When it comes to the polarizing issue of the $400 million of foreign aid the United States is giving to Palestine, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says, “There’s a new game in town.”

On January 7, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a new bill in the wake of Palestine’s application and recent acceptance to the International Criminal Court. Rand, Graham and their proponents argue that this action is in direct conflict with the one of United States’ three stipulations regarding aid to the West Bank, which is that the Palestinians will never seek to persecute Israel at the Hague.

Graham believes this bill presents a change in the dynamic between USAID, Palestine and Israel. Formerly, Israel fought against cutting assistance to Palestine and viewed international aid as an investment in national security and a movement toward the elusive “two state solution.” Rand and Graham now believe that it is time for the tide to turn in favor of a more aggressive statement.

“I cannot tell you the number of times the Israelis have engaged me to try to stop an emotional reaction by the Congress to terminate aid,” Graham said to Foreign Policy. “[But now] I’m going to lead the charge to make sure the Palestinians feel this.”

This aggressive approach is lauded as a defense of Israel, one of the United States’ closest allies. Yet research has shown that making the people of Palestine “feel” the loss of roughly $400 million could have the opposite effect, putting the civilians of the West Bank at a greater risk than ever before.

Primary defenders of the “cut aid” camp argue that aid to Palestine is akin to bankrolling the terrorist group Hamas. When they look at that $400 million, they see missiles pointed directly at Israel’s iron dome. What they do not see is the 515,000 Palestinian civilians who have been raised from poverty by the affordable water programs, infrastructural efforts and humanitarianism that flow from this aid.

According to an investigation done by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), USAID to Palestine has been carefully vetted and primarily channeled through in-kind efforts to change lives on the ground. In 2011, they found that the majority of aid was focused on the building of five hospitals, six clinics, the upgrade of 23 schools and the revamping of over 20 small- and medium-sized water systems. It was used to computerize hospitals in the main city of Mendabollah and provide 127,000 people with access to potable water.

“These aids are very helpful for us,” said Dr. Niha Sawaheh, head of the ER at the Palestinian Medical Center (a USAID project hospital) in Ramallah. “When they stop, they will affect us.”

What happens when the aid stops is not a theoretical question to Sawaheh. It is a recent memory. When the United States froze half of their allocated funds to Palestine in 2011, the hospital saw sharp declines in efficiency and diagnostic potential. After those cutbacks, the new, computerized CT system sat unused in Ramallah’s largest hospital, yet there was no discernible decline in Hamas-initiated bombings of Jerusalem.

Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian government, commented that “by such a decision, [Congress is] punishing the Palestinian public in education, and in health, in a way that is very, very difficult to understand.”

Research has shown that declines in public education, health and accessibility to necessities such as clean water have little effect on ethnically charged violence like that between the Israelis and Palestinians.

In their famous 2010 paper, Professors Christopher Blattman and Edward Miguel of the University of California Berkeley argue that “greed” or the desire to improve one’s living conditions by targeting another regime is a much more powerful incentive to violence than is “grievance” or deep-rooted primordialism. “At present,” they write, “the economic motivators for conflict are better theorized than psychological or sociological factors.”

Removing the programs that allow Palestinian civilians to live above the margin — where they do not have to live on Hamas’ assurance that the downfall of Israel will put water in their wells and computers in their hospitals — will not, as some argue, quench Hamas’ thirst for terror. Rather, it would push those who in better times would not raise arms to Israel to resort to those same desperate measures. From this perspective, it is likely that Israel (America’s ally) would be the one to feel the effects of the $400 million cuts, not the terrorist groups hell-bent on Israeli destruction.

As this bill and others like it move through Congress, there is no doubt heated debate over “our duty to Israel” and the “message we send to Hamas” will circulate. Yet from a national security standpoint, the answer is simple: $400 million can buy lasting infrastructural development, something that in 30 years will drive off more missiles than even the iron dome.

Emma Betuel

Sources: Berkley, NPR, Foreign Policy, Huffigton Post, Al-Monitor, GAO, FAS, Reuters
Photo: Caritas

Child's Cup Full Fights Poverty In Palestine - TBP

One in every two Palestinians is classified as poor. The loss of significant economic resources during the Israeli occupation, including 82% of the nation’s groundwater, has lead to significant damages to the Palestinian economy. The real gross domestic product in Gaza is 10% below its 2005 level, and 66% of the population in the West Bank struggles with food insecurity. In Palestine, and particularly in the West Bank and Gaza, conflict has caused great suffering.

Yet, in the face of suffering, there is hope.

Founded by the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa in 2008, Child’s Cup Full promotes the development of local enterprises in Palestine through the sale and manufacture of children’s toys. These toys are built by refugee women, who are trained and paid through the program. The training and payment of these women promotes the development of marketable skills, along with the creation of networks to further develop local markets.

