A Gaza Account: Life in the Line of Fire

By Eyad El-Sarraj – Gaza

This carnage goes on, as does another humanitarian crisis brought about by the Israeli siege of Gaza: a lack of medicines, bread, flour, gas, electricity, fuel and almost everything else. The Israeli siege has literally turned Gaza into a massive prison. All our borders are sealed, so there is no way out.

By Tuesday night, Gaza was like a ghost town. Its streets were deserted and people didn’t dare to come out of their houses.

The children suffer the most, I think. They see the fear in their mothers’ eyes. The image of their fathers as a source of security is shattered. Their fathers could not provide them with food, and now they are unable to protect them. The rockets will eventually stop flying, I am certain, but it may be too late for these children. To me, the chances seem great that they will join Hamas as they search for a replacement for the father figure, someone to provide and protect. In this way, Israeli actions will only strengthen Hamas.

Wisdom tells us that violence can only breed violence. Israel’s brutality guarantees that its people will not be secure. Israel may destroy much and kill many in Hamas, but that is not the solution. Hamas was born because of the occupation and won the democratic elections in 2006 because of false promises of peace and people’s disillusionment with the Palestinian Authority.

Israel and its allies should address Palestinian grievances instead of aggravating them by denying justice and security and by violating basic human rights. Most of the Palestinians in Gaza are here because they were expelled in 1948 when Israel was created. Since then, we have not had a day of freedom or of equal rights with Israelis. We can barely feed our children or provide them with medicine, because Israel controls everything that goes in and out.

From where I sit, in the middle of this barrage of bombing, Israel looks to be increasingly living outside the norms of the world community and outside international law.

I am not alone in thinking this. U.N. Human Rights envoy Richard Falk declared that what Israel is doing is a crime against humanity. Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson, former head of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, have expressed similar views in the past. Israel must be stopped.

It looks increasingly likely, though, that before the missiles stop exploding, we will have more days like last Thursday, when a family that lives across the street came to our house. They had gotten a phone call telling them to evacuate because their home would soon be bombed. Israelis sometimes make these calls, but you can’t always be sure what will happen. Some houses are actually bombed after such messages. But some are hoaxes.

Then on Friday we got word that my stepdaughter’s friend — a Christian — had died from wounds she had sustained earlier in the week. Noor spent the day crying.

– Eyad El-Sarraj, a psychiatrist, is the founder and president of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program and a commissioner of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights.

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