The conflict currently raging in Gaza is the third in six years. I use the word ‘conflict’ to describe the confrontation between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement that governs the Gaza strip, with hesitation. In fact, I probably shouldn’t use it at all. This is because the word ‘conflict’ inadequately conveys the full measure of inequality between the two sides: occupier and occupied.
Since the Israeli army took over the Palestinian Territories in 1967, the country’s government have spent many hours and millions of dollars persuading the international community that the occupation was temporary. At the same time, Israel made calculated moves to ensure the very opposite. Nearly five decades later, Israel has entrenched its matrix of control over Palestinian land through the creation of far-flung Israeli settlements, the crushing of all resistance and, perhaps most importantly, the severing of the West Bank from the Gaza Strip.
Quite simply, Israel has imprisoned the Palestinian population. The occupation tightly controls every aspect of Palestinian life, and I mean every. In the West Bank, children have difficulty getting to school, parents to work, the sick and injured to hospitals, because Israel has erected hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks obstructing Palestinian movement around their own country. In 2002, Israel began constructing the now nearly-completed ‘Separation Barrier’, a huge concrete monstrosity which has confiscated scores of land, demolished countless homes and crops, cut off many Palestinians from their means of survival, and made travel even more difficult for the entire West Bank population.
In the Gaza Strip the situation is even worse. Nearly 1.8 million people are contained within a tiny enclave that has been under Israeli siege since Hamas came into power. Lest we forget, in 2006 Hamas won a fair and free Palestinian election and formed a government seeking a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel refused to negotiate. Since then the Gaza Strip has been blockaded by land, air and sea. (Illegally, of course, but international law has never bothered Israel) Trade is blocked. Travel is nearly impossible. Water is contaminated. Hospital supplies are lacking. Israel controls everything, including the daily amount of calories that the population of Gaza are allowed to consume. “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,” a senior Israeli official stated at the beginning of the siege.
In just over three weeks, Israel has killed more than 1,365 Gazans. The merciless bombing of houses, schools and hospitals has meant that approximately 80% of the casualties have been civilian. As always, Israel claims to be attacking Gaza in self-defence, blaming the victims of its military aggression for their own misfortunes. Yet, the real cause of this confrontation between Israel and Hamas is the 47-year-old occupation of the Palestinian territories. After 24 days of bombing, Israel still refuses a comprehensive ceasefire that meets the minimal and unified demand of all Palestinians – to lift the siege and let people lead normal lives. Until this happens Hamas will continue to resist, Israel will continue to obliterate the Gaza strip and the civilian death count will continue to rise.