Reply to father of a Gaza flotilla participant

By radio journalist Freda Keet, who responded to a letter by the father of one of the Gaza flotilla participants, published in the Jerusalem Post


To read the letter by Lt Col Lort-Philips go:

http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id286.html


The Editor,
Jerusalem Post

Dear Sir,

In his letter to the Jerusalem Post, with its spirited defence of his daughter Alexandra, a member of the recent so-called “aid flotilla” to Gaza, Lt Col Lort-Philips, describes her as a woman of “maturity, “compassion”, and resolve”.

May I, with all due respect, through your column and with the kind help of the Lt Col, address to her the following few questions.

1) Has she ever organized, helped or encouraged any form of aid-convoy/flotilla to, for example, the Eastern Congo, where the agony of its people is beyond words. Where the rape of women is constant and brutal, and tens of thousands of women are left mentally and physically torn apart? Children live in terror and any aid is either sporadic or non-existent? True it is a dangerous place to go to, but surely for a young woman and her co-workers of such deep “compassion” and “resolve” this should not be a problem.

2) The same for Darfur where the violence and deprivation have been going on now for years with the full knowledge of the world and its compassionate “aid warriors” When the men are asked why they don’t go out of the relative safety of the camps themselves to collect the firewood instead of sending the women ( a ludicrous idea in view of the general attitude to “men’s work” and the place of women in African society ), the men reply: “If we go out we are killed, if the women go out they are only raped”!

3) On the border between Somalia and Kenya is one of the largest refugee camps in the world, well over 300 thousand people, desperate refugees who have fled the savagery of Somalia, living in total isolation squalor and deprivation. There is little or no aid for them, and they are the abandoned, the “Le Miserables” of the world, with no hope and just a few brave aid workers trying fruitlessly and helplessly to offer support.

Could any of the Gaza/ Flotilla aid-workers even find these countries on the map??

And then contrast this with the problems of Gaza. Yes, life is difficult and yes they live under siege and with a repressive Hamas regime, and yes there are shortages and frustrations. But the population of Gaza receives, per capita, more international aid than any other group on earth. They inspire more love devotion and compassion, (that word again!) than any other community. The eyes of the whole world focus protectively upon them, and Gaza has become the darling of the Western world and its favourite cause and passionate rallying cry.

Israel sends through to Gaza regular aid convoys of food and medicine. The UN is a constant presence, as is the Palestinian aid organisation UNWRA and a multiplicity of other international support groups are also present providing aid and help. And still, around the world the protest marches are organised for the “starving” in Gaza. And aid flotillas line up to come to the rescue.

May I finally ask the following questions, addressed to all these “keepers of the world’s conscience”

1) Do you actually have some kind of point system to grade suffering and worthiness for aid convoys/flotillas? If so what is it based upon?

2) Does Africa appear on this list in any place at all, even at the very bottom? Because just as your heart seems to go out to the Gazans so does mine, painfully and passionately go out to the abandoned of Africa!

3) Is Palestinian/Gazan blood considered more valuable, Palestinian “suffering” more worthy than that of ordinary black women and children of Africa?

4) Could it be that there is a reluctance to go to these forsaken places, because it would all be done well off the world stage, without a world audience, well away from the brilliant spotlight of the media , no teams of TV reporters flocking to the scene, no heroic images in newspaper interviews, no moments of fame and glory ? No chance for defiance, no opportunity to galvanise the “troops”?

And perhaps it is just as well that they don’t go to Africa!. They might encounter conditions that would make them really really “cross”, instead of just plain “cross” which we are told was their reaction to the “flotilla” episode. “Cross”, mind you, in a world gone mad with violence!!!

5) And this question really puzzles me. What is it about the Palestinians/Gazans that has so captivated your devotion and self righteous indignation Alexandra? Could it have something to do with the fact that their “enemy” is the Jews? Such a convenient and well tested scapegoat!

Of course if any of the “flotilla fraternity” have in fact been to African countries offering their compassion and aid, then my apologies and I personally would dearly love to hear about their experiences. And they owe it to the rest of the world to show us that their compassion is genuinely and whole-heartedly for the whole of suffering humanity and not just for Gaza, their own “pet project” with its dubious justifications and questionable motivation.

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One Response to “Reply to father of a Gaza flotilla participant”

  1. Alexandra Lort Phillips Says:

    The Editor Jerusalem Post

    Dear Sir,

    In response to questions in a letter you published from Freda Keet questioning me and fellow Gaza flotilla members on our concern for Africa’s humanitarian needs I would like to address her questions directly. Perhaps you could assist through your column.

    1)Yes I have volunteered in Africa spending six months there first at a bush school in Zimbabwe providing teaching assistance then travelling on to a mission in South Africa that provided gardening tools donated in UK to pre-schools in the townships of Empangeni, Natal. It is shame that Ms Keet has not checked out the work of IHH with whom I travelled this year. IHH run numerous humanitarian projects in Africa including Congo where food distribution takes place during Ramadan and Qurban periods. The African countries IHH have completed substantial project work in include Ethiopia, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Chad, Cameroon, Sudan Darfur, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Rwanda, Tanzania, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Kenya. 2)In Darfur region alone IHH had completed 44 water wells, one school and five cultural centres. In addition to this in terms of emergency disaster relief five projects in Darfur Sudan have reached more than 100,000 beneficiaries. The total number of wells across 12 African countries is currently 633, with 40 cultural centres and 16 schools also being constructed. In addition to this in the past two years IHH have completed more than 50,000 cataract operations and undertaken more than 200,000 health screenings in African countries. 1580 orphans are supported across eight African countries. Since 2000, in Africa, during Ramadan more than 1 million beneficiaries receives food each year from IHH across 30 countries and during Qurban more than 2 million each year across 40 countries. 3)In Somalia IHH have completed 276 water wells, 13 cultural centres and four schools. In terms of disaster relief in Somalia six projects have reached a total of more than 100,000 beneficiaries.

