"Those lucky enough to survive this latest assault on Gaza have returned to rubble; the loss of loved ones compounded by the destruction of homes, family heirlooms, photographs and memories."
The individual stories are tragically too many to recount in one short article. Whole families wiped out before breaking their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Others, managing to reach shelter in U.N. buildings, killed just as they thought they were protected -- all coming to the awful realization that nowhere in this tiny strip of land is safe. Those lucky enough to survive this latest assault on Gaza have returned to rubble; the loss of loved ones compounded by the destruction of homes, family heirlooms, photographs and memories.
370,000 Children Need Psychological Help
Every child over the age of six has experienced the full force of Israeli bombardment on three separate occasions. According to the U.N, this latest assault has left 1,000 children with a life-long disability and more than 373,000 in need of direct and specialized psychological support. Four hundred and seventeen newborn babies began their lives in a U.N. shelter, surrounded by death and destruction.
As a human being, and especially as a mother, these figures are almost too painful to genuinely comprehend.
The current ceasefire in Gaza is undoubtedly important. The humanitarian situation following Israel's aggressive bombardment speaks for itself. However, until a political solution to the underlying cause is found, a ceasefire amounts to little more than permitting those still alive, and trapped in their own land, to come up for a quick breath of air.
The Siege Restricts The Development
Israel's long blockade of the Gaza Strip, and its wider occupation of Palestine, means daily oppression and harassment for millions of Palestinians and the denial of their most basic human rights. In terms of Gaza specifically, the siege restricts the movement of both goods and human beings. This affects so many aspects of daily life, often in very direct ways. It means people not having water, for instance, or only having electricity for a few hours a day. It means a Palestinian athlete being prevented from traveling to compete in international competitions; a student being prevented access to university in another part of Palestine or abroad; a grandmother being prevented from seeing her grandchildren, who live less than 100 kilometers away.
U.N.: Gaza In 2020 Is Not "Livable"
The effects on the economy translate into high food and fuel prices, damage to industries such as fishing and farming, and a severe impact on the quality of healthcare and education. But the 1.8 million people had been living under these conditions long before this latest assault. In fact, in August 2012, the U.N. predicted that Gaza will be unlivable by 2020.
"The question remains: What next? From Israel's side, the signs are not good."
Recently, a report by the NGO Shelter Cluster, in collaboration with the U.N. Refugee Agency and the International Red Cross, estimated that Gaza would take 20 years to rebuild under "normal circumstances," i.e. if Gaza were not under siege. Such "normal circumstances," which are easy for those living in other countries to take for granted, are precisely what Gaza needs in order for a lasting peace to prevail.
Unrelenting oppression will only continue to exacerbate the problem. Israel, as the occupying power, is the party in control. Israel, as one of the largest exporter of arms in the world, has the power to put an end to its occupation of Palestinian land. Only then can Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in peace and security.
Israel Is Not Interested In A Two-State Solution
The question remains: What next? From Israel's side, the signs are not good. The government's announcement to unlawfully expropriate a further 400 hectares of land, the biggest individual land grab in 30 years, once again demonstrates a deep unwillingness to reach a just and lasting two-state solution.
With one party so averse, the role of the international community becomes even more vital. Although support in reaching a ceasefire and material aid are sincerely appreciated, it is not enough just to treat the symptoms of the problem, to patch up the wounds, both literal and figurative. Only strong and active political support will help to tackle the root causes of siege and occupation.
It is therefore incredibly important that politicians, journalists and citizens engage even more intensively during this period of relative calm. As long as people do not have freedom and dignity to live their lives, the root problem will persist and this terrible affliction will flare up again.
A repetition of the past two months cannot be good for anyone: not the international community, not the Israelis -- and certainly not the Palestinians, who after once again being forced to mourn thousands of dead relatives and friends, can only look forward to returning to an almost unlivable existence.