By Sabeen Kazmi
On my way home from McMaster on Wednesday evening last week, my sister texted me exclaiming that Israel and Hamas had agreed on a ceasefire.
According to Owen Jones – an independent columnist – the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza began in early October when Israel ignored the ongoing ceasefire negotiations and killed fifteen Palestinians fighters, a mentally disabled individual and a thirteen-month old in an intrusion. During negotiations for ceasefire agreement, air strike missiles were fired by Israel, killing Ahmed Al-Jabari, the military leader of Hamas. The assassination of Al-Jabari resulted in the end of ceasefire negotiations and the Palestinians retaliated by firing rockets at Israel. On Nov. 8, Israel responded to the firing of rockets by striking air missiles, which lasted eight days. These bombs and missiles destroyed several homes, headquarters of news channels, injured thousands of civilians and killed a 168, 37 of whom were children. The rockets fired by Hamas killed five and injured 219 Israelis.
News of the ceasefire agreement was conflicting for me. I was, of course, relieved to hear that there was no immediate danger to innocent civilians on both sides. However, I was also skeptical – just how long will the ceasefire agreement hold? Worst yet, I was afraid the ceasefire agreement would end the recently growing interest regarding the decades long Gaza and Israel conflict. I did not want people to stop talking about this issue because there was no longer an imminent threat – bombing and the firing of missiles and rockets’ endangering the lives of innocent civilian.
Yes, rockets were fired into Israel. And yes, the targeting of civilians is wrong and should be condemned. However, only calling Hamas’ actions ‘acts of terrorism’ is ridiculous and blatantly hypocritical. Israel has committed similar actions on a much larger scale and violates basic human rights on a daily basis.
Over the last decade, 1,476 children and over 6,500 Palestinians have been killed and 59,575 injured by Israel.
Even though Israel exited Gaza in 2005, it now maintains and controls the occupation from the outside.
On his recent visit to the area, Noam Chomsky described Gaza as the “world’s largest open-air prison.” The idea of the Gaza siege in the words of Israeli official Dov Weisglass “is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Israel’s current siege limits water, food, medical supplies and is the cause of 40 per cent of Palestinians living in poverty after losing their jobs in Israel. The siege has also halted all exports which resulted in the crash of private sector. Furthermore, due to the tight regulations of imports, Gaza does not have the necessary supplies needed to attempt the rebuilding of infrastructures which were demolished by Israel.
Thus far, 24,813 Palestinians’ homes have been demolished by Israeli defense forces since 1967. A large number of Palestinians continue to live in the rubble of their homes; meanwhile, others move in to live with relatives. A total of 80,000-90,000 Palestinians are displaced due to this conflict, 50,000 of whom are children. The numbers of displaced refugees continue to rise; the shelters are overcrowded and are sheltering twice their originally planned capacities
Additionally, the entire civilian population in the Gaza strip remains vulnerable, with no safe haven, no bomb shelters and closed borders, making it one of the rare conflicts where civilians have no place to flee.
We must not be placated at the news of ceasefire agreements; instead we should use this tragic event as an opportunity to prevent further violations of rights from occurring to Palestinian people.
The siege on Gaza must be lifted along with regulations implemented on food, water and medical supplies. Gaza’s dependency on Israel must end and living conditions must be restored.