Is there a humanitarian crisis in Gaza that needs Turkish or Iranian support? Not according to Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times, who wrote just last week, "Visiting Gaza persuaded me, to my surprise, that Israel is correct when it denies that there is any full-fledged humanitarian crisis in Gaza." Based on independent statistics, it seems that perhaps the Gazans should send humanitarian help to the people of Turkey and Iran, not the other way around. An even closer examination of the issue shows that what Gazans desperately need is a political change, not bodily sustenance.
Recently, seemingly compassionate and well meaning individuals and organizations (well, some of them at least) loaded a flotilla of ships bound for Gaza with humanitarian aid for the Palestinians under an Israeli maritime blockade. The ships carried food, medicines and other supplies the organizers thought the Gazans badly needed. (Rockets, explosives and ammunition were left behind. The Gazans have plenty).
Do the Gazans really need the humanitarian cargo? Unlikely. Look at the facts: Although Gaza is probably the densest area in the world, its residents seem to fare much better than the world's average on many key factors, and definitely better than Iran or Turkey. Let's start with the basics. Infant mortality: In Iran 35.8 out of 1,000 babies die at birth or during their first year, probably due to poor health care for mother and child. In Turkey the rate is 25.78 dead babies per 1,000 live births. What is the rate in Gaza? 18.35 deaths per 1,000, almost half of the rate in Iran and 30% less than that of Turkey. And how long are the surviving babies expected to live? In Gaza, to age 73.42, in Iran to age 71.14 and in Turkey to age 71.8.
Another relevant indicator is literacy rate, which reflects the country's investment in education. In Gaza the literacy rate is 91.9%, but in Turkey it's 88.7% and in Iran only 82.3%.
Interestingly, twice as many Palestinians living in the Palestinian Autonomy in the West Bank live above the poverty line than do their brothers in Gaza. This is likely because of the economic cooperation and almost completely open economic borders between Israel and the Autonomy. Cooperation has its benefits.
Is Gaza a paradise? Hardly. There are poor people, high unemployment and a growing uncertainty regarding the future. But there are also rich people - very rich indeed, like in any other society. In fact, in many respects, the Palestinians in Gaza are better off than their brothers in refugee camps in Lebanon who, for example, cannot even build new houses in the refugee camps under a Lebanese government ban.
Nonetheless, Palestinians in Gaza live in a pressure cooker. Their borders are sealed on all sides, by Israel and by Egypt, which doesn't want any Islamic Brotherhood supporters from Gaza stirring more violence in Egypt. Hamas's ideological partners assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Saadat and promise the same fate to his successors. On the other side of the border is Israel, which can't be expected to feed the mouth that bites it (although much of the world's media and people with an agenda seem to suggest that it do just this).
If you still wonder why Israel blockades the Gaza Strip and permits only goods that cannot support terror into the area, think of the 8,000 rockets, mortars and missiles that were fired indiscriminately from Gaza on Israeli civilian villages and towns, at a time that no part of the Gaza Strip was held by Israel. Israel's subsequent 2008 attack on the Gaza Strip in operation Cast Lead significantly reduced the Palestinians' will to continue shelling Israel.
Israel's continued blockade is intended to guarantee that additional weapons and ammunition do not enter Gaza, should the Palestinians' will to attack Israeli civilians ever reemerge. There is also the matter of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped from Israeli territory and held hostage by Hamas for the past four years. Has he received humanitarian help? Humanitarian attention maybe? Perhaps allowed a single visit by the Red Cross? Don't hold your breath. Hamas is not held to any humanitarian standard by the humanitarian aid flotilla organizers.
Is there hope for change in Gaza? Not until Hamas, a designated terror organization, is thrown out of power by the Palestinian people, or until Hamas ceases to be an Iranian agent in the region with a declared intention to destroy Israel. Its Charter spells it out clearly: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
Palestinians in Gaza don't need those shipments any more than Iran and Turkey do. The aid the Palestinians actually need from the outside in order to effect long-term change is guidance and help to change their political plight -which brings misery to many - not shipments of bags of flour and rice.
So, why were Turkish and Iranian organizations sending token humanitarian aid to Gaza when their own people are needier? They probably never heard of the Old Jewish Sages' proverb concerning charity: The poor in your own city come first. However, those sending the flotilla to Gaza certainly listened to the immortal words Mario Puzo wrote for the Mafia Godfather Don Coreleone: "It's all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it's personal as hell."
The conclusion is painfully clear: It's not a brotherly love for the Palestinians that motivated the Turkish and Iranian organizations and their backers, but their hatred for the Israelis and cynical political maneuvering on the backs of the Palestinians, abandoned by their Islamic brothers for 62 years and counting. Not only the pawn of Hamas, the Palestinians are now being further exploited by the Turks and Iranians.