Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum “Perspectives”–newsletter, issue 3
Gaza’s tragic humanitarian crisis
by Michel Nseir
Public witness programme, Special focus on the Middle East
World Council of Churches
Gaza’s declining humanitarian conditions – Photo: Sameh A. Habeeb
Gaza is an appalling picture of human tragedy. The humanitarian crisis is taking its ugly toll. One and a half million Gaza Palestinians – Muslims and Christians, men, women, and children – live in the world’s largest prison. It is a virtual refugee camp. Eight large refugee camps define its contours. One does not have to be a political analyst to be able to make this conclusion. The tragedy stares you in the face.
The distressed conditions have given way to frustration and the ascendancy of groups who adopt violence as their mode of resistance is increasing. This pattern of attack and counter attack is creating havoc in which average innocent citizen are often killed, injured, and rendered homeless.
There is a simple logic for those who launch the rocket attacks on Israel. They want an end to the occupation, and the siege to which they are subjected. Yet, it makes little sense to the innocent people on both sides who are hit by the rockets and the bombing that comes back with even greater force. The bottom line is this: Peace must reign. And that presupposes justice.
In the meanwhile, the humanitarian conditions rapidly decline. Essential goods and services are blocked and even crucial goods and medicines cannot reach the people. The blockade ensures this. Gaza’s children are most affected in multiple ways. They will grow to carry the psychological scars of this inhumanity. Their education is disrupted and their growth as children stunted.
Humanitarian law requires an end to the violence. That, however, is easier said than done. The scope and basis for dialogue has fallen under the weight of an asymmetric relationship between the occupying power and the Palestinian political leadership who are also hopelessly divided. The international community watches mute and in a virtual state of impotence. This failure is, perhaps, the most astonishing and notable aspect of Gaza’s suffering.
In this issue of Perspectives, we draw attention to the humanitarian crisis and the unending calamity that has accompanied the blockade, and worsend since the Gaza War. The signs of hope may be minimal. Yet, there are ongoing initiatives that defy the logic of war and seek to instil signs of hope.
Through reports, articles, and commentaries, Perspectives underlines the questions and issues that pervade the Gaza reality. Our hope is that the challenges that these materials bring to the reader will prompt individual and collective advocacy actions at governmental level, and initiatives designed to heighten consciousness in your communities, churches, and institutions. Any place is a valid place to begin action. In the final analysis, the world needs to begin caring sufficiently enough to say a deafening “enough is enough’. Not until international opinion is mobilized, can we hope to change policies and practices that violate every standard of civilized behaviour.