Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Gazans Begin Their Own Blockade, of UNRWA - Photo Story

Gazans Begin Their Own Blockade – of UNRWA


Feature by Julie Webb Pullman (In Gaza City - Gaza)


Click for big version

1. UNRWA warehouse under siege - See more images below

On Thursday I arrived at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) warehouse at Rafah to find a protest camp blocking the gate. The Domestic Committee for Demolished Houses invited me into their tent, to tell me their story.

In 2001-2, during the Second Intafada, Israeli Defence Forces demolished thousands of houses along the Gaza-Egypt border, some of which had four or five families living in them, and there are currently still some 27,000 homeless.

For nine years, they have been forced to live in tents, on the ground, in warehouses, or in rented accommodation – whatever they can find. In the meantime most families have grown by an average of 30 people, while 15 have died waiting. One man later took me to see his his ‘home’ – two rooms in a warehouse where he and his 13-member family have been living for eight years. It is literally two rooms, with an outside squat toilet, the only source of running water. They have just been served with an eviction notice, and have nowhere to go. To add to their misery, the stress of the eviction caused him to have a stroke.

UNRWA is the agency that exists to provide rehousing, but some eight years later, most are still waiting. While UNRWA has built a couple of schools and a medical clinic in the wasteland set aside for the new settlement, no houses have been constructed in almost a decade.

Why the hold-up, I asked, to be met with a chorus of “There’s no good reason”, “UNRWA refuses to use domestic materials“, “UNRWA only wants to use material from Israel so that Israel benefits, but even then they can’t get them to let it through the crossings”, “UNDP has built many houses and accomplished their projects without needing Israeli permission”, “UNDP uses materials from the local market, and gets the job done”. They were unanimous in condemning UNRWA’s refusal to use local labour and materials, and adamant that UNRWA is guilty of bad faith, but worse still, of mismanagement. “The whole project only needed 95,000 tons of stones, and UNRWA had the prearranged agreement with Israel and got 70,000 tons delivered – but instead of building the houses it was meant for, they sold it to other agencies for their projects, like the Arab Bank and UNDP. They sold it for 84 shekels a ton, and we have the evidence. If they’d had good intentions, they would have done something for us when they had the materials, instead of selling them,” their spokesman said.

After eight years of trying to get results, they ran out of patience, and have been protesting outside the UNRWA warehouse every day since 01 March this year. Since then they have had several sessions with UNRWA administration, the first on 07 March, when they were given an undertaking that the housing project would be continued by 01 May. When that never transpired, another meeting was held with the Deputy-Director, Sebastian Price, on 25 May. “He promised reconstruction would start by 16 June, today, but as usual, nothing has happened,” they complained.

“We want the west to know the suffering Israel is causing us. UNRWA is pro-Israel, not pro-Palestinian – they are supposed to look after our humanitarian rights and they have not done it. They are not really interested in solving the problem,” they added.

In desperation they have written a letter of complaint to Ban Ki-Moon and to the Human Rights Council about their situation, made even more unbearable by the unfairness that some people made homeless in Operation cast Lead two years ago have already been re-housed while they are still waiting almost a decade later. “It is a crime against humanity, preventing the provision of housing. We accuse Israel of crimes against humanity for preventing building materials getting through,” they said.

An old man angrily threatened, “Every organization with an UNRWA flag won’t be able to work until they fulfill our needs.”

It was no idle threat – protestors from Rafah and Khan Younis today, Saturday, forced the closure of several summer camps sponsored and supervised by UNRWA, saying the millions spent on ‘having fun’ would be better spent on housing.

Forget the Arab Spring – the Gaza summer has begun.

*******

  • Scoop Image:More images related to this story.


Click for big version

2. Homeless for over eight years


Click for big version

3. Graffiti on UNRWA warehouse wall


Click for big version

4. Yunis El Arja and some of his family in the 'kitchen'


Click for big version

5. The 'bedroom' of the home they have lived in for 8 years - a warehouse - and for which they have been served an eviction notice


Click for big version

6. Road to nowhere - UNRWA schools and clinic - with no houses


Click for big version

7. UNDP not only planned to build housing


Click for big version

8. but they also did it - new apartments awaiting new owners

*************

Julie Webb-Pullman (click to view previous articles) is a New Zealand based freelance writer who has reported for Scoop since 2003. She recently managed to get into Gaza during a brief period when the Rafah Gate was open.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news