Gaza Is A Tragedy For Its People, A Stain On The World’s Conscience

Gaza Is A Tragedy For Its People, A Stain On The World’s Conscience

The escalation of the conflict in Gaza and the lack of any significant efforts to achieve a ceasefire have the potential to further destabilise the region

A L I ChouguleUpdated: Tuesday, October 31, 2023, 06:51 PM IST
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Gaza Is A Tragedy For Its People, A Stain On The World’s Conscience | PTI

More than three weeks after the deadliest attack ever launched into Israel by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas that rules Gaza, the Israeli military has continued to relentlessly pound the territory, causing deaths, destruction, and a deepening humanitarian crisis. Since the hostilities began on October 7, the Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million civilians, has witnessed a devastating toll on its civilian population, many of them women and children. The conflict, marked by relentless airstrikes, ground operations and a total blockade has led to a significant loss of life and a dire humanitarian situation. With nearly half of its population under 18 years old, Gaza has endured severe restrictions and blockades for years. The escalation of the ongoing war has exacerbated the crisis, further compounding the suffering of the already beleaguered population.

Israel has not launched the much-talked about ground invasion of Gaza yet, despite announcing its imminence three weeks ago, a delay that media reports and experts attribute to international pressure, political-military divisions, and concerns over hostages. Political analysts are of the view that the American and European leaders have visited Israel to caress it with honeyed words with the aim of preventing a ground operation offensive, as the international community fears a ground operation would spark a chain reaction that could engulf the whole region, and may be even further afield. There have also been reports that a humanitarian pause in military operations is under negotiation to address the dire humanitarian situation. A senior correspondent who has covered Palestine for the BBC over decades has said that he has never seen the situation so bad in Gaza before.

With Gaza being strangled and the humanitarian system facing a total collapse with unimaginable consequences for more than two million civilians, the international community needs to urgently prioritise efforts to bring an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and finding ways about lasting peace in the Middle East, with a focus on ending the cycle of violence in Gaza. The escalation of the conflict in Gaza and the lack of any significant efforts to achieve a ceasefire have the potential to further destabilise the region. The suffering in Gaza has become a symbol of Palestinian hardship, fuelling anger and frustration across the Middle East and beyond. As millions of Paletinians are trapped in an unending cycle of poverty, unemployment, and despair, the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza not only has regional implications but also threatens global peace and security.

While Western leaders have shown strong support for Israel and its military operations, citing Israel’s “right to defend itself”, they have largely ignored mentioning the suffering of millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. But “right to defend” does not mean open and blatant violation of international humanitarian laws. Last week, Antonio Guterres, United Nations secretary general, said that the attacks by Hamas “did not happen in a vacuum” and the massacre of Israelis by Hamas did not justify the “collective punishment” of civilians in Gaza. While the UN secretary general said he was deeply concerned about the “clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza,” there has been no respite for Gazans from Israel’s targeted attacks and expanded military operations, which have killed more than 8,000 people.

The double standard on Palestine is so stark that the beleaguered people, who have faced injustice for decades, are constantly asked to “prove their innocence” and to condemn the actions of a terrorist group, even amid their own grief and a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis. Amidst the fog of war and intense emotions on all sides, it is easy to be swayed by the Israeli-Western narrative that the current conflict and collective punishment of Gazans is a result of Hamas’ deadly strike on Israel on October 7. But the underlying cause of today’s insurmountable crisis is deeply rooted in the 75-year-old systemic oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli state. This compels us to ask a crucial question: do only Israelis have the right to defend themselves while the Palestinians continue to endure decades of suffering and face constant confinement, surveillance, and punishment, including the imprisonment of children in solitary confinement?

One of the fault-lines beneath the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the Western doublespeak that whitewashes the Israeli crimes and ignores the plight of Palestinians who live in besieged Gaza like prisoners in an open jail. The Gaza Strip has experienced five major conflicts, with nearly 80% of its population relying on humanitarian assistance. More than two million people reportedly live in abject poverty, with nearly 80% of the youth facing unemployment. Last year, international agencies appealed for funds to provide essential services like food, water, sanitation, and healthcare in Gaza, but only 25% of the funding was received. While the ongoing war is a humanitarian disaster with far-reaching consequences, the suffering in Gaza and West Bank over decades is not just a tragedy for its people but a stain on the world’s conscience.

The underlying cause of today’s conflict, as also of the earlier ones, can be traced back to the Israeli attitude, namely its frenetic colonial drive, despite all the condemnations and resolutions from the United Nations. The colonial mindset has translated into a systematic oppression apparatus, aimed at obstructing Palestine’s integration into the global system through a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. The Israeli state and settlers have targeted civilians, displaced Palestinians from their homes, hindered international aid, violated numerous individual rights and freedoms and restricted Palestinian territory to a few hundred kilometres without access to the outside world. Therefore, it is naïve to expect the resilience of the Palestinian people to endure such pressure forever.

Analysing the deeply accumulated societal discontent is necessary for comprehending today’s reality in Gaza, and the answer to how we got here cannot be arrived at without citing history. Without achieving political independence for Palestine, coupled with its integration into the wider world through free and fair election and economic development, there is little chance of finding lasting peace in Gaza and West Bank. To put the peace process on track, it is important to remove all the obstacles in the path of Palestine’s statehood. After all, they are the enduring victims of historical injustices, doublespeak, and serious bias. International pressure on Israel and diplomacy is the way forward, be it today or tomorrow. The world cannot afford to look the other way any more.

The writer is a senior independent Mumbai-based journalist. He tweets at @ali_chougule

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