Written by: Abdel Ghani Salameh

Jointly organized by Jordan, Egypt, and the United Nations, Jordan hosted the “Gaza Emergency Humanitarian Response Conference” at the Dead Sea on June 11th, 2024. The conference saw the participation of state leaders, heads of government, and leaders of international humanitarian and relief organizations. The conference aimed to adopt practical measures for the immediate, safe, and sustainable delivery of humanitarian and medical aid to the Gaza Strip. It sought to determine the steps for the international community’s response to the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, address the operational and logistical needs, provide various types of necessary support, and adopt a unified position on the human tragedy in Gaza. The conference included three working groups focusing on: (1) Providing humanitarian aid to Gaza; (2) overcoming the challenges facing aid delivery and protecting civilians; and (3) achieving early recovery for the region.

Former Egyptian ambassador to Tel Aviv, Atef Salem, stated, “The conference is a revealing test for the international community, confronting each party with its role and responsibility as Israel continues to exterminate, displace, destroy, and starve innocent civilians inside the Gaza Strip.” He added, "Egypt, Jordan, and the United Nations hold Israel legally and morally responsible, as the occupying power, for ensuring a safe environment for humanitarian workers and delivering sufficient relief aid to the Palestinians in Gaza." He pointed out that this is based on the request of the International Court of Justice, which called for the full opening of crossings to deliver aid into Gaza and address the starvation policy pursued by Israel against the Strip.

According to the organizers, the conference is part of Egyptian, Jordanian, and international efforts to relieve the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza. It also aims to support the Palestinian cause and coordinate joint international efforts to address the conditions resulting from the aggressive war. President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the invitation from King Abdullah of Jordan, President Sisi, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to attend the conference. This conference is part of the tireless efforts by Egypt and Jordan to end the aggression, prevent the forced or voluntary displacement of Palestinians from their homeland, and resolve the Palestinian issue based on international legitimacy by establishing an independent Palestinian state on the borders of June 4th, 1967.

Despite the importance of this conference, particularly for the people of Gaza suffering from unprecedented aggression and a severe national and humanitarian catastrophe, it raises many controversial points. Firstly, it is not the first of its kind. It was preceded by the “Cairo Peace Summit” held last October with wide Arab and international participation. The “Arab-Islamic Summit,” held in Riyadh a month later with the presence of 57 Arab and Islamic countries, called for an immediate end to the war and the introduction of relief aid into the Gaza Strip. However, the aggression did not stop, and the delivery of aid remained subject to Israel’s approval. As a result, a large part of the Gaza Strip suffered from famine, and the massacres continued, with the number of martyrs exceeding 37,000 and twice as many wounded. Such a conference will only further expose the policies of some Western countries that align with the occupation, their double standards, and the silence of Arab and Islamic countries. These countries will most likely limit themselves to statements of solidarity with Gaza, denouncing the crimes of the occupation, and providing relief aid, as if the Palestinian issue had been reduced to a mere human tragedy.

Secondly, this conference and others, along with all the political initiatives proposed, address the war on Gaza in isolation from what is happening in the West Bank and without a comprehensive vision of the Palestinian issue. Thirdly, the political ideas and initiatives regarding the period after the war attempt to bypass or ignore the PLO, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. They assume that the PLO’s existence, rule, and administration of the Gaza Strip (after an Israeli withdrawal) is a given, as it exercises sovereignty and governance over an essential part of the homeland and a significant portion of the Palestinian people.

We have noticed that the conference focuses on the issue of entering aid, which is undoubtedly important and vital. However, any conference related to the Palestinian issue must not separate what is happening in the Gaza Strip in terms of blatant and barbaric aggression from what is happening in the West Bank. In the West Bank, an invisible war is being waged where land is being devoured, settlements are intensifying, Jerusalem is being Judaized, and brutal campaigns of repression are occurring against the camps and cities. About ten thousand Palestinians have been arrested since the start of the aggression, and the Palestinian Authority is being besieged financially and politically, pushing it towards collapse. In clearer terms, the aggression against Gaza must not be separated from the existential conflict that the Palestinian people are waging in defense of their legitimate national rights, to protect their cause from liquidation, and their struggle against the ongoing genocide throughout the occupied country. Therefore, attention must be paid to the Israeli plan for the aftermath of the war. Israel insists on excluding the national authority and imposing a fait accompli by force. It seeks to introduce mechanisms that allow it to continue ruling the Gaza Strip, serving its long-term plans, which include emptying the Gaza Strip of its population by rendering it uninhabitable.

The Gaza Strip has transformed into a deeply troubled societal environment. Its infrastructure and core have been severely damaged, leading to a loss of its best talents and resources. It now struggles to do anything beyond tending to its wounds and continuing its painful journey, with no political resolution in sight and only a faint hope on the distant horizon. Any society that loses its educational, health, cultural, and literary sectors, as well as the means to produce knowledge and sustain life, will find it challenging to remain an active and vital part of the future. It will struggle to counter hostile projects aimed at its demise, left only with the most basic elements of survival.

As a result, it may find itself forced to accept projects, plans, and changes to its geography and population that are imposed upon it according to a preconceived colonial vision. This is precisely what Israel has sought from the start: a war of extermination and displacement, banking on the erosion of Gaza's foundations and its eventual submission. To counter this plan, it is crucial to recognize the dangers of excluding the PLO from any political solution or merely inviting it as a guest to international conferences on the Palestinian issue. It is essential to understand that the essence and purpose of this war are to undermine the entire Palestinian cause and fragment the national identity by eroding the unity of the organization's representation of the Palestinian people. The aggression on Gaza is just the beginning.

Palestinians must safeguard their representation as an integral part of their struggle, essential for countering the occupation's and the American administration's post-war plans. They should capitalize on the international recognition of the State of Palestine and the widespread demonstrations supporting Palestinian rights and denouncing the occupation.

This necessitates ending the division, fostering a strong national partnership, and unifying the stance on all issues and challenges facing the Palestinian people. This starts with consolidating a national front under the PLO, with priorities including confronting aggression, engaging in ceasefire negotiations, and ultimately realizing the Palestinian national program for the independence of the State of Palestine. In doing so, we can ensure that all efforts related to the Palestinian issue, whether humanitarian, relief, or political, are coordinated with the PLO, recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's views and not necessarily the Association's or donor's opinion.