Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gaza - a year later

It has been a year. From B'tselem:
Between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, the Israeli military carried out an attack on the Gaza Strip named Operation Cast Lead. The magnitude of the harm to the population was unprecedented: 1,385 Palestinians were killed, 762 of whom did not take part in the hostilities. Of these, 318 were minors under age 18. More than 5,300 Palestinians were wounded, of them over 350 seriously so. Israel also caused enormous damage to residential dwellings, industrial buildings, agriculture and infrastructure for electricity, sanitation, water, and health, which was on the verge of collapse prior to the operation. According to UN figures, Israel destroyed more than 3,500 residential dwellings and 20,000 people were left homeless.

A year after the slaughter of Gaza the misery of the people of Gaza continues. The Telegraph under the rather surreal headline "Gazans still angry one year on from Israeli offensive" describes the heartbreaking tragedy of one family (h/t John Caruso)

In a clearing at the northeast end of the Gaza Strip, amid a sea of drab canvas tents and half-cleared war detritus, a small, carefully tended flowerbed stands out amid dismal surroundings.

For the man who planted it, the blooms represents both an escape from the squalor of forced homelessness and a reminder of his once beloved garden. But it is the straggly red rosebush in the middle that is of special significance.

Until a year ago, Kamal Awaja would often spend the hour before dusk in his garden, teaching his six children the names of the trees and flowers, and encouragiong each one to pick a shrub as their own. Ibrahim, his nine-year-old son, chose the red rosebush.

But a year ago today, everything changed as Israel launched its military offensive against the Hamas militants who run Gaza. After a week of fierce fighting, the gun-barrel of a tank smashed through the family's living room window, forcing them to flee to nearby fields as their house was demolished.

Then, as they crept back at dawn to salvage warm clothes, Israeli soldiers opened fire. Both Awaja parents were wounded, and Ibrahim was hit fatally, dying in his father's arms as he tried to rescue him.

But reliving her son's death a year later, there is another, more harrowing detail that preys on Mrs Awaja's mind. She says that as she hid behind a wall while her husband limped away to find help, Israeli soldiers used Ibrahim's corpse, which was lying in a road, as target practice.

One wonders the level of inhumanity and dehumanization that allows the soldiers of the "most moral army" to use a nine year old child's body for target practice. The slaughter carried out by the Israelis has been followed by an inhuman blockade.

One year after the operation began, extensive areas in the Gaza Strip have yet to be rebuilt. Israel’s sweeping prohibition on the entry of construction materials prevents the rebuilding of houses that were destroyed and damaged, and more than 20,000 persons continue to live in overcrowded conditions in rented apartments, with relatives, or in tent camps. The prohibition also prevents rehabilitation of the infrastructure that was damaged: 90 percent of Gazans suffer electricity black-outs for four to eight hours a day, a result of the damage to infrastructure and of the severe shortage of industrial fuel. Some ten thousand Palestinians in the northern section of the Gaza Strip have no access to running water, and 80 million liters of raw and partially-treated sewage flows daily into open areas. The health system is unable to function properly due to the lack of medical equipment, and seriously ill patients have difficulty receiving necessary medical treatment.

A man who lost two daughters and his home can't visit his surviving 4-year-old girl in a Belgian hospital because Gaza's borders remain sealed. A 15-year-old struggles to walk on her artificial limbs, while dozens of other war amputees still await prostheses.

Couples postpone marriage because not enough apartments survived three weeks of bombing and shelling. Thousands are homeless,and damaged systems mean electricity and water are sporadic. Untreated sewage pours into the Mediterranean.

The UN Relief and Works agency (UNRWA) in Gaza told the BBC that public health was suffering as a result of inadequate and unsanitary water supplies, and there had been a rise in infant mortality.

While the lives of Gazans are mired in misery there are some hopeful signs. The global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign modeled on the campaign against apartheid South Africa is slowly gaining some momentum. More and more people are becoming aware of the plight of the Gazans and some are doing something about it. Just today the Viva Palestina organized convoy of 99 vehicles carrying supplies has begun entering Gaza. And then there are the (sadly few) brave voices from within Israel itself. Here is Gideon Levy:
One way or another, the year since December 27 was a year of shame for Israel, greater shame than any other time. It is shameful to be Israeli today, much more than it was a year ago. In the final tally of the war, which was not a war but a brutal assault, Israel's international status was dealt a severe blow, in addition to Israeli indifference and public blindness to what happened in Gaza.
Today it is more shameful to be an Israeli because the world, as opposed to Israelis, saw the scenes. It saw thousands of dead and injured taken in the trunks of cars to something between a clinic and a primitive hospital in an imprisoned and weakened region one hour from flourishing Tel Aviv, a region where the helpless had nowhere to run from Israel's arsenal. The world saw schools, hospitals, flour mills and small factories mercilessly bombed and blown up. It saw clouds of white-sulphur bombs billowing over population centers, and it saw burned children.
And then there was the Goldstone report. Ben Gurion said “it is not important what the Goyim say but what the Jews do.” In this case the person making the case against Israel is not a Goy. It is a well respected jurist and a zionist to boot. In spite of the US condemnation of the report, Goldstone is not going away. It has changed international perception about Israel in ways that were inconceivable just a short time ago. So who knows, maybe there will be a better tomorrow. One can always hope.


Adam Horowitz at Mondoweiss has a summary of summaries of the state of Gaza today.

No comments: