Violent Protests Once Again Force Red Cross to Close Gaza Office
The AP has reported that:
The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is temporarily closing its Gaza office after protesters repeatedly tried to storm it.
Spokeswoman Suhair Zakkout said the office will operate remotely until “local authorities in Gaza provide assurances that our premises, work and staff are respected.”
Dozens of Gazans have protested daily at the office in recent weeks in solidarity with a Palestinian hunger striker detained by Israel, demanding that the Red Cross help bring about his release. They tried to enter the building forcefully on Sunday, smashing garage windows and causing other damage.
Mohammed al-Qeq, a 33-year old journalist, has been on a hunger strike for 75 days.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service says al-Qeq is involved in militant activity.
On Sunday, there was an apparent agreement between Hamas and the Red Cross that would allow it to re-open on Monday. ICRC spokesperson SZ Zaqout told the media that the Red Cross agreed to resume work as usual. It appears that a side deal may have been struck between the protesters — many of them journalists — and the ICRC to have the organization be more vocal in protest over Israel’s holding of al-Qiq, who is said to be close to death.
Paletinian media outlets have been filled with posters in support for al-Qiq.
On monday, despite Hamas’ assurances, the Red Cross offices in al-Bireh were again forced to close by a group of protesters.
There is a long history of Palestinians violently protesting the NGOs that are dedicated to helping them. When it happens to UNRWA, usually the agency tries to sweep the incidents under the rug, which is one reason that the media ignores those stories. In this case, the Red Cross publicly said that they refuse to work under conditions that would endanger their employees.
The difference is that UNRWA does not want to shame their Arab clients by publicizing their violent activity. The Red Cross, on the other hand, values its own mission more than the honor of the violent protesters. Even though this local office was still closed, the fast response by Hamas in this case as opposed to their foot-dragging when it happens to UNRWA shows that shame is a powerful weapon against obscene behavior by Arabs — but it is a weapon that Western NGOs and reporters and politicians are loath to use.