Silence descended on Palestine Friday, as a 2am ceasefire was enacted after it was agreed on by Israel and Hamas, but the massive damage was done.
And when will this happen again?
The expulsions will continue. Israelis can raid Al Aqsa anytime. The blockades and sanctions continue. The Palestinians are forever at the whims of the Israelis. Unless the entire structure of power is changed, this cycle of abuse, respite, and abuse will continue.
I spoke to Neveen and Eyad, a young couple living in Gaza City, with their three children, ages 9, 6, and 3. The bombing from air land and sea had begun just as we began our conversation. Their response to my questions about life in Gaza were punctuated by nearby explosions, and long periods of silence in which I wondered if they had been hit and hurt or killed by US made weaponry. They were in a small apartment building in Gaza that was overcrowded with friends and families who had arrived from other parts of the strip that were deemed too dangerous to spend the night.
Neveen said her 6-year-old was shaking so hard she feared the child might crack a rib or bust a tooth.
“I am very concerned what impact this kind of sustained attack will have on my children…with the bombing all night it is impossible for them to sleep. I told the 9-year-old and the 6-year-old it was fireworks for our holidays. The 9-year-old may have believed it for a little while. My 6-year-old just kept shaking. She was shaking so hard I was afraid her teeth would crack.” Neveen’s kids are not alone in the extreme situation tens of thousands of children are facing on the Gaza strip.
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“Gaza’s one million children are reeling from the mounting consequences of violent conflict with nowhere safe to turn. Lives have been lost, and families shattered,” according to UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore:
In Gaza, at least 60 children have been killed and another 444 have been injured in less than 10 days. Nearly 30,000 children have been displaced. An estimated 250,000 children need mental health and protection services. At least four health facilities and 40 schools have been damaged. Some 48 schools – most of them run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency – are being used as emergency shelters for families seeking refuge from the violence.
Naveen continued, as did the bombing of her neighborhood. She paused a bit between explosions. “Everyone is afraid to go out during the day. We’re afraid we’ll be targeted by an Israeli drone or rocket or some kind of bomb. Yesterday somebody was on a motorcycle nearby and got bombed and killed. Right now my biggest hope is that we survive this bombing. Three people were riding in a car the other day and they were blown up. So we just stay inside and we are living on canned goods.”
What are your hopes? I asked her. The answer is delayed by another series of audible explosions. It is about 3:30 am on the Gaza strip. “We want peace and we want the war to stop, but we also want justice and the rights of the Palestinian people to be respected … But right now, we want the bombs to stop falling … everything is being destroyed … Bombing all night is not something you can sleep through, Every day, when we wake in the morning, we are surprised we are still alive. I look at my three children and say thank god we are still alive; we survived another night.
Was this latest slaughter necessary, or was it in large part the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the run from the law, wagging the dog, solidifying his power while diverting the world’s attention from his ongoing legal problems? If it was, it worked perfectly. Do you think he might have bombed the 12-story media building, which houses AP, Al Jazeera and dozens of other media groups, to undermine coverage of his latest brutal invasion of Gaza? Do You really believe it was unfortunate collateral damage? Hamas was hiding in the basement? No proof yet from the Israelis.
So once again its onward Netanyahu to a Fourth round as PM, who immediately vowed to turn the clock back ten years on Gazans–that would be the stone age for Gazans, who were already trying to exist on 6-8 hours a day of electricity and limited access to fresh water, even before the latest Israeli bombing began.
You can take the word of Netenyahu that the Israelis always are bending over backwards to avoid collateral damage, or you can reflect on the fact that the massive and highly effective and invasive Israeli intelligence systems and resource units know exactly where the civilians live, where the UN schools and offices are, where the hospitals are, which neighborhoods are the most densely populated–indeed all the places where the children and their families live and shop and every aspect of Palestinian life in the Gaza strip.
According to UNRWA, Gaza’s
already weakened water and sanitation systems have been further compromised as a result of this latest escalation. Essential infrastructure – including groundwater wells and reservoirs, desalination and wastewater plants, water delivery networks and pumping stations – have sustained significant damage. We estimate that 325,000 people need emergency water and sanitation services, without which they are more likely to contract potentially deadly infectious diseases. Electricity output across Gaza has dropped by roughly 60 per cent, leaving hospitals increasingly dependent on generators for the provision of essential healthcare services. These generators require significant amounts of fuel to function. Any reduction in health care capacity could also jeopardize treatment for those with COVID-19.
Tiny Israel, the US’s nuclear-armed ally in the region, is the recipient of more US aid than any country in the world. And it seems to go without saying that the US relationship with Israeli’s Palestinians is heavily biased and deeply one-sided toward Israel. And this is the huge stumbling block, the elephant in the room. This makes the notion that the US could be some kind of honest broker in a lasting peace deal is absurd on the very face of it.
But it is time for this to change. And if the current administration really desires to do something new and go down in history for making a difference, and truly helping to create a more peaceful world, Biden needs to create a policy of real equality toward both sides in this unending struggle.
Hamas Rockets have apparently resulted in the death of 10 people including three children in Israel. Also consider that one bombing attack on May 16 in Gaza City killed more than 40 Palestinians, including at least 10 children. According to various human rights groups, at least 230 people, including 65 children, have been killed in Gaza since Israel began bombing on May 10. More than 1,500 have been wounded. Over 60,000 Gazans have been displaced. Israeli bombers also killed two senior frontline doctors – Ayman Abu al-Ouf, head of internal medicine at al-Shifa hospital, and psychiatric neurologist Mooein Ahmad al-Aloul – which dealt a devastating blow to medical workers already strained and working under immense pressure and extremely dangerous conditions
“If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza today,” reflected UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres just as the recent ceasefire was being set into place.
According to a “letter of experts” from the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, “The enemies of accountability are impunity and exceptionalism. It is folly to expect that the justice, peace, equality and security which both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews have a right to enjoy can be achieved without imposing a meaningful cost on Israel, the occupying power, to fully end its illegal occupation. The underlying reality is that there is an occupying power, with one of the best equipped militaries in the world, ruling over an occupied people who have the right to be freed from an unwanted and protracted alien regime.”
We in the US must do our part to make change real and peace permanent in the middle east. Otherwise, this is just an interlude between atrocities, the intermission between the acts of tragedy, the dead calm of night before the storm of terror, violence, mass murder returns.
You can listen here to an interview Dennis Bernstein did with the UN Human Rights Investigator for the Israeli Occupation.