Friday, 22 October 2021
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By Graham Bambrough

The furore over the BBC and Sky's refusal to screen an appeal from the Disasters Emergency Committee for Gaza jerks the issue of how we got here back into the spotlight.

In the Middle East, the past matters. An argument over the rights and wrongs of this operation and the pluses and minuses of another, can easily lead to an impromptu test of one's ability to recite from the history books. So it is with latest round of violence in Gaza that has left an estimated 1,300 Palestinians dead, 412 of them children, and a dozen or so Israelis


The origins of Operation Cast Lead did not begin with the breakdown of the tentative ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in December 2008. They do not even lie with Israel's decision to provoke the Islamic Resistance Movement by killing six of its fighters on the same day of the US Presidential election. The inevitability of the recent conflict began decades ago with the creation of the state of Israel and its subsequent occupation and detailed control of Gaza.

Gaza is a miserable strip of land. It is crammed to its seams with 1.5 million Palestinians, seventy per cent of whom are refugees and their descendants that were displaced following the creation of Israel in 1948. Whilst Israelis point to the 2005 disengagement of settlers and the withdrawal of troops as evidence that Gaza was in fact liberated, according to the law of the international community Israel has remained as in control of the territory as at any point since its capture in the Six Day War. The land borders, coastal waters and airspace of Gaza are controlled not by its own people but by Israelis, whilst even the most basic of imports and exports are prevented from passing through the fence that surrounds the territory on all land sides.

As such the economy, infrastructure and people of Gaza have all been brought to their knees in recent years. Save the Children reports that before the recent conflict began the humanitarian situation in the Strip was already dire. Fifty thousand children were malnourished, nearly half of two-year-olds in the territory were suffering from anaemia and eighty per cent had a Vitamin A deficiency. Three quarters of all Gazans were dependent on food aid in 2008, according to the UK Department for International Development. Hamas is motivated to fire rockets from amidst such misery and desperation.

Israel's overwhelming attack was therefore an attempt to treat the symptoms of the perceived ills in Gaza (namely Hamas' growing sense of power), rather than the overall condition (the reasons behind Palestinian support for the Islamists). Gazans did not awake one morning and pledge in unison their unflinching support for Hamas, but following decades of an occupation that has brought them nothing but death and misery, have slowly been drawn to the voices calling most loudly for resistance.

In its attempt to wipe out Hamas, it can only be concluded that Israel has only succeeded in temporarily halting the flow of rockets and mortars. The situation on the ground is no different now than before the IDF's raid on Gaza on 4th November. The territory remains under economic siege; the militants command increasing support; and the civilian population is only kept alive by the supply of smuggled food and fuel through the tunnel network under the border with Egypt.

The ceasefire is not a long term viable solution, but rather a poorly applied and ill fitting band-aid, as indeed the Israeli authorities themselves said before they ceased operations just before President Obama's inauguration. A political solution must be found because military ones will always be temporary. Israel must end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, cease its incursions into the territory and ultimately sit down and talk with the elected government of the Palestinian territories. Failure to do this will only lead to another round of violence, a resumption of rocket fire, further military action from Israel and the inevitable death and radicalisation of yet more miserable Gazans.

Graham Bambrough is Parliamentary Officer at the Council for Arab-British Understanding (www.caabu.org)

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