I have spent much of my career investigating and documenting alleged human rights abuses by both Israelis and Palestinians. Growing up in the Shuafat refugee camp, I have seen the cost of this never-ending conflict first hand. But while Israelis are far from blameless, they are not always guilty of the allegations levied against them. This is the case with Coronavirus conditions and the blame that some are trying to shift onto the shoulders of Israel. This is too important to not speak truthfully about it. Palestinians are sick and dying and the fault is not with Israel, but with the corrupt and inept so-called governments that oversee our homes.
Over the last 30 years, Palestinians have been far and away the largest recipients of development and humanitarian assistance in the world – more than any other people or nation. Yet our people still suffer. It’s not a lack of funds that is the problem. It is corruption and criminal mismanagement of those funds that leaves our people helpless in the face of this pandemic. The billions of dollars in aid that was meant to build a public health infrastructure was instead squandered by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. They are the reason why we are so ill-prepared to fight this virus.
Officials from both the PA and Hamas have tried to distract us from the truth by pointing the finger and our Jewish neighbors. In a statement at the start of the crisis, the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s official spokesperson claimed Israel is “striving for the epidemic’s spread in Palestine” and “attempting to approach our laborers and mingle with them in order to transfer the disease to them”. But we will not have the wool pulled over our eyes. Palestinians would be in a much better position if only our leaders had spent aid money where it was intended instead of lining their own pockets or funding terrorist activity that only further destabilizes the region.
In the face of a pending global economic disaster, the PA made the shameful decision to prioritize payments to terrorists over salaries for teachers and public servants. Under PA leadership, people who serve our communities play second fiddle to those who sow disorder and mayhem. This is all the more disturbing when you consider the sum of $350 million per year spent on a “pay for slay” program, which provides monthly stipends to terrorists and the families of terrorists who murder Jews. It has been reported the PA allocates six times more money to terrorist benefits than to social welfare programs. Similarly, Hamas spends at least $100 million per year in Gaza on terrorist activities. Think of the PPE, ventilators, and eventually vaccines we could buy with that money instead.
While scapegoating Israel is far from an original tactic, it is particularly harmful now when we should all be coming together to combat this pandemic. Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate between Arabs and Jews and neither should our public health efforts. The PA and Hamas’ efforts to hide their own ineptitude behind prejudice is transparently despicable. I, for one, won’t be falling for it.