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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Where is the ‘never again’ for Gaza?

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Last week, we passed the 100th-day mark of Israel’s latest episode of aggression against the people of Gaza. It was a depressing milestone to consider. A hundred days of Palestinians being mercilessly exterminated in all kinds of brutal ways: Israeli bombs ripping them apart, Israeli bullets piercing their skulls, and the Israeli-imposed siege starving them or killing them through otherwise treatable infections.

A hundred days in which the countries that said “never again” almost 80 years ago did nothing to stop our extermination. A hundred days in which we pleaded, humanitarian organisations pleaded, the United Nations pleaded and people in the streets across the world pleaded, but we were all ignored.

Perhaps we should not be surprised at the silence. After all, Israel’s brutal and illegal occupation was allowed to go on for decades till it beat all records and became longest-lasting in modern history.

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Throughout this time, the Israeli occupying state, its governments and army have controlled virtually every aspect of Palestinian life: political, economic, social and – you may not believe it but – love life, too.

Israel has been telling us what we can eat, what we can drink, what we can buy, where we can go, where we can travel, where we can live, where we can garden, where we can graze our cattle, where we can fish, where we can go to school, where we can get health services (if at all), and yes, who we can fall in love, get married to and settle with.

Israel has even tried to tell us who we are as a nation. It has told Palestinians that they are Arab, Muslim, Christian, Druze or Circassian, but not Palestinian. It has done everything and anything to break up the Palestinian social fabric.

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Israel has also persistently sown divisions between political forces in Palestine; in the past 15 years, it has made sure that any mediation seeking a unity government between the two biggest Palestinian parties, Hamas and Fatah, has failed. Political disunity has caused immense damage to the Palestinian community, ultimately leading to conflict and weakness from within.

Israel has also made sure that we remain poor and vulnerable not only through continuous dispossession – land theft, expulsions, and home demolitions – but also through economic dependence.

It has purposefully kept the Palestinian economy on the brink of collapse, suffocating economic activity and private business. This has resulted in high unemployment rates and forced many Palestinians to work for the occupiers – sometimes even in illegal Jewish settlements literally built on their stolen land.

Israel has also consistently undermined Palestinian agriculture – traditionally one of the strongest economic sectors in Palestine. Restricted access to land and water resources has led to a dramatic reduction of Palestinian agricultural output, fundamentally disrupting traditional livelihoods.

In Gaza, the economic devastation has been even worse, courtesy of the 17-year-long blockade imposed by Israel. It severely restricted imports and exports, effectively killing most trade with the outside world and wrecking the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Israel even counted the calories of foods it was allowing into Gaza to ensure we barely have enough to survive.

When we have resisted – peacefully or otherwise – the Israeli occupation has shown no mercy. It has killed, maimed, imprisoned, tortured and collectively punished.

In the ongoing aggression against the Gaza Strip, this drive to decimate the Palestinian people has taken on genocidal proportions.

In 100 days, in the killing fields of Gaza, Israel managed to slaughter at least 31,000 Palestinians – 23,000 who have been officially counted and at least 8,000 who could not be because their bodies are still under the rubble with no one to take them out.

The rest of us, who have survived, have faced the deadly combination of fear, hunger and thirst under Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment and total siege.

Over the past 100 days, the Israeli occupation has denied the entry of food, water, and medicine to the Gaza Strip. Not only that, but Israeli air strikes have targeted every source of life. From water wells and water treatment plants to bakeries, farms, electricity generators, and solar panels, Israel has systematically targeted any means of relief for the people of Gaza.

Afaf Al-Najjar

Palestinian journalist from Gaza

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