    Ms Keet mentions UN and UNRWA, I am glad she does so, then Director of Operations in Gaza John Ging called for the international community to respond directly with aid because not enough aid had been getting through for him to be able to conduct his work. Speaking at UN in New York on 22nd April 2010 he reiterated the words of Ban Ki Moon in saying “the increases in access are a drop in the bucket” in relation to Gaza, see video at http://vodpod.com/watch/3481843-unrwa-john-ging-a-drop-in-the-bucket-for-gaza. He states “We are not able to accommodate thousands of children seeking a UN education… who by UN resolution have a right to a UN education, all refugees in Gaza have a right to education….we have not been allowed to build a school in Gaza in three years.” His comments are backed up by United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs special focus report May 2010, “UNRWA reports that it has had 24 construction and infrastructure projects, totalling some $109 million in donor funds, frozen as a result of the blockade.” p. 2, ‘Impeding Assistance: Challenges to Meeting the Humanitarian Needs of Palestinians’, May 2010, OCHA, http://www.ochaopt.org The report goes on to say that “sweeping import restrictions imposed by Israel since June 2007 have either prevented the implementation of planned humanitarian projects or resulted in significant delays….restrictions on the import of cement make impossible the reconstruction of 12,000 Palestinian homes damaged or destroyed by Israeli military operations in recent years, as well as a further 20,000 homes needed to accommodate natural population growth in the Gaza Strip.” p.4

    The report presents the fact that despite the high influx of donor aid to the region the operations are restricted to basic food and cash support which are inadequate to address the causes of humanitarian need creating greater reliance in future. In addition to the inefficiency this presents to donor countries also reported are additional blockade-related costs including lack of clarity on the goods allowed, restrictions on the number of crossings, restrictions in the containerising of goods and the lack of flexibility in terms of permits and vehicles. Let us not also forget that during Operation Cast Lead on 15th Jan 2009 the main UNRWA compound in Gaza City was shelled resulting in the destruction of hundreds of tonnes of food and medicine despite information on all UN locations being shared with IDF. The Board of Inquiry commissioned by Ban Ki Moon found that the Government of Israel was responsible for the death and injury of civilians in seven incidents during Cast Lead and as a result Israel paid US$10.5 million to the UN in January 2010.

    In regards to Eastern Congo I must admit I have not travelled there. Working as a supervisor of social workers in within the local authority in North London for youth offending services within children and families services I have worked with a number of Congolese boys whose childhoods had been disrupted there and who now live in UK. What drives them to join or form gangs in London, such as one gang named ‘Dem Africans’ due to the number of African boys identified as members? Could it be the disruption of their childhoods and the need for identity and a twisted sense of safety? Does this situation not sound similar to that experienced by the children of Gaza who end up joining brigades? Could Ms Keet perhaps direct me to some academic research that shows that reducing the life chances and opportunities for children helps them to become more moderate and better-tempered young people? As John Ging stated, again in his report to UN on 22nd April 2010, “This should be about the people, its time to put the people before the politics. If we do prioritise the people.. focus on the needs of the people…that will make the politics easier moving forward. Ignore the people, abandon the people, leave the people to despair and desperation and that will make the politics more difficult moving forward.”

    In relation to Ms Keet’s final questions: 1)No, there is no points system for grading suffering – we rely on UN resolutions and reports to indicate where problems may need resolution. 2)In relation to Africa please refer to the projects undertaken by IHH indicated above and see their website 3)No, there is no consideration of Palestinian blood above that of African – however when looking at statistics indicating at least 6,348 Palestinians and 1,072 Israelis have been killed since September 29, 2000, it would seem to indicate the value of Palestinian blood appears less than that of Israeli http://www.ifamericansknew.com/stats/deaths.html#source. 4)There is no reluctance to travel to Africa, I have done and so does IHH – I have however been working in my own community in London with disadvantaged groups for the past eight years 5)In suggesting that Jews are my enemy I am very puzzled – considering I work and socialise with Jews regularly in London and particularly in Palestine solidarity efforts where my co-driver on convoy in December 2009 was a Jewish woman – no, simply lawbreakers and human rights abusers are my concern

    Finally it is very kind of my father to describe me as compassionate however everyone seems to be missing my selfish motivations – I personally want to live in a safer world. And with Israel carrying on in the ways it does in persecuting the Palestinians with the complicity of Arab, US and UK governments alike, I certainly won’t be. May I also suggest, as she has such clear concerns over the plight of Africans, that Ms Keet seek out the IHH website volunteer application form and complete it offering her services, just as I did.

    Yours faithfully, Alexandra Lort Phillips

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