You run out of words to describe what’s happening in Gaza. The millions, billions of words that have already been, and most likely will be, written cover it and yet don’t cover it. For how can it be described? How can it be discussed? How can it be written about? How can it be lived? How can it be?
How many vile atrocities have engendered the “never again/no more” responses? And we know about this one. I truly believe that in the future when Palestine is free and people look back and remember with horror what was done to the Palestinian people, they will particularly focus on the siege of Gaza and wonder how it was permitted to happen and to continue.
It is an exercise in cruelty so horrible that to actually contemplate it is painful. Last week the UN issued a report entitled “Gaza in 2020 A liveable place? which looks at Gaza and projects the needs of the population there and the capacity for those needs to be met. The report examines the infrastructural, social, education, healthcare, power and food requirements and forecasts to 2020.
The contents of the report make for very grim reading, not least the fact that right now only 10% of Gaza’s water is safe for drinking and the prediction that by 2016 the aquifer, the only source of water, may be unusable. It is attached here for anyone to read but the conclusion bears quoting in full:
“In the absence of sustained and effective remedial action and an enabling political environment, the challenges which confront the people of Gaza now will only intensify over the coming years to 2020, a period in which another half a million people will be added to the present estimated population of 1.6 million. Without such action, the daily lives of Gazans in 2020 will be worse than they are now. There will be virtually no reliable access to sources of safe drinking water, standards of healthcare and education will have continued to decline, and the vision of affordable and reliable electricity for all will have become a distant memory for most.
The already high number of poor, marginalized and food-insecure people depending on assistance will not have changed, and in all likelihood will have increased.
To ensure that Gaza in 2020 will be “a liveable place,” on-going herculean efforts by Palestinians and partners in such sectors as energy, education, health, water and sanitation, need to be accelerated and intensified in the face of all difficulties.
It is essential that the inhabitants of Gaza are able to exercise and enjoy the full range of fundamental human rights to which they are entitled. They must be able to live safe and secure lives free of the various forms of violence which afflict them at present; benefit from proper health care, education and housing; elect and hold accountable representatives of government; be subject to fair and impartial justice; and have ready access to the world beyond Gaza for religious, educational, medical, cultural, commercial and other purposes.
In short the Palestinian people of Gaza must be enabled to live dignified, healthy and productive lives in peace and security, both now and in the future.”
That these recommendations have to be made is alarming, that the basic rights of the Palestinians in Gaza have been eroded to such a degree is criminal, and that’s no exaggeration – collective punishment is illegal. It is an indictment of every single politician who has any influence or power to stand against this. Every government that continues to treat Israel as anything other than a pariah state is culpable. The idea that somewhere may become unliveable due to deliberate, manmade conditions is incredible, it beggars belief, yet it is very likely unless this siege is ended.
Rights are non-negotiable and are universal, depriving people of those rights is wrong. The siege has been maintained for years, pre-dating the election of Hamas, although considerably more extreme since then. I worry that it will become normalised and the main focus becomes making it less inhumane. I worry that this has already happened.
Despite the privations and oppression, the art, music and writing (wow the writing) coming out of Gaza, out of Palestine is amazing and inspirational – it blows me away to see the sheer resistance, the brilliance, the defiance in the face of the apartheid regime. The people give me hope, they show us that this will end, that there will be justice.
Still, I wonder how many more words will we read and write about Gaza, about Palestine before that happens. I look forward to the day that Palestine is beautifully liveable for all its people.