One Year On, Gaza
It’s been a year since the Israelis launched their Operation Cast Lead attack on Gaza. A year in which world leaders pledged aid and change and hope but delivered nothing. And once again Israel is poking Gaza, perhaps in an effort to once again provoke the rockets which then become the excuse for more. After all, Netanyahu has said that the attack “did not go far enough” and “stopped too soon.”
And the people of Gaza, living in desperate conditions a year ago now live their lives in the rubble left by the Israeli attack:
Until a year ago, Kamal Awaja would often spend the hour before dusk in his garden, teaching his six children the names of the trees and flowers, and encouragiong each one to pick a shrub as their own. Ibrahim, his nine-year-old son, chose the red rosebush.
But a year ago today, everything changed as Israel launched its military offensive against the Hamas militants who run Gaza. After a week of fierce fighting, the gun-barrel of a tank smashed through the family’s living room window, forcing them to flee to nearby fields as their house was demolished.
Then, as they crept back at dawn to salvage warm clothes, Israeli soldiers opened fire. Both Awaja parents were wounded, and Ibrahim was hit fatally, dying in his father’s arms as he tried to rescue him.
But reliving her son’s death a year later, there is another, more harrowing detail that preys on Mrs Awaja’s mind. She says that as she hid behind a wall while her husband limped away to find help, Israeli soldiers used Ibrahim’s corpse, which was lying in a road, as target practice.
“Each time the bullets would hit, his body leapt up off the road a little bit,” she said. “It was as though he could still feel the pain even though he was already dead.”…
For the Awaja family, home is now a pair of tents set amid the partially cleared rubble of what was once a neighbourhood in the town of Beit Lahia..
Once comfortably off with a job as a radio presenter, Mr Awaja feeds his family on charity handouts cooked by his wife on a primus stove.
Gideon Levy, questioning the value of Operation Cast Lead for Isreal writes in Haaretz:
The world saw the Israeli Goliath strike mercilessly at the Palestinian David. It saw the balance of killing: one Israeli to every 100 Palestinians, and the Israel Defense Forces’ new and terrifying doctrine by which almost everything goes if it prevents casualties on our side. The world knew that in this case a democracy was striking a region that does not enjoy self-determination, whose inhabitants lack basic human rights – refugees and the children of refugees living under siege. So the world responded with justifiable severity toward us; it refused to forgive and be silent.
The world also saw Israel wrap itself in sick apathy despite what was happening. It saw the town squares almost empty of protesters, the cafes in Tel Aviv full of people having a good time. It even saw Israeli families who went to visit the hills around Gaza to show their children the bomb strikes. Later, it also saw that Israel was not even prepared to investigate what it had done, but rather lashed out at all its detractors.
And the world also quickly forgot. A year later, with $4.5 billion collected to rehabilitate Gaza lying in banks’ basement vaults because Israel refuses to open Gaza’s gates to let in supplies, the world is silent, leaving Gaza to its fate, to its ruins. But Gaza has not forgotten its wounds – it cannot forget them. The 325,000 people whose homes were destroyed, 1,300 bereaved families and thousands of injured and disabled, debilitated by anxiety and terror, remain in Gaza.
As “Naomi Zion, a peace campaigner who lives near Sderot” in Israel reminds us all:
“We lost the ability to see the other side; people just don’t care,” she says. “We lost our empathy skills – and when you lose that, you lose your humanity.”