Don’t Forget Your Duty to‭ “‬Do No Harm‭” ‬in Gaza

‏‭    ‬February‭ ‬11,‭ ‬2009
Donor Countries and Aid Actors,‭
‏Don't Forget Your Duty to‭ "‬Do No Harm‭" ‬in Gaza 
‏Dalia Association is a Palestinian community foundation concerned with the affects of civil society’s dependence on international aid on Palestinian self-determination and development.‭ ‬We offer an indigenous perspective about the risks of humanitarian aid flows to Gaza after the recent crisis given the context of an already-failed development aid policy.‭ ‬We are especially concerned about the implications and consequences of actions by donor countries and aid actors themselves.

1.‏‭ ‬Responsibility for Costs

‏We support efforts to hold Israel accountable for its violations,‭ ‬including demands that Israel be required to make reparations as required under international law.

Article 31, Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful

Acts; Article 3 Hague Regulation IV and article 91 API.‭ ‬It is wrong and dangerous for Israel to cause an excess of‭ ‬2‭ ‬billion USD in economic damage alone,
‏‭ ‬Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics,‭ “‬PCBS release preliminary estimated‭

‬for the Economic Losses in Gaza Strip caused by Israeli Aggression.‭” ‬and be assisted to evade its responsibilities.‭ ‬Europeans,‭ ‬Saudis,‭ ‬Americans and others should not rush forward to pay the cost of humanitarian aid and reconstruction without invoking Israel’s own financial responsibility,‭ ‬as if it had none.‭ ‬This is a wasteful and self-defeating pattern‭ – ‬foreign agencies‭ (‬using taxpayers‭’ ‬money‭) ‬provide‭ “‬aid‭” ‬to Palestinians to build social and economic infrastructure,‭ ‬then Israel destroys the results of that aid,‭ ‬and then the foreign agencies pay again to rebuild,‭ ‬each time serving Israeli economic interests.‭

‏We deserve credible assurances that infrastructure rebuilt with aid will not be destroyed again.‭ ‬Donor countries and aid actors must insist on these credible assurances.‭ ‬We believe that enabling Israel to act without accountability for its actions is,‭ ‬in our view,‭ ‬a violation of international law that binds donors and other aid actors not to aid or assist in the commission of wrongful acts or in maintaining the situation resulting from them.
‭ Articles 16, 40 and 41, Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts.

‏Further,‭ ‬simply mitigating Palestinian suffering through aid,‭ ‬when donor countries continue to empower Israel through privileged economic,‭ ‬political and military relationships,‭ ‬is cruel,‭ ‬and violates international obligations of third state actors.
‭ Ibid, in particular Article 16.

‏‭ ‬2.‭ ‬Inability to Profit

‏Donor countries and other aid actors must prevent Israel from profiting financially from the occupation in general and from its attacks on Gaza in particular.‭ ‬Aid actors must refuse to pay taxes on items procured for aid,‭ ‬should not pay demurrage,‭ ‬storage or‭ “‬security-related‭” ‬charges,‭ ‬and should not enable Israeli profit by procuring items from Israel.‭ ‬An estimated‭ ‬45%‭ ‬of aid to Palestinians actually flows to Israel,
‭ Cited in Alternative Information Center’s 15 January 2009 statement, “Emergency, Humanitarian Aid to Gaza Strip Counterproductive without Political Aid.” ‬which we believe incentivizes Israel’s further wrongdoing.

‏Also,‭ ‬aid actors themselves must not profit from Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.‭ ‬They must act with transparency and accountability,‭ ‬making public the amounts of money they are raising for the Gaza crisis and exactly what is being done with those funds,‭ ‬including clear disclosure of how much goes toward paying‭ ‬overhead.‭ ‬There is great risk that Israel will continue to deny entry to much-needed reconstruction supplies,‭ ‬as a means of collective punishment.‭ ‬The pressure to spend the aid money raised will push actors to spend it hastily on consumables,‭ ‬palliative activities or other low-priority uses‭ (‬e.g.,‭ ‬research‭) ‬rather than real development according to local priorities.‭ ‬This practice is well-known,‭ ‬but rarely exposed as the corruption that it is.

