August 24, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 3185

Ali Salem: The Aid Convoys to Gaza Are a Sham

August 24, 2010
Palestinians, Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 3185

Following reports that many medicines and medical supplies brought to Gaza by the various aid convoys were unusable, renowned Egyptian playwright Ali Salem wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the convoys were a sham, and expressed doubt as to their ability to bring about the liberation of Palestine. He argued that it is the internal bickering among the Palestinians that is keeping them from actualizing their rights, and that only serious diplomatic efforts can bring about the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Following are excerpts:[1]

Every Wedding Has a "Phony Celebrator"

"The term 'phony celebrator' is well known and always accompanied by the sentence, 'Forget about him!' which is to say, ignore him or pay no heed to his actions, [because] they have no importance or worth whatsoever... What are the basic characteristics of the 'phony celebrator'? Is he a kind of person who is only capable of lying at celebrations and weddings? In other words, is he a liar who specializes in his field only in joyous circumstances? Or do such circumstances by their very nature cause some liars to threaten the natural joy of the people [celebrating]?...

"At a wedding celebration, [all] the guests are merry, except for those who criticize everything in whispers: [complaining that] the groom's face is glum and the bride is repugnant, the voices of the singers are strident, and the bride and groom's relatives are swarming the buffet, which is not worthy of their [appetites]... These [critics] are completely frank in their deep hatred of those same moments during which others are merry.

"The 'phony celebrator' is the total opposite of this. He is inclined toward over-enthusiasm and gets excited over everything at the wedding, trying to become a central part of it. But if you follow him, you will immediately see that he is insincere. He is not truly merry. [Moreover,] he is extremely tense due to his incapacity to be truly merry. He shouts gleefully, cheers the singer and the orchestra, [heaps] loud praises upon the families of the groom and bride, sternly [reprimands] the workers there... He does everything to prove his own special importance...

"Celebrations are not limited to weddings. In all areas, especially political ones, a celebration is held from time to time in honor of some leader or event, and there is always the question of whether the celebration is appropriate. Is this a celebration of something real, or is it a phony celebration, the product of the 'phony celebrators'?

The Delivery of Expired Medicines – A Crime

"Last week, the doctors in Gaza who were in charge of receiving the medicines from the aid convoys... and of distributing them to the hospitals, announced that 70% of these medicines were months, or years, past their expiration dates. They also received Tamiflu pills – a medicine for swine flu, which has already passed through the region and the world – worth an estimated three million dollars (or 30 [million] – I do not remember exactly...). The same is true of the dialysis machines, which were useless. Another gift sent by one of the Arab countries was described as cruel. What was this gift? Shrouds. Yes, short shrouds of white cloth, 125 centimeters long. Was there ever a gift in such poor taste? The doctors added that they had given [the delegations] a list of 125 types of medicine that had run out in all of the [Gaza] hospitals, but they did not receive even one of these. Our problem now, [the doctors said,] is to find a garbage dump where we can dispose of or bury the spoiled cargo. We must get rid of it safely, so that it does not pose a threat to people or the environment.

"That was all the Gazan doctors said. I imagine that they took great pains to choose [neutral] words and not interpret what had happened. I am obliged to point out their courage in stating the truth about what happened, even if they withheld the names of those who had given them the shrouds, the [broken] machines and expired medicines... 70% of the medicines that reached the people of Gaza were expired! In an Arab pharmacy [anywhere else], if even a single bottle of medicine were found to be expired, its owner would be brought to trial!"

The Doctors in Gaza Must Tell the Whole World Who Sent the Tamiflu that No One Needs any Longer, which Arab Country Sent the [Funeral] Shrouds"

"The story is not over yet. The doctors in Gaza must tell the whole world who sent the Tamiflu that no one needs any longer, which Arab country sent the shrouds, and who sent the [dead] machines. We must know who donated to whom, who bought from whom, and who was paid by whom to send Tamiflu to Gaza. Do you still insist that you wanted to help the residents of Gaza and lift the siege?...

"The convoys did not lack people with good intentions. But the 'phony celebrators' succeeded in turning [convoys] into a great and harmful lie. The siege does not need to be lifted only from Gaza, but from all the Palestinians. This will not happen as long as the Palestinians are ruled by two governments at war with one another. I imagine that the announcement of the doctors in Gaza about this disgraceful tragedy constitutes a message to a large number of [people] who trade in the Palestinian cause. In fact, [the doctors] are saying to [tell these people]: Gentlemen, do not help us. Cease your efforts to lift the siege from us...

"One of the rules of mail throughout the world is that a letter is returned to its sender when the addressee cannot be located, or if the addressee refuses to accept it. This is exactly what I am asking [the Gazans] to do with all the machines and medicines that are unusable: return them to the sender. There must surely be legal ways of doing so. I do not believe that Egypt would object to the medicines, machines, and shrouds passing through the Rafah crossing [back] to their countries of origin.

"The Palestinian cause is a matter of national liberation. Only serious diplomatic action will bring about the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of a free state. As for those actions definable as [mere] shows, they corrupt politics just as they spoiled the joy of the doctors in Gaza [who received expired] medicines and shrouds. The worst humanitarian activism are those shows which take place far from the theater, as they are bound solely by the rules of the stage, which is to say by deception. When I offer you medicine on the stage, it does not necessarily have to be real or usable since it is only a stage prop – but in reality, such [an act] is considered a crime."[2]


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 25, 2010.

[2] Saleh Hamida, who writes on the Hamas-affiliated website, also harshly criticized the sending of expired medicines and children's shrouds: "It would appear that there is a group of Arab merchants and politicians who are striving to exploit the suffering of the Gazans by sending this aid and by turning the [Gazans'] lives into a commodity to be traded in." He added that these medicines and shrouds reflected an old Arab-Israeli desire "to see the Gazans in shrouds.", July 24, 2010.

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