In addition, proceeds from these sales go toward developing childhood development and education programs in communities reached out to by Child’s Cup Full.

The toys sold by Child’s Cup Full are educational and eco-friendly. In price, they range from a $5 set of building blocks to a $225 Darzeh heal. Each toy, crafted by Palestinian women and supporting both the training of adults and the education of children, holds infinite potential to change lives in Palestine. By promoting education, Child’s Cup Full works with great potential to break the cycle of refugee poverty in the West Bank.

Behind it all, Child’s Cup Full has one message: global poverty need not be an endless cycle. By fighting refugee poverty through economic development and education, Child’s Cup Full ends this cycle by empowering victims of global poverty.

Toys from Child’s Cup Full can be ordered at

– Andrew Michaels

Sources: Reuters, Child’s Cup Full, Read Little Muslims, Tulsa World
Photo: Child’s Cup Full

Over the course of the last 14 years, 1,500 Palestinian children have died at the hands of Israel. This high number could be in part of the fact that for children in the Palestine community, there is not a lot to do to occupy the time. With no extra activities around, children get involved in things they probably should stay away from, like protesting.

For example, every Friday since December of 2009, Nabi Saleh’s residents have marched in protest at the confiscation of their land and the consequences they are faced with are tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and occasionally even live fire. There have been more than 100 imprisonments of villagers since demonstrations began and a large proportion of these people are teenagers, who can be held for days, weeks or months.

To help alleviate this and save the children of Palestine from violence, founder of SkatePal, Charlie Davis, 27, had raised enough funds to build Palestine’s first ever skate park. SkatePal was created in 2012 and is a volunteer-run, nonprofit charitable organization. One of the main reasons Davis wanted to build a skate park here was to give the children something healthy to detract their attention from the violence going on in the community.

Currently, SkatePal has 12 volunteers but only two who live in Palestine. Among one of the two is 18-year-old Adham Tamimi, who says that if he wasn’t skating, he would “probably be involved in protests, drugs and stuff like that. But I don’t need drugs or any other stuff, like demos, to be a rebel, because skating is way more than just an extreme sport. It’s a lifestyle that I have to commit to.”

The second volunteer in Palestine is 16-year-old Aram Sabbah. He was involved in a protest in July in which thousands across the West Bank marched in protest against Israeli aggression toward Gaza. To show their protest, kids were throwing stones and when Sabbah ran out of stones to throw, he went to get more and was injured. The Israel Defense Forces blew a hole in Sabbah’s leg.

After the accident Sabbah, still skated around even on his crutches, which actually seemed to help him learn new tricks. In his good fortune, none of his bones were broken and his crutches will only assist him for a little longer.

Moving forward, Davis and his team of volunteers with SkatePal, will design and build three new skateparks throughout Palestine. Thus far, SkatePal is at about 75 percent of their donation goal, 15,000 pounds ($24,872.)

Brooke Smith

Sources: Vice, Washington’s Blog
Photo: Flickr

refuge in gaza
The number of displaced persons in Gaza has skyrocketed in the past week, leaving thousands of families without homes, food or protection from the violent conflict. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is utilizing all its available resources to aid Palestinians in dire need of protection and security. For example, U.N. schools provide a much-needed sanctuary for those seeking refuge in Gaza from the rain of missiles and military advances.

According to Christopher Gunness, the spokesman for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, the number of displaced persons has doubled, with the count rising from 22,000 to over 40,000 in merely one day.

Gunness describes the scope of the strife, saying, “This is a watershed moment for UNRWA, now that the number of people seeking refuge with us is more than double the figure we saw in the 2009 Gaza conflict.”

After 10 days of aerial and naval bombardment, the Palestinian Ministry of Health has reported more than 2,260 injuries, and the U.N. Protection Cluster maintains the current death count is at least 312 people, including at least 70 children.

UNRWA is offering asylum in the 44 schools located in Gaza. People staying at these schools receive one meal a day courtesy of UNRWA in conjunction with the World Food Program.

Along with the temporary safety provided by the U.N. schools, the U.N. is working to distribute non-food items to families’ housing relatives who are homeless due to the fighting.

The U.S. recently pledged $47 million in aid to Palestinians affected by the violence. According to the State Department, $15 million of this will be allotted to the UNRWA, and the remainder of it  “will be rechanneled to meet immediate needs.”

The U.S. donation will go toward meeting the UNRWA’s $60 million dollar request for international assistance.

Al Jazeera interviewed Robert Turner, the Director of Operations for UNRWA in Gaza, who voiced his concern, saying, “The speed with which this has happened is staggering.”

While the fighting and political tensions rage on in Gaza, the U.N. is focusing its attention on the innocent civilians most in need of assistance: the families and children without a safe place to ride out the storm of missiles.

