|Tony Blair, the Quartet’s Special Envoy, cancelled a trip to Gaza, where 80 per cent of Palestinians are either partially or totally dependent on food aid [GALLO/GETTY]|
Tomorrow [Friday, September 26, 2008], some of the world’s most powerful leaders are coming together in New York. The EU, US, Russia and the UN (also known as the Quartet) are meeting with the aim of bringing an end to the Middle East conflict.
If I were with you in New York…
As I think about this, I begin conjuring a dream in my mind. In this dream, I have left the Gaza Strip, where I am an aid worker and also a Palestinian suffering the effects of the blockade here.
I close my eyes tighter and I am on a plane flying to New York. After arriving, I am suddenly free, standing in front of these leaders, ready to deliver the most important speech of my life. My hands are trembling slightly. I re-adjust my collar, take a sip of water and clear my throat. I step up towards the dimly lit pedestal and start reading my speech.
Address to the Quartet
“Ladies and gentlemen, honourable members of the Quartet, I come to you today, all the way from a tiny bit of land called the Gaza Strip.
“I come to you to have a frank and honest talk. I come to you dressed in my working clothes, the clothes of a Palestinian humanitarian worker, a water engineer, whose life revolves around providing relief to people in Gaza who continue to suffer.
“I come to you as a witness. I have witnessed my own people die because they have been denied access to medical treatment in Israel. I have witnessed families having to defecate into their sewage sodden homes because vital equipment needed for our systems cannot get through the blockade. I have witnessed families drinking disease- ridden water for the same reasons. I have witnessed too much.
Post-Annapolis – broken promises
“When you met nearly a year ago in Annapolis, I witnessed from afar you telling the world how Palestinians and Israelis would achieve peace with your help. You said you would help to reform the Palestinian Authority, would call on Israel to stop expanding the settlements, ease the restrictions and the harsh policy towards the occupied Palestinian territory, you made many more promises…
“…We are still waiting for these promises to become a reality.
Palestinians dependent on food aid
“Some say the humanitarian situation for us is not that bad, because we are not dying of hunger, because we do not go around wearing rags. But I am sure that you know how difficult it is for workers and families to cope right now. Your own statistics state that some 80 per cent of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are either partially or totally dependent on food aid.
“But even humanitarian agencies in Gaza are struggling. They feel that even they have to negotiate and beg to get the materials into Gaza so that they can carry out their vital work. So many humanitarian projects have been stalled because of this, including the water and sanitation projects I am due to work on. So where are the improvements you promised almost a year ago? We have been dealing with the withering effects of the blockade and we cannot foresee an end to it. Why is that so?
A simple request
“Give us our rights and freedom. We cannot put bread on our tables with promises alone.
“I wonder, would you accept it if you saw the economy and the health and education systems going awry; if it was happening to your people in Washington, Geneva, Moscow or Brussels?
“Traditionally, if you have a problem in the community, somebody will come and act as a mediator. You, leaders, are the mediator. You brought us together to reach a peace agreement before the end of this year.
The ball is in your court
“You, leaders, got the ball rolling but did not sit long enough at the table to see it through. The ball is still in your court – it is time for you to pick it up again.
“Now come and take a seat next to me and do not show me your backs.”
Further reading: A report has been produced by a coalition of 21 agencies, including Oxfam, The Middle East Quartet; A Progress Report, which has been published on Thursday, September 25, 2008.
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