How much is owed to Gaza? Does anyone know? This is not a rhetorical question. I’m really asking!

This article first appeared on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace.

On October 12, 2014, a bunch of donors met in Cairo with the Palestinian Authority to discuss and pledge support for Gaza. I can’t find any official statement press release from the conference, so it’s hard to know exactly who came and pledged, but media coverage after the event suggested thatQatar pledged $1 billion, while Kuwait and the UAE pledged $200 million each, as did Turkey, and the United States pledged 212 million dollars. One source reported that the European Union promised 450 million euros while another said EU member states will contribute $570 million including pledges of $63 million from Germany $13m from Norway (or $14.5m from Norway, according to a different source). I guess that the EU promise of 450 million Euros is the same as the promise of the EU member states for $570 million, but I can’t be sure. Also, it was reported that Saudi Arabia pledged $500 million, France $38 million, Algeria $25 million, Italy $22.7 million, and Japan $200 million, while theUK figure came in at a shockingly low $32 million.

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I’m not good in math, so I use a calculator to add up these figures and I don’t get anywhere near the $5.4 billion that all media consistently reported as the amount pledged at that conference. So where can I find out who else pledged and how much? Or is money already missing?

I look at OCHA’s Financial Tracking Service and pull a report for the occupied Palestinian territories (dated November 18, 2014) and there is no $1 billion from Qatar either in the commitments or pledges. Maybe that’s because Qatar isn’t transparent? So I decided to look for a donor with a high transparency rating, like the UK. I go back to the FTS and yes, there are paid contributions that could approximate the pledged amount, but there’s no way to tell if those are the same funds because there’s no date of the payment on that report. Grumble, grumble. Or maybe that’s because OCHA tracks only humanitarian funding and these pledges are considered “development” funding? “Aha!” I say to myself. “I should be able to find that info in the International Aid Transparency Index.” I go to the development portal, filter by UK, scroll to Palestine, and, yes! There is 130,856,816 spent and another 171,802,469 budgeted. But how can I find the $32m pledged at the Cairo donor’s conference?

Surely, with all the hulabaloo about aid data transparency, I must be doing something wrong.

Moreover, there’s the question about what the money will be spent on. The PA’s plan, which was submitted to donors as the basis of their request, listed $4 billion for the reconstruction of Gaza; $4.5 billion to support the PA budget from 2015-17; and $7 billion to finance the rebuilding and operation of Gaza’s airport and seaport, building a large water desalination plant and taking advantage of gas fields in Gaza’s sea, among other projects. But if “only” $5.4 billion was pledged against the $16.5 billion requested, then some things will get funded and others won’t. Where is that listed and explained?

The Palestinian Authority did put out a clarification. They said that some of the pledges were re-pledges of earlier commitments and that some of the funding will go to Gaza and some of the funding to the West Bank will also go to Gaza. But shockingly, they too seemed to be piecing data together from other data sources to calculate what money is expected.

Grumble, grumble.

Although I never passed eighth grade math, there is one thing I can be absolutely sure of. The aid data system – even the initiatives designed to make aid transparent – make it impossible for anyone to hold anyone accountable for anything.

If any of you “out there” think that I’m wrong and that you can figure out how much money the 1.8 million devastated Palestinians in Gaza should expect to receive, do let me know. This is not a rhetorical question. I’m really asking.


During Gaza

This poem was originally published on Counterpunch.

There are periods of time during which there is only one place on earth and places for which one period of time changes history. These are my hearts’ thoughts about July 2014, which I will always think of as being “during Gaza.”

The front line obscured,
their troops had dispersed
to cafes in Haifa
till the flammable stench
of hope decomposing
ignited in Gaza,
wafted through the watan,
and woke up the poetry.
And an unlikely hero
neutralized the fear
that had shackled generations
by risking everything,
in time with the pounding
of the tabla.

Red lines, fault lines, electricity lines, bread lines
crossed and cut and bombed.
Complexity, like raw sewage, washed into the sea, a surprising relief.
Whispers at ftoor were unified by suhoor.
But till now
CNN still does not know
or refuses to report,
that the game has changed.

