Thursday, June 16, 2011

NGO's and the sustainability of the conflict in Palestine

Yesterday morning I was discussing the work of NGO's in Palestine with a friend. We were standing in a farm next to the seashore in the north of Gaza Strip, when we saw and Israeli warship cruising in the sea. I paused for a minute and loudly wished that I could be the one sitting in the ship (minus 'war') instead of the Israeli soldier and enjoying the beautiful weather and breathtaking view..
Meh.. A lot to wish for.

A few weeks earlier, I was asked to speak in a global youth conference (LSU) in Stockholm about my experience as a young person from Gaza. I started the talk with a story that had happened to me a few days earlier- on the first day of the leadership exchange program (YLVP) that I was in Sweden for.

I was asked by someone which university I went to as an undergraduate, to which I answered: The American University in Cairo. "How did you afford it?" "My family paid, and I had a partial scholarship that covered some of the tuition fees."

"Aaah, that is the advantage of being from Gaza," he responded/offended, although unintentionally. I answered by saying that I got the partial scholarship because I had good high school grades, not because I come from Gaza. No, I did not receive the scholarship because "hometown" on my application evoked the sympathy of the scholarship office.

And that is a small example of how the world sees Gaza. It evokes their sympathy and reminds them of their human conscious because it makes them feel 'bad', and might cause them to shed a tear or two. The truly goodhearted donate money and please their conscious.

The western/global culture of philanthropy is evident and is not limited to Gaza/Palestine. But it seems like the majority of NGO's that operate in Gaza and the West Bank implement emergency/early recovery programs where/when they are not needed- because there's donor money, and it has to be spent (more like wasted). This, in the long term, created a vicious type of dependency on these INGO's/donors, and sustains nothing valuable (except for the dependency).

Don't get me wrong- some NGO's do great work in Palestine. I just disagree with their methods and strict donor regulations (trying to remain 'neutral'), and also believe that they take the responsibility off of Israel's shoulders, the occupier. In a world that respects international law, Israel would ideally be expected to at least meet the basic needs and build everything it destroys for the people its occupying.

So, Israel, you either stop occupying us, or you take full responsibility of your actions in our country.

Just a thought. You can find a lot of academic sources that further discuss this topic. Several books were suggested by readers of this blog:

Lukas suggested Linda Polmans' "The Crisis Caravan: What's wrong with humanitarian aid" and Taylor suggested Mary Anderson's "Do No Harm, Support Peace"

Thank you guys!


  1. Thanks for that entry - I often thought about exactly what you wrote. Am I taking responsibility off from Israel while working in Gaza with the Qattan Center? What would happen if ALL and I mean ALL international aid agencies NGO's would leave and spend their money to take Israel to its responsibility?

    I could recommend a book to you, if you wish. Linda Polman: "The crisis caravan: What's wrong with humanitarian aid" its not only about Palestine (I'm actually not sure if it is at all) but in general about so called humanitarian aid and how it is funding war or ethnic conflict ...

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Lukas, I actually hold a lot of respect for the Qattan Center and the great work they do.. (I was asked by the admin staff to write an article about the children's celebrations of Palestinian reconciliation a few weeks ago, you can find it at

    I can't help but also wonder what would happen if NGO's pull out and leave Israel 'alone.' It might lead to very 'interesting' developments.

    Thank you for commenting!

  3. Hi Yasmeen,

    Concerning your article about reconciliation and Qattan Kids, what do you think about Omar Barghoutis interview?

    Greetings to you!