Friday, 13 February 2009


UNRWA has been looking after us all of our time in Gaza, ferrying us around in 3 cars. We stop for a brief meeting with the boss, Karen Abu Zayd, who is American. She has quite a job.

Given that UNRWA is so crucial to the survival of people in Gaza I wondered how it worked with the civil administration. The answer was that it doesn't, but seems to work in parallel. The UN Sec-Gen is part of the Quartet and its policy opposes contact with Hamas. No doubt there are informal contacts. She confirmed my impression that rubbish was being collected more effectively by the administration and said that crime was almost non-existent. "They are well organised and disciplined."

Naturally we discussed the pressing need to open the crossings and let normal economic activity recommence. You do wonder just what it will take to persuade the Israelis to do this.

Besides distributing humanitarian aid, UNRWA runs more than 200 schools for the children of refugees, while the Palestinian Authority runs 300. The curriculum of both is the same. I expressed surprise, given the social agenda of Hamas, that attempts had not been made to change it, but she assured me that this was not the case.

She claimed that Hamas has been surprisingly positive towards the political involvement of women. In some ways they had been better than Fatah which was rather male and old fashioned in its attidues.

A final note. The Israeli actions seem to have stirred huge hostility and cries for action to secure a change in policy from across the world. I asked whether she had detected a similar change in attitude amongst the political decision takers she met. "Oh yes," she replied.

"Well," I said, "that's the best news I have heard in the past 3 days."

1 comment:

Linda Jack said...

Thanks for keeping us all uptodate with this Chris and for all you are doing to keep this important issue on the agenda.