Nikki Haley’s view of Gaza is through Israeli eyes only

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley came to Israel to see the conflict up close. It’s a shame that when it came to Gaza, she only got one perspective.

By Yoni Mendel

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley visits a tunnel built by Hamas on the border of Israel with the Gaza Strip, June 8, 2017. (Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley visits a tunnel built by Hamas on the border of Israel with the Gaza Strip, June 8, 2017. (Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)

“We are at the height of an important visit from UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in Israel. We are visiting the towns around Gaza. We both visited the terror tunnels. She saw how the cement we transfer to Gaza for rebuilding homes and building hospitals is used by Hamas to dig tunnels. She saw this with her own eyes. This is very important.

She visited the Kerem Shalom Crossing, where she saw the goods that we transfer to Gaza. Here she met the residents, the mayor of Sderot, she listened to the residents’ hardships of living on the border with Gaza. And despite it all, she saw here beautiful faces, she saw Zionism at its best, and our message that despite Hamas’ hatred, that we will continue to build Israel, a beautiful country, a country to be proud of, and I have no doubt that when we return to the UN building in New York that she will continue to defend the State of Israel.”

These were the words spoken by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, according to Ynet. These are the words uttered by the person charged with using every trick in the hasbara book to blind us. As if these words could ever accurately summarize the political situation in Israel without mentioning the anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset, without mentioning the occupation, without saying the word “settlements.” And all of it without blinking.

But this is Danon — this is his job. And after all, this is the Israeli government. This is how both view the situation. Danon does not have ability to enter Gaza, and because he is a Jewish-Israeli-Zionist, his immediate association with Gaza is rockets, mortars, and terror.

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What is disconcerting is that the information given to Haley on Gaza ends with Danny Danon. Let’s not delude ourselves: Haley views herself as “pro-Israel,” and thus probably believes she is helping Israel. As if defending Israel from criticism, ignoring the core issues of the conflict, and providing unbridled support for Israel’s occupation policies, will promote Israel’s long-term interests.

Ten decades of siege

And yet, it is exasperating that an American ambassador — who on paper is neither Israeli nor is subject to the confines of Israeli public discourse — views both Israel and Gaza through Israeli eyes.

If only Haley asked to see Gaza through her own eyes. If only she would have asked to speak not only with the mayor of Sderot, but also with the mayor of Beit Hanoun. If only she would have asked to speak not only with Israelis in the towns surrounding the Gaza Strip, but with Palestinian residents inside — perhaps then she would have seen a totally different picture. If only she were willing to open her eyes, she would recognize the humanitarian disaster unfolding just a few miles from where she was standing. Two million people live in Gaza, and Nikki Haley knows them only through Danny Danon’s eyes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem, June 7, 2017. (Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem, June 7, 2017. (Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy)

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations knows Gaza through conversations with Israelis. She hears about the electricity crisis plaguing Gaza from Israelis, receives information on Hamas’ budget from Danny Danon, and learns about the humanitarian situation there from the residents who live just on the other side of the wall.

Exactly 10 years ago, in June 2007, Israel put Gaza under blockade in the wake of the conflict between Fatah and Hamas, and the latter’s takeover of the Strip. One can only imagine what happens to a person who lives for an entire decade in a giant prison, knowing full well that he cannot exit — either through the sea, through the air, or on land. One can only imagine how much rage and hatred bubble up among a people that have no hope for the future. For 10 years the Palestinians in Gaza have lived without a port. Ten years in which the Strip has transformed into a place of hopelessness, depression, anger, and rage.

These are 10 years in which Gaza has disappeared from the Israeli view. At best we view it as an area from which rockets are fired, a place we must go to war against every few years to raise our morale, to train our soldiers, to strengthen our leadership, and to win elections. Gaza has ceased, in Israeli eyes, to be a place where human beings live. Now Nikki Haley also views Gaza through the Israeli lens. There is no doubt that upon her return to the United Nations, she will continue not to protect Israel’s true interests, as she has done so until now.

Yoni Mendel is the projects manager of the Mediterranean Unit at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, and co-editor of the book review section of the Journal of Levantine Studies (JLS). This post was first published in Hebrew on Local Call.