Something truly shocking happened this week: A UN official publicly called out Hamas for “stealing from their own people and adding to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.” The shocking part is that someone from the UN actually bothered to comment. Usually, international officials prefer to ignore such malfeasance, lest admitting it undercut their claim that Palestinian suffering is Israel’s fault. Yet exacerbating Palestinian suffering is actually standard practice for both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, as demonstrated by several media reports from the past two weeks alone.
The incident that outraged Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, came to light last Friday when Israel suspended shipments of cement to Gaza’s private sector. A senior Hamas official had been confiscating sizable portions of those shipments for the organization’s own use – i.e., to build tunnels with which to attack Israel. By seizing cement earmarked for the private sector, Hamas was violating the terms set by international donors, who are funding Gaza’s reconstruction after the Hamas-Israel war of 2014. Moreover, as Mladenov pointed out on Monday, this cement is critically needed to rebuild the houses damaged or destroyed in that war and “to enable much-needed infrastructure and development projects” in impoverished Gaza, where the unemployment rate stood at 38.4 percent in fourth-quarter 2015. Hence, his rare outburst against Hamas.