I am fine bang-bang, Mama.
No, bang-bang. There is no bang danger here.
I am far from bang-bang-bang.
That sound? Helicopters. I don’t know why.
The pope left, Ki-Moon left, Kerry left.
Nothing unusual is happening here now.
I am absolutely sure, Mama.
There is bang-bang-bang-bang absolutely no danger
in the West bang-bang-bang-bang Bank,

On Facebook I check
before I even spit the night’s bad taste into the drain
if she is alive
if he is alive
and the ones in the south and the ones near the coast
but most of them don’t answer my “how are you?”
because they are sleeping their half-rest,
or because they have no electricity,
or because they are dead.

They say I have lost perspective
because I can’t taste chocolate anymore,
because I feel walls tremble in my dreams,
because I scream “stop” into the wind.
They say I have lost perspective because I mourn children not mine
brains blown from skulls.
Meanwhile, they seek my professional recommendation through LinkedIn.
And I say,
it is not me
who has lost

There were ten thousand or twenty
and we waved flags,
little girls on shoulders and families in cars,
old men in wheechairs and so many, many women!
Women who had held decades together with their bare hands,
their husbands in prison,
and arrested themselves,
beside their daughters marched.
Those daughters, with international aspirations,
who had seen burning tires only from car windows as they passed,
cursing the traffic,
and who had not seen options, much less discussed them,
not even amongst themselves, over latte, all these years.
But now,
they chanted “udrub udrub Tel Abeeb
while skinny boys, faces covered, walked into bullets,
despite knowing
that no one can remember 108 names.

there is something
something precious
I pull it towards me
faith renewed
by that clarity
that unity
that surety
that when I say “Can you help me help Gaza?”
without exception
even those I do not like
and even those who do not like me
answer simply:
“Consider it done.”

When Gaza is over
When the mess of rubble and body parts is cleared away
When researchers have analyzed the op-eds and filed them
When Americans realize what they paid for and why no money is left for Detroit
When their children ask “how could that happen?” the way I asked about Auschwitz
When they let their minds go blank for ten minutes in lotus position at sunrise
Will they be haunted
by the Bakir boys
playing soccer
on the Gaza beach?

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Donor complicity in Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights

“In this policy brief, Al-Shabaka Policy Member Nora Lester Murad examines aid through the lens of “complicity” and exposes shortcomings in current legal frameworks. She argues that regardless of the limitations of applicable law, international aid actors are fundamentally responsible to those they seek to assist and must be held accountable for the harm they cause or enable. She identifies the areas in which questions need to be asked and concludes with some of the steps that Palestinian civil society and the international solidarity movement should take.”

Download the full paper in English and Arabic on the Al-Shabaka site, and please share your comments here.

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Un-friending Guy Hazan

In late August, during the attack on Gaza, an Israeli named Guy Hazan left a comment on this blog, A View From My Window in Palestine, in response to a story called, “When the Gaza Sky Burst into Flames.” The story was a guest post written by Mahmoud Khalaf, a friend of mine from Gaza who poured his heart out about his personal experience living through the Israeli bombardment. In response to Mahmoud’s personal story, Guy left this comment:

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Mahmoud, a 19-year-old student of English Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza answered so brilliantly, I didn’t even step in. Mahmoud wrote:

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Then Guy Hazan commented a second time, and a third time, always in half-thoughts and unclear English. I wrote him an email suggesting that he consolidate his comments and finish making his points or he wouldn’t have impact. It’s not that I liked what he said or that I wanted him to affect my blog readers negatively. But I had no fear that he could convince anyone that Israel was right to rain bombs on 1.8 million people they’d imprisoned. Moreover, I genuinely believe that questions and comments help deepen discussion–whether I agree with them or not. And as they say, for every question (even ones that are hurtful or ignorant), there are tens of other people wondering the same thing. For this reason, I have always tried to respond to comments respectfully and protect my blog as a space for real exchange.

Also, there was a chance that he might really be an Israeli who wanted to engage and understand other views. They do exist.

Guy Hazan answered my email very politely. He thanked me and promptly complied by consolidating his points. His comments became longer and more meaty, but also more confusing. For example, in response to my reply to another reader’s comment (this time on my “about me” page), Guy Hazan wrote:

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and he continued:

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I apologize for subjecting you to that unintelligible tome, but the gist of it is that Israel is great and Arabs hate Jews. At least that’s what I think he’s saying. I let him off easy for his offensive ideas because he clearly doesn’t express himself well in English.

