By Bianca Zammit – Gaza
‘Is this our fate? Is this what we are worth? Nothing more than pictures on the wall?’ said Um Rabia referring to what has now become a custom in Palestine, covering walls in the streets, homes and shops with pictures of deceased family members. Um Rabia’ children were killed by an automatic watch tower as they were walking to school. No soldiers, no officers and no government has ever been forced to take responsibility for this action and if trends are abided to then it is very hard to believe justice will be served in any near future. Unfortunately, Um Rabia’ story is a very common story in Palestine. If this trend is not stopped, soon there shall be no more wall in the streets, in homes and in shops left uncovered.
In October 2009 an opportunity presented itself at the door of the international community. This opportunity was seeking nothing but the truth on the human rights violations committed during operation Cast Lead. It listened and witnessed and applied international law. When the Goldstone report finally emerged it revealed the clear priorities of each nation especially their interest or disinterest in human rights and rule of law. The report found that Israel had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The international community has chosen to play down the findings cited in the report and to opt for lip service followed by inaction. Inaction has never brought justice and the let’s wait and see approach puts civilians lives in jeopardy.
One thing that has clearly emerged after the international community reaction to the Goldstone report is that if we are to wait upon governments to heed the wake up call and prioritize humanitarianism then what a long wait it shall indeed be. For those who have a country, a passport and all the security and benefits which comes with it, patience maybe deemed a virtue, yet in Palestine, in Al Quds (East Jerusalem), in the West Bank every day more and more people are displaced, evicted from their homes and forced to become refugees within their country. In the Gaza Strip everyday farmers are shot at as they attempt harvesting fruits and vegetables from their lands, fishing personnel face similar fate and children just like Um Rabia’ face death on a daily basis as they attempt going to school. The more time the international community waits the more Palestinians have to pay with their life.
The feedback to the Goldstone report has awakened an important historic lesson that sometimes the international community gets it wrong and in this situation it is up to us, the people of the world to work for justice and to say NO. This is not so much our choice as it is our duty.
1400 people of the world from 42 countries have taken their duty seriously. They chose to spend their New Year’s Eve and the rest of the festive season to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza as Gazans commemorate the end of operation Cast Lead and the three year siege.
Yousef Abdul Jarrab Al-Mughrabi is a 21 year old student. During operation Cast Lead a drone bomb exploded in the vicinity of his home causing him to become blind and injuring the right side of his body. He required urgent specialized ontological treatment which is not available in Gaza. He contacted an Egyptian specialist but was only allowed to come to Egypt by the Egyptian Embassy after one month.
The Egyptian specialist advised him to go to Spain for further treatment. When he reached Spain doctors immediately told him that he had come too late. Al-Mughrabi is an outstanding student with an above 90 average. Before the attacks he was following a degree in Civil Engineering at the University College for Applied Sciences. Now he has been forced to change his course and start from scratch. In order to study his wife reads the textbooks and he repeats and memorizes. He comes to university with the help of his brother who accompanies him everyday. Al-Mughrabi has not given up but hopes that he will find help in order to improve his sight. His spirit is still energetic and lively. "I wish that my sacrifice will not be for nothing but will help the Palestinian plight for justice".
For Al-Mughrabi the siege cost him his sight. For others the siege has claimed their lives or that of their loved ones. Mohammed Yousef Mousa is a student at the University College for Applied Sciences. His father was injured during operation Cast Lead. He needed to receive immediate treatment from Egypt which was not available in Gaza. The Egyptian Embassy denied him entry. He died after three months.
The siege has also claimed everyday life in Gaza; the basic infrastructure taken for granted in other countries such as electricity and water supply of which there is a shortage. The siege has blocked people from their opportunities such as scholarships abroad. It obstructed people from fulfilling their religious obligations such as participating in pilgrimages abroad. It caused families to become and remain apart depending heavily on internet in order to communicate with each other. It caused families who have a loved one in an Israeli prison to become detached completely without the regular visits, forced to rely on letters which are received months after they had been written. The siege has cost people their jobs, their only source of employment. It has caused food shortages to become a daily reality. It has forced people who lost their home during the operation cast lead to live 12 months later in a tent where their home used to be. It has forced Gazans to inhabit a museum of destruction and to go relive the 22 day attacks daily. The siege has also not allowed any rebuilding materials to enter and obstructed any rebuilding from taking place forcing people to live in a state of constant memory and danger.
The siege has to end. This is the message that will be carried during the Gaza Freedom March on the 31st December 2009. The Gaza Freedom March is comprised of people who have found the courage to say No where the international community has failed. In doing so they will be carrying on in the work initiated by Mahatma Gandhi in his plight for Indian independence and Nelson Mandela in his struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Their legacy is too powerful to be ignored, the siege too deadly to be allowed. The 31st December 2009 is an opportunity for all the people of the world to show their solidarity with the people of Gaza and to say NO at Israeli Embassies worldwide. The trend needs to be reversed. We cannot allow anymore pictures to go on the wall.
– Bianca Zammit is a member of the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza and of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.