Two years ago, I travelled to Gaza as part of a Norwegian trade union delegation. We met ordinary people like you and me who want to live in peace. Parents who want the best possible life for their children. Young people who dream of being able to work, travel, meet other young people and experience what the world has to offer.
We met dedicated human rights activists like Mahmoud Hamada, Khalil Zaquot, Reem El Wihaidi and Wedad Naser from Norwegian People’s Aid who work selflessly every day to help others struggling in the most appalling of circumstances.
The same evening we arrived in Gaza, two people were killed in an Israeli drone attack. Unfortunately it was nothing unusual. The people of Gaza have been under Israeli occupation since 1967. The latest Israeli offensive is yet another attempt to crush a besieged, civilian population. It is the third such massive onslaught in five years.
Gaza is is one of the world’s most densely populated areas. People live literally on top of one another, building upwards, as there is no room to build outwards hemmed in as they are on all sides.
Nearly 1.8 million people are trapped there surrounded by closed borders in what many call the world’s largest outdoor prison. The vast majority are refugees from Israel’s previous military campaigns of 1948 and 1967 in which the Palestinians were forced from their own lands in what Israeli Professor Ilan Pappe describes as the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
The Israeli blockade is now in its 8th year and denies Gaza’s people all the basic necessities that we all take for granted – food, water, electricity, medical and educational materials – and that was before the recent Israeli attacks.
When the Israelis launch their drones and jet bombers into Gaza airspace they are fully aware that there is no place for Gaza’s civilian population to hide, no place to escape to, no bomb shelters. So far we have almost fifteen hundred dead, almost nine thousand injured and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes.
Our trade union colleague Norwegian Dr Mads Gilbert who recently returned from Gaza has stated publicly that the Israelis are using internationally proscribed weapons in their ongoing offensive. Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) munitions cause deep lacerations, which he has found on the bodies of killed and injured Palestinians.
An estimated 80% of the dead are civilians, many of them children. Following the horrific murders of four children from the Bakr family on the Gaza seafront, Human Rights Watch called for an international inquiry into the illegal targetting of civilians. It has since degenerated even further into a bloodbath.
This is not a war. It is a military onslaught on an occupied people unable to defend themselves. Gaza has no army, no navy and no airforce. The average age of the population is sixteen. Israel, one of the worlds most advanced armies and a leading military power is attempting to bomb the world’s largest refugee camp into submission. It stinks of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
How long can the international community sit on the sidelines and watch the continual targeting of a civilian population? The continued Israeli ground invasion will lead to even more innocents being injured and killed. It seems Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is in it for the long haul.
The Israeli Dirty War is part of his political power play where innocent Palestinian civilians are the victims. Netanyahu is under pressure from his own cabinet and party ranks – the one trying to be more hawkish than the other. Dead Palestinians are mere pawns in their internal power games. They want blood and they want it now.
The demonisation of the Palestinians by public figures in Israel is not widely reported in the international media and yet it is such an essential part of the Israeli political psyche. Recently Ayelet Shaked a parliament member for the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party called for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”
The attack on Gaza must cease immediately. The civilian population must be given international protection, the Israeli blockade must be lifted, the supply lines to the hospitals opened and the protection of the the civilian population guaranteed. The international community needs to take a stand on the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and the plight of the Palestinians. We need to protect the children of Gaza.