basis of their own research. With the UN’s tacit agreement, Israel is working towards Palestinians remaining on the brink between survival and death. Gaza has been unlivable prior to 2020; the date has merely bought the UN and Israel more time to implement the next step in formalizing humanitarian aid and the violence it needs to become a permanent enterprise.