It is carnage in Gaza. Over 5,700 Palestinian civilians are currently estimated to have been murdered by the relentless Israeli assault, 2,055 are children. More than 15,000 people have been injured, including 5,364 children. In the West Bank around 100 have been killed and at least 1,650 injured.
The Israeli bombardment has so far destroyed or damaged 169,184 residential buildings, 206 educational facilities, and 29 health care centres – including the al-Ahli Arab Hospital, which, despite denials and finger pointing, evidence strongly suggests was hit by an Israeli air raid on 17 October, killing 471 people.
The population of Gaza is 2.3 million (1.7 million live in refugee camps), almost half are children; not only are they being bombed, they are being starved. As a result of the Israeli blockade, Oxfam report that, “Just 2% of food that would normally have been delivered has entered Gaza,” as a result “A staggering 2.2 million people are now in urgent need of food”, and water. “Clean water has now virtually run out. It’s estimated that only three litres of clean water is now available per person….Children are experiencing severe trauma…their drinking water is polluted or rationed and soon families may not be able to feed them. How much more are Gazans expected to endure?”
The charity accuses Israel of using ‘starvation as a weapon of war against Gaza civilians’. Oxfam’s regional Middle East director, said: “The situation is nothing short of horrific – where is humanity? Millions of civilians are being collectively punished in full view of the world.”
Is this what Israel wanted?
Were they waiting for a terrorist event like 7 October in Israel, the rightwing fanatics, waiting for Hamas to loose control, to give in to the endless Israeli provocations, and go nuts, so that they could justify annihilating Palestinians? ‘Probably’ is the slightly cynical but most likely correct answer, ‘perhaps’, the more cautious reply, ‘no, don’t be absurd’, the politically correct but naive retort.
As Amira Hass, veteran Haaretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestinian Territories explains, the plan amongst the far right in Israel since 2017 (and no doubt before), has been to force Palestinians to either, a) live as third class citizens within Israel, b) giving up all hope of self-determination, emigrate – “expulsion by consent”, or, c) if you (Palestinians) refuse to capitulate and continue to resist, “the Israeli Defence Force will know what to do with you.” And this is what they (the IDF) are now doing; and the world is bearing witness, but acting not. It is truly shocking and appalling.
This ferocious bombardment of Gaza and the siege, has little or nothing to do with Israel wanting to eradicate Hamas – which they cannot achieve anyway; it is not simply ‘revenge’ either for the shocking attack on 7 October by Hamas, although no doubt many Israeli’s want revenge, it is genocide. Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians and the US and Co., are allowing it to take place.
The response of Western governments (US, UK and EU most notably), to the bombing and the complete siege of Gaza has been disgraceful. With the odd exception, politicians (including Kier Starmer, leader of UK Labour party, and potentially the next Prime-Minister ) have justified Israels indefensible actions.
To there utter shame the US vetoed a recent vote by the UN Security Council for a “humanitarian pause” to the shelling of Gaza. The UK, devoid of principles, abstained. Both President Biden and Prime-Minister Sunak then independently set sail for Tel Aviv to offer unconditional support for Israel. Support for what? Support to slaughter Palestinians and destroy Gaza, support to create a humanitarian catastrophe, support to drive hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes, south to the Sinai, where a refugee crisis is inevitable.
What exactly do they think they are ‘supporting’ – other than ‘Israels right to defend itself’? Of course it has that right – as do Palestinians, but Israel is not defending itself, it is carrying out mass murder against a civilian population. And far from supporting such action, the US should withdraw its ‘support’, insist on an unconditional ceasefire and allow the humanitarian work to begin in earnest. Other western governments could and should also apply pressure, but only the US can force Israel to stop the madness.
It is a dark day indeed for these governments, these so-called ‘leaders’ – Biden, Sunak, Macron, Ursula von der Leyen – President of the European Commission etc. Not only are they enabling Israel, they and their cohort fill the newspapers and airwaves with lies, distortions, platitudes and evasions, whilst simultaneously trying to close down any criticism of Israel.
In France pro Palestinian protest were banned; environmental activists were detained in Holland after demonstrating (outside the ICC) with a poster stating that Benjamin Netanyahu, had committed “war crimes” and presided over an “apartheid regime” – all true; Greta Thunberg posted a photograph on Instagram and Twitter of her holding a poster calling for, “Solidarity with Palestine and Gaza”, and was attacked by a spokesperson for the IDF who said, “Whoever identifies with Greta in any way in the future, in my view, is a terror supporter.”
After making a powerful truthful speech, in which he pointed out that, “The bombardment and blockade of Gaza amounted to the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people” and [therefore] violated international law,” Israel demanded UN Secretary General Guterres resign. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, described Mr Guterres’ speech as “shocking” and claimed he “is not fit to lead the UN”. On the back of this ludicrous row Israel has refused to issue a visa for UN humanitarian affairs chief Martin Griffiths. “The time has come to teach them [the UN] a lesson.”, said Erdan, with staggering arrogance.
Mainstream media is (with the odd exception), also a disgrace, repeatedly spewing Israeli mis/disinformation. Israel and her allies want to completely control and pervert the narrative and to paint anyone who stands up against the oppression and murder of Palestinians as anti-Semitic, and a friend of Hamas.
It’s pathetic, and people everywhere can see the truth. They see the dishonesty and manipulation; the heartbreaking suffering of Palestinians and the barbarism of Israel, for which there is no justification at all. But then hate needs no rationale, it is its own justification; hate is an expression of that which we call evil, and it is this destructive force which is animating the brutality and indiscriminate cruelty let rip upon Palestinians by Israel.
That Palestinian civilians are being killed and displaced like this, in the full light of day, and with the backing of the US and Co. is a deeply distressing sign of the times we are living in. Bleak times indeed, in which violent political extremists, like those directing the brutality against Palestinians, now inhabit the political mainstream and control large chunks of the media.
The way in which we, humanity, responds to this appalling crisis is critical, not just for Palestinians and the Middle East, but for the World as a whole. Give in to hate and division by doing nothing and perpetuate ever deepening levels of suffering, or unite against extremism, intolerance and injustice, and begin to rebuild and heal, both society and the planet; the time is now, the choice is stark, so too the consequences.