Tuesday, 17 October 2023
If our goal is peace and a good life for all Palestinians and Israelis—and I think it should be—then we should be honest and clear-eyed about how to stop this violence. If we are horrified by the murder of innocent Israelis by Hamas and rightly condemn Hamas, horrified by the murder of innocent Palestinian civilians, outraged by Islamophobia and anti-Semitism—I certainly am—then we must do everything we can to stop this becoming a full-blown genocide carried out by the Israeli government and military in Gaza on Palestinians. We must push for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, illegal settlements and blockade of Gaza.
David Cameron said all the way back in 2010 'Everybody knows that we're not going to sort out the problem with the Middle East peace process while there is effectively a giant open prison in Gaza.' For 16 long years the 2.3 million Palestinians have lived under a brutal blockade with limited access to food, water, construction materials and medical supplies. Palestinians in Gaza have had to apply for permits—
Palestinians in Gaza have had to apply for permits just to leave Gaza to receive treatment for cancer and other serious illnesses, and often those applications have been denied and Palestinians have died of treatable illnesses, including children. Forty-five per cent of Gaza's population are children under the age of 15. Ninety-six per cent of water in Gaza is undrinkable. In 2014 Israel bombed Gaza's only power station and refused to let it be properly repaired, so the Palestinians for nearly 10 years have experienced daily blackouts.
In 2018-19 hundreds of thousands of Palestinians peacefully protested in Gaza against the blockade. The Israeli military murdered 150 protesters and shot and injured 5,000, regularly aiming for knees and ankles, often causing amputation. Studies have found over half of Palestinian children in Gaza have presented with serious trauma based mental illnesses. Unemployment in Gaza is at 46 per cent, and the entire population lives under constant drone surveillance and intermittent bombing by the Israeli military. Palestinians in Gaza have lived under these conditions since 2006.
This week, when the Israeli defence minister announced that Israel was completely cutting off food, electricity, medicine and water, he described Palestinians in Gaza as human animals. Gaza's major hospitals are hours away from running out of fuel to power their emergency generators. Here is what the Red Cross said: 'As Gaza loses power, hospitals lose power, putting newborns in incubators and elderly patients on oxygen at risk. Kidney dialysis stops and X-rays cannot be taken. Without electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues.' According to the UN Population Fund, 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza cannot access health facilities, as several hospitals have been bombed. In fact, the Israeli military has dropped over 6,000 bombs on Gaza, an area half the size of Canberra. This has included the use of white phosphorus, which burns human flesh. When the Israeli military called on 1.1 million Palestinians to leave northern Gaza in anticipation of a ground invasion, the UN described it as impossible and a death sentence, in part because it would involve evacuation along roads destroyed by Israeli bombing, along routes regularly bombed by the Israeli military, into southern Gaza, itself home to 1 million people without food, water or power also being bombed.
This is not Israel defending itself; this is the Israeli government and military carrying out mass war crimes on 2.3 million Palestinians trapped in an open-air prison—as described by the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron—when nearly 50 per cent are under the age of 15.
All these war crimes will do is bring more hate and more violence, more death, more destruction for Palestinians and Israelis alike. It will make their lives worse and less safe. Have we learned nothing from history? The illegal invasion of Iraq led to ISIS. The invasion of Afghanistan left us with a more radical Taliban. All told, millions of deaths of human beings. For what? More hate, more death, more violence. What we need now is a ceasefire and peace and then a massive aid and reconstruction program for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to give the people some hope, a lifting of the illegal blockade and an end to the occupation. I often hear people in this place rightly condemn Hamas but then advocate for policies that will breed more radicalism and breed the conditions in which Hamas emerged. What we need now is a peace process, calling on the Israeli government to back down from what risks becoming a human catastrophe.