Update from DSPR on Gaza

Update from DSPR on Gaza

Update by Dr. Bernard Sabella

I do not want to reiterate what I wrote in a previous message but the situation on the ground in Gaza is so tragic. The conflict between Israel and our Palestinian people has taken a turn to the worse. The scenes of bloodshed, of innocent children reduced to pieces, of grown-ups mourning their loved ones, of funerals attended by thousands all add up to a situation where Palestinians and Israelis cannot stand each other, any more. I do not know if it is hatred or simply group solidarity and identity that puts us against them, and vice versa, but the reality is that our separation this time is so brutal and the way the Israeli war machine has opted to deal with our people only reinforces this brutal and tragic separation.

Amidst this trauma, the work of non-governmental and church related organizations is important. But if you would allow me, we have failed in our so called “advocacy” efforts as we have not convinced the politicians here and abroad of the need and urgency to make lasting and just peace. We have acted like a Band-Aid for the Israeli occupation and not as a surgical tool to help end the occupation. We will come back to the scene of devastation in Gaza and some will also work with the Israelis in Southern Israel, because of balance and the need to be seen as impartial and fair to both sides, but the reality is that our work as good Samaritans does not really help transport the conflict to a situation of peace and a just lasting solution. I may be generalizing and some of you will not be happy but we need to do more than simply being good Samaritans.

The times are very difficult indeed and they will become more difficult in the coming weeks and months. No, I am not talking about a third Intifada I am simply saying that the separation between us and the Israelis, because of the devastating war in Gaza, is irreversible. While we tend to the wounds of our Palestinian brothers and sisters and their children, we have to remember that this tragedy in Gaza would not have happened if the Israeli politicians have opted for peace and went on with the peace negotiations. Some, particularly in Europe and the West , put the blame on Hamas for shooting rockets into Israel. But what is the root cause for this, can we ask? if we Palestinians have to behave like good boys, on Israeli conditions and accept all the infractions committed against us, are we really human? Who can convince us that what Israel is doing with its siege on Gaza, its settlements in the West Bank, its policies and measures in East Jerusalem are all for our good and for the future of our children? Is Israel preparing the ground for good neighborliness or is it creating the environment for further war and bloodshed? When would Israeli politicians wake up?

Now to some news from our Colleagues in Gaza, I have been in contact with Dr. Issa, the Executive Director of DSPR Gaza and he informs me that the staff and their families are fine to the best of his knowledge. The Shija’iyeh clinic  had its outer door opened because of the bombardments and there was fear that because the clinic is open then the clinic may be compromised. But  the owner of the building where the clinic sits, has returned to the building and he worked on blocking the door as best as he could and he alerted neighbors who opted not to leave the area to keep their eyes open on the clinic.

The expectations are that the Rafah clinic being in a sensitive area may be exposed to the effects of the war. So far according to Dr. Issa, we have not heard bad news there and we continue hoping. The vocational training centers most likely would have suffered shattered glasses and possibly some minor structural damage but we need to ascertain this once the war stops. Main offices are fine but again there shattered glasses and some damage but once we gain access, we will give a more detailed description of the situation.

The bombardments are heavy especially at night and this puts grown-ups and children in a most difficult and traumatizing situation. A woman I spoke to described how she could not sleep as the bombardments were going on Wednesday night. She told me she is really worried and traumatized by what is going on and so is her husband. She lives in a relatively “safe” area but she is not sure that they will be spared the indiscriminate shelling and bombardment. People sit at home and do not dare to go out except if there is an emergency. There is minimal driving and stores are mostly closed. The prices however have risen very high, in part due to the lack of goods. The cash situation of most Gazans is bad even though the Palestinian government in Ramallah has paid the July salaries yesterday because the end of Ramadan arrives on either Monday or Tuesday of next week. Still, a good number of people do not have money to cover their basic necessities.

One of the sad things about this war is that aside from the physical separation between Palestinians and Israelis; the separation wall, the Gaza siege, the permit system, etc…, there is now such a psychological separation between the two peoples. Jew and Arab are living in two worlds with no meeting ground in the middle. The gulf that has grown wider and wider with this war necessitates political separation. Only a peaceful resolution that would bring to our Palestinian people its natural rights of establishing a state together with solving the outstanding problems with the Israelis, could help in bringing the two peoples to the realization that, like it or not, they are neighbors living side by side. But for this to happen we are in need of courageous leaders, especially on the Israeli side.

*Dr. Bernard Sabella serves as Executive Secretary of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees, of the Middle East Council of Churches, a Global Ministries partner.