At 3am Gaza time, July 9, in the midst of Israel’s latest exercise in savagery, I received a phone call from a young Palestinian journalist in Gaza. In the background, I could hear his infant child wailing, amidst the sounds of explosions and jet planes, targeting any civilian who moves, and homes as well. He just saw a friend of his in a car clearly marked “press” blown away. And he heard shrieks next door after an explosion but can’t go outside or he’ll be a likely target. This is a quiet neighborhood, no military targets – except Palestinians who are fair game for Israel’s high tech US-supplied military machine. He said that 70% of the ambulances have been destroyed, and that by then over 70 had been killed, and of the 300 or so wounded, about 2/3 women and children. Few Hamas activists have been hit – or rocket launching sites. Just the usual victims.
It is important to understand what life is like in Gaza when Israel’s behavior is “restrained,” in between the regular manufactured crises like this one. A good sense is given in a report to UNRWA by Mads Gilbert, the courageous and expert Norwegian physician who has worked extensively in Gaza, also throughout the vicious and murderous Cast Lead operation. In every respect, the situation is disastrous. Just keeping to children, Gilbert reports: “Palestinian children in Gaza are suffering immensely. A large proportion are affected by the man-made malnourishment regime caused by the Israeli imposed blockage. Prevalence of anaemia in children <2yrs in Gaza is at 72.8%, while prevalence of wasting, stunting, underweight have been documented at 34.3%, 31.4%, 31.45% respectively.” And it gets worse as the report proceeds.
When Israel is on “good behavior,” more than two Palestinian children are killed every week, a pattern that goes back over 14 years. The underlying cause is the criminal occupation and the programs to reduce Palestinian life to bare survival in Gaza, while Palestinians are restricted to unviable cantons in the West Bank and Israel takes over what it wants, all in gross violation of international law and explicit Security Council resolutions, not to speak of minimal decency. And it will continue as long as it is supported by Washington and tolerated by Europe – to our everlasting shame.