Soon, Guy Hazan found me on Facebook and I accepted his friend request. Everything I do on Facebook is public anyway, therefore, I tend to accept all friend requests unless they look truly suspicious. Still, I remember feeling a bit discomforted that he’d crossed over from my blog to my Facebook where I am more personal.

For a while, Guy Hazan continued his facade of civility and curiosity as he attacked my knowledge, experience, and credibility, but I was only mildly irritated. He made comments and asked questions, always incorporating misinformation or distortion. At first, I tried to reply with an explanation from my point of view, not for Guy Hazan’s benefit, but for the benefit of others who I knew would be reading the thread. Other Facebook friends of mine also tried to give him another perspective.

But quickly, Guy Hazan was replying to everything I posted, replying to all my comments, even commenting on my friends’ posts (my real friends). He seemed to be on Facebook all day and all night. I felt like he was in the room with me. It occurred to me that he was one of those Israelis paid to attack Palestinians and supporters of Palestinian rights on social media. I looked him up on LinkedIn and found that he was an investment banker in Haifa. I felt the tiniest amount of relief.

Then Guy Hazan started to initiate contact directly with my friends in Gaza. My reaction surprised me, though I didn’t share it publicly. I felt furious and ashamed that I had exposed my friends in Gaza (who are traumatized and deserving of support) to nothing less than harassment and from whom? An Israeli defender of the war!  It sounds naïve when I read that back. Of course I know that Facebook is public. I know Israelis read my Facebook. But somehow when Guy Hazan started addressing my friends in Gaza (to whom he had access because of me), I felt violated.

My friends in Gaza held their own. They matched each of Guy Hazan’s comments with historical facts and statistics and quotes and examples. And Guy Hazan got bolder and more offensive. The anger in his comments! The racism!

On September 17 he wrote: “What about the murder of babies in their sleep, With knives, cold-blooded, premeditated? Without regret.” And he posted a link to a video. I didn’t watch it. Before that, there was a back-and-forth exchange with Jason Shawa during which Guy Hazan insisted over and over again that Palestinians hate Jews and Jason insisted over and over again that he didn’t hate Jews. It would have been amusing if it had stopped there.

Now, Guy Hazan seems to be following me full time. In response to everything I share, he puts up links to offensive things. I’m sitting calmly at my computer after a long day, and there’s Guy Hazan’s face flashing across my screen. I feel trapped in a corner. I suspect that’s what he wants. But what’s worse, I’m overwhelmed with concern about what the rest of my friends (my real friends) think about this. People who used to ask questions or express opinions, who sincerely wanted to know my experience, don’t contact me anymore. It’s like Guy Hazan is at my house so no one wants to visit me anymore.

It’s gone beyond Facebook now.

The other day was my daughter’s birthday and she wanted to go to the beach. We went to Herziliya, not far from Haifa where Guy Hazan supposedly works, according to LinkedIn and not far from Nahariya, where Guy Hazan supposedly lives, according to Facebook. I found myself glancing around me to see if Guy Hazan was there. (I am assuming his profile photo is a real photo of him.)

 “When you look at these Israelis, do you wonder if they are soldiers and if they’ve done bad things to Palestinians?” I asked the Palestinian who was with me.

“It’s hard not to wonder.”

“And when you look at these little children,” I said, motioning to a particularly adorable toddler girl playing naked in the sand, “do you wonder if they’ll grow up to be soldiers who do bad things to Palestinians?”

“There are all kinds of Israelis. You can’t make assumptions just because they’re Israeli.” (We both knew that was the right answer, but we both knew how hard it is to keep reality from contaminating human relationships.”

I want to be the kind of person who is open. I want to be the kind of person who engages with different points of view. I want to be a person that others can approach with questions that they aren’t comfortable asking elsewhere. And for that reason, I’ve decided to take the bold move to publicly un-friend Guy Hazan and hope that he’ll stop polluting my space. I would have preferred not to have to do that, but I don’t want Guy Hazan in my life anymore. To the extent that Facebook allows, I will try to prevent his offensive commentary from showing up around my friends. I realize that he’ll “spin” this as “not willing to engage in dialogue” and he’ll be partly right. I do not want to engage in dialogue or anything else with Guy Hazan or anyone—Israeli or not—who uses the guise of “dialogue” to attack and harass, insult and hurt.

Bye Guy.