3.‏‭ ‬Palestinians‭’ ‬Right to Self-Determination,‭ ‬Even During the Aid Process

‏We understand that it is common in humanitarian disasters for best development practice standards to erode.
‭ See Tsunami Learning Project, Grantmakers without Borders, at ‬Palestinians in Gaza are in urgent need of shelter,‭ ‬medical care,‭ ‬food,‭ ‬and other basic needs,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬important principles like beneficiary participation and reliance on local actors,‭ ‬should not be compromised.‭ ‬Aid that feeds Palestinians while denying them even minimal rights to self-determination,‭ ‬and undercuts existing standards,‭ ‬results in a net loss to Palestinian rights and needs.‭ ‬Like development assistance,‭ ‬humanitarian aid cannot be responsibly implemented in a manner that excludes popular participation and local empowerment without compounding the destructive effects of the crisis on the affected community.

‏Further,‭ ‬we are concerned that momentum from the huge amount of money pledged during the humanitarian emergency phase in Gaza will exacerbate and entrench,‭ ‬rather than mitigate,‭ ‬dependence on aid,‭ ‬both in Gaza,‭ ‬and in the West Bank which risks losing resources that are diverted to Gaza.‭ ‬International aid systems should facilitate,‭ ‬not complicate,‭ ‬local self-help and Palestinian philanthropy.‭ ‬Also,‭ ‬we call for a deadline to the‭ “‬humanitarian‭” ‬phase of the international intervention.‭ ‬After the humanitarian phase,‭ ‬the majority of resources should be spent on development,‭ ‬not relief,‭ ‬and development activities should be led by local actors,‭ ‬not internationals,‭ ‬whenever possible.

4.‏‭ ‬Obligations of Neutrality

‏Donor countries and aid actors are obliged to provide humanitarian assistance in a lawful manner,‭ ‬without discrimination on the basis of political belief.‭ ‬Indeed,‭ ‬they must not politicize any aspect of the organization and delivery of humanitarian assistance.‭ ‬They must insist on and verify that the Palestinian Authority,‭ ‬international NGOs and local NGOs who deliver aid are also respecting the principle neutrality.‭ ‬In fact,‭ ‬we believe that donor countries have intervened in internal Palestinian politics by favoring some politically affiliated actors and excluding others.‭ ‬If it continues,‭ ‬the donor countries‭’ ‬policy of isolating Hamas risks undermining the effectiveness of the humanitarian response in Gaza implicating all those in the aid process.‭ ‬We call on aid actors to engage in civil disobedience against these unlawful and immoral anti-terrorism policies by refusing to be contractually obligated to enforce them.

5.‏‭ ‬Obligation to Address Root Causes

‏The root cause of the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip is the continued Israeli military occupation,‭ ‬colonization,‭ ‬and dispossession of the Palestinian people.‭ ‬The international community’s efforts should be aimed at this root cause,‭ ‬and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza should not distract from this priority.

‏Insistence that‭ “‬humanitarian aid‭” ‬remains strictly distinct from‭ “‬political‭” ‬efforts of governments‭ (‬who are the donors of the humanitarian aid‭) ‬serves as a poor excuse for donor countries and aid actors to focus on the symptoms not root causes of the‭ ‬humanitarian crisis,‭ ‬thus perpetuating the conditions for future violations against Palestinians.‭ ‬We consider weak political will to address the root causes a violation of the obligation that binds donors to‭ “‬do‭ ‬no harm.‭”

‏In conclusion,‭ ‬we believe the aid system was broken even before the recent humanitarian crisis in Gaza.‭ ‬Anything short of total vigilance on the part of Palestinian civil society,‭ ‬donor countries,‭ ‬and aid actors themselves,‭ ‬risks leading to a worsened state of dependence,‭ ‬denial of rights,‭ ‬waste,‭ ‬and de-development.‭

‏Note:‭ ‬This statement is also available in Arabic and Spanish.

‏Nora Lester Murad
‏Dalia Association
+972-54-654-1665‏‭ ‬or‭ ‬+970-598-248-807
‏NoraM @