"Attempts to tell the story of what is happening to normal citizens inside Gaza today, quickly become the target of polemic over what is the cause and what is the effect, around the correct sequencing of events and responses, over the language used and so on and so forth," presciently begins the opening paragraph of the foreword of a United Nations report released this week on humanitarian conditions in Gaza 10 years after Hamas took control of the territory ("Gaza Ten Years Later"). Robert Piper, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development in the Occupied Palestinian territory, is signed at the bottom of the foreword.
Indeed, underscoring the polemical nature of much the discussion surrounding the conditions in the Gaza Strip, and the reasons for those difficult conditions, is a July 11 Reuters interview with Piper himself, published on the occasion of the release of the very same report ("Gaza 'unliveable' ten years after Hamas seized power: U.N.")
A careful read of both the U.N. report and the Reuters interview, conducted by Reuters' Jerusalem bureau chief Luke Baker, reveals a glaring gap between the two. While the U.N. report notes the thousands of Hamas rocket attacks, Hamas' military buildup and its attack tunnel infrastructure, the terror group's successful and attempted kidnappings, and its weapons smuggling, the interview is completely mum on these topics. The Reuters interview with Piper includes not a word about why Israel "moved to isolate the militant group by restricting the flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza, limiting access to the sea and working with Egypt to enforce a blockade."
The closest that the interview comes to acknowledging Hamas hostilities towards Israel, which are clearly a factor contributing to the territory's current conditions, and which the report in question itself addressed, is the following:
Asked who was doing the strangling, he replied:
"Everyone's having a go," mentioning internal Palestinian political strife, Israeli security policies that leave Gazans caught in the middle, and regional dynamics including pressure on Qatar, a major donor to Hamas, from Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
"That's the message in this report, the fundamental message: Someone has got to step back and put the interests of civilians at the top of the queue for a change," Piper said.
"Everyone's" at fault, said Piper, but the interview includes not a word about Hamas attacks on Israel and investment in attack tunnels instead of infrastructure.
In contrast, the report (page 7) details:
A further impediment to access and movement has been the military build-up in Gaza by Hamas and other militant groups, which continued and intensified over the past decade, including the development, stockpiling and firing of rockets capable of reaching deep into Israel and the construction of sophisticated tunnels used for kidnapping and terrorist attacks in Israel. Israel has repeatedly reported that Hamas uses the movement of civilians and goods to smuggle weapons, money and other material for its military purposes.
On the next page, the report brakes down the access and movement restrictions into three distinct phases. In Phase 1 (2007 to 2010), the U.N. report states: "The initial and most severe phase followed a year of gradual tightening of access restrictions in the wake of the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Hamas in June 2006. The period also saw some 6,500 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel."
Under Phase II (2010 to 2014), the report states: "This period, which includes the conflicts of 2012 and 2014, saw more than 11,800 rockets and mortars fired towards Israel."
And Phase III (2014 to present): "Since 205, some 200 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel."
The section of the report called "Recurrent Hostilities" (page 11) likewise notes Hamas belligerence and attacks: "shelling of Israel with rockets and massive air and land attacks from Israel on Gaza," "Israeli incursions and airstrikes in response to rocket fire from Hamas in Gaza," and (page 12): "During the same period, Hamas carried out campaigns of rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel and continued to construct sophisticated tunnels for terrorist and kidnapping operations inside Israel." (Emphases added.)
On page 27, the report states: "Israel has claimed that militant groups in Gaza have made continuous efforts to smuggle weapons and materials for weapons through the sea, including by using the fishing boats."
Nevertheless, Hamas rocket attacks, military build-up, kidnapping and weapons smuggling did not warrant a single mention in the interview with Piper about the U.N. report examining humanitarian conditions in the territory.
Did Piper leave out the Hamas rocket attacks, the military buildup, the successful and attempted kidnappings, and the weapons smuggling, or did Reuters? CAMERA put that question to Reuters' Luke Baker. His response? "We let our reporting speak for itself."