Gaza Is A Humanitarian Crisis – Not a “Photo Op”

Ed Morrissey peddles quite the conspiracy theory:

Israel accused the UN Relief and Works Agency of deliberately staging a situation where the IDF had to turn back aid shipments, for the benefit of photographers the UNRWA arranged to have at Kerem Shalom crossing. The UN agency deliberately sent material that had not yet been approved by the IDF for transfer into Gaza, forcing the Israelis to hold up half of the trucks at the transfer point.

By this account — and I shudder to think that Ed might agree with me here — Hamas’ unconscionable seizure of aid supplies from UNRWA was probably actually orchestrated by UNRWA, those conniving double-crossers.

Listen. UNRWA is in Gaza to try to alleviate a dire humanitarian situation. Despite all of the flak (and sometimes more) that it gets from skeptics and outright opponents, UNRWA is working in one of the most difficult places in the world to provide one of the only avenues of life-saving supplies that Gazans can rely on. In that light, what irks me more about Ed’s dastardly post is this flippant characterization of the situation in Gaza:

It also produces a question about UNRWA’s priorities. If the humanitarian situation is so poor in Gaza, why the emphasis on paper and plastic rather than food, water, and clothing? Israel notes that they want to focus on those items above ancillaries like notepads and school binders. Shouldn’t a relief agency be similarly focused?

Get that? “If the humanitarian situation is so poor in Gaza.” This sets up a troubling conditional, and Ed quickly makes clear on which side he sees the balance weighted — if UNRWA is requesting paper and plastic bags (the delivery of which was inexplicably still “under consideration” by Israel, a point that Ed conveniently elides), then Gaza must not be in a “serious” humanitarian catastrophe. Setting aside the fairly obvious, if easily overlooked, importance of such supplies, their provision by UNRWA does not of course mean that the agency is not providing essentials like food, water, and clothing. I choose not to imagine where hundreds of thousands of Gazans would find themselves without UNRWA aid — and to what level the situation would have to deteriorate before tendentious commenters like Ed are willing to admit a humanitarian emergency.