U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (center) answers questions Saturday night during the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) online fundraiser.
Last week, I reported that Dingell and fellow Democrat Barbara Lee of California were slated to speak, despite AMP's extensive record of hateful rhetoric and connections to a defunct Hamas support network.
AMP Executive Director Osama Abuirshaid smugly alluded to the article Tuesday in self-congratulatory email to supporters.
He accused me of "racism and hatred [that] did not prevail: Congresswoman Dingell delivered an amazing keynote speech, our impressive line-up of speakers brought down the house, and more than three thousand AMP supporters attended the gala!"
It contains specific and accurate information about AMP and the kind of hateful rhetoric common at its events. It is racism and hatred free.
But it is easier to deflect people's attention with empty accusations of bigotry than it is to explain AMP's numerous connections to the Muslim Brotherhood-created, Hamas-supporting Palestine Committee. Those include Abuirshaid's own work with two committee branches founded by a Hamas political leader named Mousa Abu Marzook. This ploy is an attempt to evade questions about why it's appropriate for AMP events to feature calls for Israel's elimination.
Saturday's online gala lacked some of the rabid country-erasing talk but still managed to blame Israel, and Israel alone, for deteriorating conditions inside Hamas-run Gaza. Lee was a no-show. But Dingell was a principal contributor.
First, she echoed a chorus of Palestinian advocates concerned about the threat the coronavirus poses to Gaza.
"In Gaza right now," Dingell said, "there are currently fewer than 100 ventilators that are available for over 2 million Palestinians residing there." Recent U.S. aid cuts make "Palestinians uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19 right now."
Thankfully, the virus has not spread in Gaza. As of Sunday, there have been only 13 confirmed cases, all involving people who entered through the Rafah crossing with Egypt. Most patients have recovered. None of the remaining cases appear life threatening, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported.
In addition, Israel has trained Palestinian medics from Gaza and is providing some testing.
Those details weren't mentioned in the AMP event.
Dingell also spoke about Gaza's drinking water crisis. Its aquifer is overrun by salt water and pollution, making it undrinkable. Gaza residents are forced to buy expensive, desalinated water.
"Additionally, over 50 percent of the people in Gaza are unemployed and 50 percent of the children live under the poverty line," she said. "Given the density of this region, the pandemic will put unprecedented stress on an already very vulnerable population. It's a crisis that threatens to spiral into a catastrophe if it is not addressed."
"Nobody's health or access to water worldwide should be subject to politics," she added.
As surprising as it might seem, I agree wholeheartedly.
Unfortunately, it is Palestinian politics – especially the priorities Hamas has exhibited for the past 13 years – which victimizes Palestinians in Gaza.
The terrorist group spends more than half its budget on military needs and devotes less than 5 percent to rehabilitating its infrastructure. It has diverted international aid money which could have built up medical, electrical and water systems in order to manufacture arms and build attack tunnels.
It can cost $10 million to build a tunnel, journalist Khaled Abu Toameh wrote April 8. Hamas spent $120 million to advance its objective of terrorizing and killing Israelis.
"Hamas is responsible for managing the affairs of the two million Palestinians living under its rule, including their medical services," Abu Toameh wrote.
Hamas Leader Yahya "Sinwar and his friends in the Hamas leadership evidently had more urgent things on its their agenda than handling healthcare issues in the Gaza Strip."
Dingell and her allies at AMP might dispute these figures, but they haven't.
Earlier this month, as the threat of coronavirus became clear, Sinwar tried to extort Israel into providing ventilators. If not: "we'll take them by force from Israel and stop the breathing of 6 million Israelis."
If the health and wellbeing of Gaza residents mattered to Hamas, it could offer to lay down its arms and stop its obsessive devotion to destroying the world's only Jewish state. With no threat to its people, Israel no longer would have a need to maintain a blockade on Gaza aimed at slowing Hamas attempts to add to its arsenal.
Imagine the aid that would pour in. Imagine the immediate benefit to Palestinians living there.
But AMP and Rep. Dingell never mentioned this possibility, or any responsibility Hamas has for the plight of the people it governs.
They also failed to mention Israeli efforts to improve the situation. One tech company is developing a system to pull potable water from air, the Jerusalem Post reported in January. Meanwhile, Israel is building a pipeline to deliver fresh water to Gaza.
Hamas has been in charge of Gaza since 2007. Life there, according to AMP, Dingell and others, has only grown worse. At some point, Palestinian advocates need to admit where the problem really lies. Only then can they help bring about a better day.