-Grace Flaherty

Sources: Al Jazeera, UN News Centre
Photo: Aljazeera

palestinian children in gaza
The turmoil between Israel and Gaza is ramping up, as violence between the two nations escalates hourly. Rockets, bombs and aerial assaults punctuate the region more and more as hostilities increase, with no signs of de-escalation or avail.

The circumstances are claiming the health and lives of many, as more and more deadly weapons are detonated not just daily, but hourly. Both sides of the conflict are seeing gross casualties, injuries, displacement, and devastating psychological distress.

Gaza is one of the most densely populated regions in the world, with 1.7 million people inhabiting 139 square miles. The Israeli military has dropped leaflets over certain areas of the Gaza Strip, warning civilians to flee or find shelter because of a coming air strike. Though the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claim they do not want to hurt civilians, they released a statement saying that the civilians, “…must know that remaining in close proximity to Hamas terrorists and infrastructures is extremely unsafe.” Nevertheless, at  least 72 Palestinians were killed last month, including Palestinian children.

UNICEF describes the deadly situation and its effects on children in the area, reporting that 19 Palestinian children have been killed as a result of airstrikes in Gaza over the past three days. Countless other children have been injured by rocket attacks.

On Thursday, July 10, an air strike killed five children in Palestine.

Physical harm is not the only consequence of the violence. Mental distress and upset are also extremely threatening and damaging. There has been focus on Palestinian children in particular, especially by Save the Children, a prominent children’s charity based in Washington, D.C.

Osama Damo, a communications manager for Save the Children, says that Palestinian children are at risk of psychological distress and disorders at night, because, “Military operations often take place during the night.”

Among children, the psychological distresses resulting from the regional climate and circumstances include PTSD, behavioral issues, feelings of helplessness and fear, trauma and sleeping disorders.

Some child welfare organizations are acting throughout the region to provide protection for children during dangerous raids.

Although it is the holy month of Ramadan, Gaza City is deserted. Thousands of inhabitants have fled or remain hidden inside buildings, rendering the usually bustling city a ghost town. It is safer to remain inside than it is to risk injury outside.

“We feel so scared,” says 10-year-old Karmen. “It’s Ramadan now, and we want to enjoy the holiday.”

Though this deeply rooted conflict is claiming the lives of many, it is important to consider the innocent children on both sides.

– Arielle Swett

Sources: UNICEF, Aljazeera America 1, Aljazeera America 2, NPR, BBC
Photo: The Telegraph

medical aid
The World Health Organization warns of the critical medical situation within Palestine and the Gaza Strip. The four days of rocket attacks from both Palestine and Israel has left those in Gaza in a critical state.

The recent violence has increased medical emergencies, and the Palestinian healthcare system is struggling to cope with the new burden. WHO reported that large amounts healthcare debt, in addition to medical and fuel shortages, have severely crippled health services in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Unless the international community takes immediate action, Palestinians will not be able to have their basic medical needs met.

With the most recent strikes by Israel on Gaza on June 11, 2014, the death toll in Palestine has reached nearly 100. Over 570 people have been injured since the conflict started on July 6, 2014. Those in Gaza continue to fight back, and it appears that the conflict will only continue to escalate.

The fighting has weakened the already inadequate medical system in Palestine, and especially in Gaza. WHO is now making an international plea for funding and medical aid to help Palestinians receive urgent medical care.

To make matters worse, the hospitals in Gaza only have 10 days worth of fuel left to run the buildings. The lack of fuel is alarming, as the fighting continues to interrupt electricity. In an effort to conserve money, the hospitals are only performing operations on those in life-threatening conditions. Those with less threatening, but still serious, medical problems cannot receive treatment.

The Israeli airstrikes damaged a hospital, three clinics and a water sanitation facility in a refugee camp in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The organization reports that hospitals in East Jerusalem are struggling financially because of unpaid referral services, and there is a shortage of medications in both the West Bank and Gaza.

While the attacks on Israel have left multiple civilians injured, the poorer and militarily inferior Palestine is grappling to provide essential services for those injured and affected by the conflict.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health, with backing from WHO, is making a pressing appeal for $40 million in aid, enough to provide critical medical supplies for six months. The United Nations has also stepped in to help organize the relief effort.

The hope is that with numerous aid agencies involved in bringing the severity of the situation in Palestine into the international spotlight, hospitals will receive the supplies they need, and victims of the fighting will receive the care they desperately require.

– Kathleen Egan
Sources: The New York Times, WHO, Ma’an News Agency
Photo: The New York Times

israel and hamas
The third in a series of air strike conflicts since 2008 between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Operation Protective Eagle has been active for only two days, but has seen 430 Israeli air strikes, 41 Palestinian deaths and 160 rockets.

