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Gaza: the Struggle for Survival
27 January 2009






On 25th January 2009, 200,000 children finally went back to school in Gaza after 4 weeks of Israeli bombardment and severe destruction across the territory. It is said that children learn best when they are happy. How do children who have witnessed such horror begin to focus on their education? What lessons have they learnt from what they have seen and how will they apply them in the years to come?

Homes, schools, businesses and mosques were destroyed in the Israeli effort to reach its objective: the destruction of Hamas and the clandestine means by which the people of Gaza have been forced to carve out their existence.

Amidst a shaky ceasefire, the recriminations in Israel begin, in the build up to its elections in February. The borders crossings to Gaza remain closed with the much needed reconstruction equipment unable to get through. Humanitarian aid is promised and is trickling through. There is talk about war crimes, not least because of the use of white phosphorous by the Israeli military against the civilian population in Gaza.

In the UK, the BBC has resolutely refused to air an appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee for humanitarian aid for Gaza. The decision is based upon a claim that it will compromise the impartiality of the BBC, thereby showing its partiality.

What is there to be impartial about in the crisis? The death toll in Gaza has exceeded 1,350 with over a third of those being children. Whatever rockets the Palestinians succeeded in firing into Israel, it can hardly be said that Israel was under siege, being starved out of existence and the infrastructure and its economy shattered.

Apparently the phrase which is commonly used in Israel about the war is that it has been “seared into their consciousness”. In other words, the Palestinians have suffered so much that they will hesitate to use any aggression against Israel in the future. What options are available to the Palestinians? If you are in a prison with no end in sight to your incarceration, are you just meant to be thankful that you are alive, particularly when you have done nothing to be locked away from the outside world?

There is however hope that, this time, those who value freedom and despise inhumanity, have seen that Israel cannot be allowed to continue to be the unchallenged aggressor. History tells us that Israel is waging a war it cannot win. There is a sense in which the tide has turned and although the battle ahead may be hard, it will in the end be won.

For more information on the options available to support the work for peace and progress in the Middle East, see for example, the websites of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Gush Shalom. A full list of resources can be found below.

Crisis in Gaza

At its Annual Conference in November 2005, Peace and Progress passed 2 policies that are relevant to the current crisis in the Middle East.

The first was on the issue of the right to self determination and stated that:

“Peace & Progress affirms the inalienable right of all peoples to self-determination. No nation can be deemed to have true self determination while there are foreign troops on its territory”

In a statement on the Middle East, the policy passed read:

“We support campaigns for justice in Palestine, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Occupied Territories and the objective of a nuclear free zone in the Middle East”

Israel withdrew its troops from Gaza in 2005 but it has maintained a firm control over the borders with the exception of the Rafah crossing at the Egyptian border. One and a half a million people live in a strip of land which is now no bigger than 25 miles by 7 miles at its widest point. The areas in Israel into which home made rockets are fired from Gaza were once Palestinian lands, taken by force with no compensation.

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