The following guide was inspired by a report by the Government of Israel, summarizing Israel’s humanitarian activities for the Gaza Strip in 2009 and at the start of 2010, which was submitted yesterday to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee.
- Take things out of context. When you say that, “41 truckloads of equipment for the maintenance of the electricity networks were transferred”, you do not need to mention that those spare parts were waiting for many months for clearance, and that, at the end of 2009, the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company reported that 240 kinds of spare parts were completely out of stock or had dipped below the required minimum stock. Likewise, “There was a significant increase in the number of international organization staff entering the Gaza Strip” does not require explanation that, were the productive sector in Gaza not almost completely paralyzed, so many aid workers would not be needed and the number of aid recipients would not be so high. You also don’t need to explain that the high number of staff you quote might be misleading, since it’s likely you are counting individual entrances and not unique visitors (the same international aid workers enter and exit multiple times per month).
- Demonstrate impartiality. Present the transfer of 44,500 doses of swine flu vaccine as having nothing to do with you. There is always a chance people will forget it is a border-transcending epidemic and that the head of the Gaza District Coordination Office himself said an outbreak in Gaza would endanger Israel.
- Make it look like you are paying the bill. Use vague language such as “In 2009, Israel continued to supply electricity to the Gaza Strip”. Count on the fact that most people don’t know that Israel charges full payment for the electricity by deducting the amount from the VAT and taxes it collects for the Palestinian Authority via import into its territory.
- Take credit for the work of others. Note that “Between April and October 2009, maintenance work was conducted on the power station by Siemens” and “In 2009, the international community transferred 141,390 tons of humanitarian aid” are your successes too. These actions were undertaken after you decided in a unique instance to lift the restrictions you imposed yourself. You deserve credit even for the summer camps UNRWA runs for children in Gaza: in an exceptional measure you did not prevent the transfer of musical instruments and other items you define as “non-humanitarian” (such as ice cream machines and swimming pools).
- Make sure to even present your failures as successes. “As part of the preparations for winter” you approved the transfer of glass. Even if you did so only after external parties exerted heavy pressure on you, even if you had to make an exception to a prohibition you imposed for two winters, even if you started transferring the glass only on December 29 (long after winter weather had already begun battering destroyed homes in Gaza), and even if you continue preventing the transfer of heaters – present the transfer of glass as your success.
- Make sure to use headlines that will stun your readers. “The activities of the private and banking sectors in the Gaza Strip are maintained”. With a headline like that, few are likely to realize you are talking about maintaining an economy that has been at an almost complete standstill for nearly three years, with more than 90% of the factories closed or working at minimal capacity, because Israel has been preventing the transfer of raw materials. The headline “Over the years, Israel has kept the issue of public humanitarian infrastructure out of the conflict” will also obscure the Cabinet Decision to restrict the transfer of industrial diesel fuel to the power plant, which is crucial to the functioning of the water and sewage systems and other vital infrastructure, in an attempt to pressure the Hamas government.
- Use vague terminology. Choose words such as “transferred” and “were transferred”. This way, some people will understand that “Over 1.1 billion NIS were transferred to the Gaza Strip to cover the salaries and activities of international organizations” came out of Israel’s pocket and not, as actually happened, that Israel simply did not prevent the PA and international organizations from transferring the money through the border crossings under Israel’s control, in a rare exception to its restrictions on cash transfers and on the banking system in Gaza.
- Use visual tricks. State the number of individual flowers you allowed to Gaza farmers to export (9,782,076). This method can become problematic only if you mention that the potential for export is 55 million individual flowers per year, or that in 2006, 2,089 tons of strawberries were exported (compared to only 54 tons in 2009). 105,701,740 liters of industrial diesel fuel (according to COGAT’s 2009 report) sounds like a respectable amount when you state it in individual liters, but is a little less respectable when you discover that it amounts to only 57% of the amount required for maximum electricity production at the Gaza power plant.
- You do not have to reveal everything. Play down the extent and nature of your control of the Gaza Strip‘s border crossings, including indirect but substantial control of the Rafah Crossing.
Don’t be so modest! You play a central role in the humanitarian situation in Gaza.