Late Tuesday, Hamas set off 40 long-range rockets, some of which were intercepted over Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There were no reports of injuries, but the attacks spurred the Israeli government to respond with even greater force. Israeli warplanes struck 150 sites said to harbor Islamist fighters in Gaza, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called up 40,000 reservists, so if it came to it, Israel would have the option of ground invasion.

Wednesday, Israel released at least 160 air strikes on Gaza. Hamas responded with just four rockets, one of which was an M302, the same type of missiles that were in a shipment Israel intercepted from Iran in March. Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Learner says even if Hamas forces pull back, Israel will not back down. “We’re beyond that point now,” he said to a CNN reporter. “Hamas are going to pay for the attacks that they’re carrying out – it’s just unacceptable.”

Israel tries to make up for the violence by warning Hamas targets of attacks. Occupants of a building about to be bombed are given a brief warning in Arabic to evacuate – usually around five minutes before being bombed – in Israel’s efforts to reduce civilian casualties and avoid charges of indiscriminate killings. These targeted houses belong to Hamas members involved in military activity, and many have been used as operations rooms.

This isn’t the first time Israel has practiced this policy. During Operation Cast Lead in late 2008, Israel used telephone calls and leaflets to tell occupants to leave before striking, or they fired missiles without explosive warheads onto the roof as a warning to leave before the real missile came. But, often the warnings are in vain, and groups like Human Rights Watch have criticized the attempts because they can’t truly pardon armed forces from their actions. Often, people die from the attacks anyway because they defy the warnings or don’t leave in time, and sometimes missiles don’t hit the building at which they were aimed.

Operation Protective Eagle seems like just a repeat of history, following Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. But this time, it looks like Israel is getting stronger, while Hamas’s position is weakening. Israel’s new defense against rocket attacked, based on the Iron Dome system, is more sophisticated. So far, in this attack, no injuries or deaths have been reported from the Israel side. Meanwhile, Hamas lacks allies it once had – Hizbollah and Syria – because of the Syrian war, and its alliance with Iran is under strain. Because it didn’t support President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Hamas has seen a sharp drop in financing from Iran. Israeli experts warn to also be careful of a weakened Hamas though, as it could lead to extremism.

– Rachel Reed

Sources: Reuters, CNN, New York Times, Telegraph Blog New York Times (2)
Photo: Reuters

Israeli Aggression Representatives of Islamic countries declared they would ask the Security Council to condemn Israeli aggression in the West Bank. Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour, as well as the ambassadors from the League of Arab States, Senegal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iran, requested the Security Council to take action against Israel. Since three Israeli teenagers, 16-year-olds Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach, were abducted on June 12 while hitchhiking at night from Gush Etzion, Israel has assembled hundreds of Palestinians trying to find the teenagers. When Frenkel’s mother heard the news, she was praying that he simply did something irresponsible or stupid and he would be home soon. “But I know my boy isn’t stupid, and he isn’t irresponsible.” Unfortunately, on June 20, the bodies of the missing Israeli teens were found near Hebron, and Israel has taken violent action to retaliate against the teens’ deaths. Jeffrey Feltman, U.N. Secretary for Political Affairs, stated the United Nations is alarmed by the increasing death toll that is a result of Israeli aggression in the West Bank. Feltman calls for “restraint in carrying out the security operations in strict compliance with international law” and for Israel to not punish Palestinians for crimes they have not individually committed. Sheikha Alya Bint Ahmed Bin Saif al Thani said Qatar was “joining in solidarity with Palestine in also deploring the acts of aggression committed by Israel, the occupying power, against the Palestinian people.” She continued to say, “They are grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.” She claims that Israeli aggression in the West Bank and the air strikes in Gaza are justifications for the Security Council to take action. She said her representatives would work with the representative of Jordan to “see what could be done.” “Instead of denouncing the boys’ abduction, the Arab states have the gall to stand before the international community and criticize Israel,” said Israel ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor. He argued that the Arab nations are oppressive and aggressive, and they have no business in accusing Israel of human rights violations. They kill innocent people around the world and they are committing human rights violations in Syria. He asked global leaders to imagine being in Israel’s position. “Imagine if it were your cities were under fire and your citizens under harms way. No nation should live under these conditions, and no nation should be asked to submit to terrorist groups. The only responsible course of action is to denounce terror groups and their supporters. And this is exactly what we should all be doing,” Prosor concluded. This situation has demonstrated how complicated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is. Most Israelis see the missing teenagers as harmless civilians abducted on a hitchhike home from school, and the Palestinians who were killed as having done something to deserve it. On the other hand, Palestinians claim that the suppression is unjust collective punishment against people living under illegal occupation. – Colleen Moore Sources: The New York Times, International Business Times, The Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, Worthy News, NDTV Photo: Israel Hayom