On Sunday, a truck filled with money was delivered to Gaza from Israel. That a large vehicle was needed for the transport was already a given. Not only does $13.5 million in cash take up a lot of space, but the procedure itself has been going on monthly for years.
The earmark for the dollars is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. To be more specific, it is supposed to cover the salaries of the UNRWA employees stationed in Gaza. This is in spite of two facts: that Gaza is run by Hamas, a terrorist organization whose stated aim is to destroy the Jewish state; and that UNRWA never misses an opportunity to blame Israel for the plight of the residents used as human shields by their leaders.
It is both ironic and outrageous that UNRWA should contribute to the anti-Israel propaganda perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists. After all, Hamas uses UNRWA headquarters for the same purpose as it does kindergartens, by storing and launching rockets in its immediate vicinity. And Israel continues to funnel funds for its upkeep, come hell, high water or missile fire.
It is, as well, the height of chutzpah that on Monday, the day after the money was moved — a mere four days after the Hamas-Israel cease-fire was declared — UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi called for “the illegal Israeli blockade [of Gaza] to be lifted in all its aspects,” warning that if this did not happen, “it would be only a matter of time till violence resumed.”
He then claimed that the root cause of this “violence” was “the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a broader sense, with all its elements, including the situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.” In his self-appointed capacity as Hamas spokesman, Grandi conveniently omitted the repeated Palestinian claims to the entire state of Israel, the incessant calls for the murder of Jews anywhere in the world, and the continued calls for a post-cease-fire “Third Intifada.”
There is nothing new about the slant and double standards of the U.N., where Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is going to make a bid this Thursday to receive recognition for “Palestine” as a nonmember state. And it is no surprise that Hamas supports the maneuver, even from its rival faction, Fatah.
Nor should it shock anyone to discover that large portions of the monthly millions Israel keeps providing UNRWA is appropriated by Hamas, through taxation and other means, for the purchase and smuggling of weapons — among them long-range Iranian rockets that reached Tel Aviv and Jerusalem last week — and for the upkeep of the terrorist infrastructure.
Far more mind-boggling is Israel’s enabling of this through financing. This is why the Israel Law Center, through its attorney, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, sent a three-page letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, demanding that he put a stop to the illegal practice of funding terror. According to Darshan-Leitner, with whom I spoke Monday evening, the government is fully aware that much of the monthly millions that Israel sends into Gaza is being used for pernicious purposes.
Where the penal code is concerned, the only condition under which the transfer of funds for terrorism does not require a seven-year jail sentence and a heavy fine is if it is approved by the finance minister, after consultation with the ministers of defense and internal security.
For this reason, one of the clauses of the letter reads as follows: “My clients wonder whether Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz approved the cash transfer. If no such approval was given, this is a very serious matter, since the transfer of cash without approval constitutes a criminal offense. If, however, such approval was given, it is even more serious, since this would mean that Finance Minister Steinitz gave written permission for the transfer of funds which you and your government know very well is being used (in part) by Hamas for the purchase of rockets fired at Israeli civilians. It is important to stress that even if approval was granted by the finance minister for the transfer of cash to Gaza, nevertheless, this action is liable to expose those involved to criminal and civil proceedings brought by victims of terrorism, including in U.S. courts.”
The letter goes on to suggest alternative ways for money to go to residents of Gaza — “though Israel has no obligation to do so” — that entail a prohibition on the funds exiting the Gaza Strip. This could be done, according to Darshan-Leitner, by stamping the cash in such a way as to make it non-transferable to banks outside Gaza.
As of the posting of this piece, there has been no response to the letter. But this is not the first time such appeals have been made to the Netanyahu government, indicating that this one will not have immediate impact. It didn’t even make the news, let alone upstage the resignation of Defense Minister Ehud Barak from politics (to which the Palestinians are pointing as evidence of their victory in Gaza) or the Likud primaries.
The only possible logic behind the policy of moving such huge sums into Gaza — and providing other services, such as electricity — is for Israel to have some form of leverage over Hamas. This might make sense, even under current Orwellian circumstances, if the government was ever actually to exercise this leverage. But it has not even had the guts to shut off Gaza’s power, in any sense of the word.
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the Arab Spring.”