In those years, the population increased by 400,000, and a whole new generation was born, a generation which has never seen a single day without power cuts, and who found themselves having to be satisfied with crowded classes, inadequate sanitation and inescapable malnutrition, believing that this is the norm.
But this is not the complete picture. Factoring in three major attacks since 2008 and decades of military lockdown by Israel is only the beginning of understanding Gaza’s multiple layers of suffering. We have now arrived at a point where hope is the scarcest necessity of all.
However, it is the cumulative effect of the blockade which must be addressed, not only the effects of the 2014 attack. Eight years of blockade had already left Gaza with a shortage of 75,000 housing units before last summer’s offensive.
An already vulnerable civilian population was left more exposed by each attack. Vital infrastructure such as water systems, sanitation and health services were all badly damaged by the recent Israeli campaign.
But those were already on the verge of collapse. Millions of liters of wastewater are disposed of in the Mediterranean every day, and sometimes sewage floods whole neighborhoods. More than 100,000 people have had their homes damaged or destroyed. Access to running water is limited to a few hours a week, and most areas of Gaza are now without electricity for eighteen hours a day.
Farmers have been unable to access their fields to plant their new season of crops, and when they do so they are risking their lives. Fishermen, too, are daily targets for the Israeli surveillance boats. Just last month, a fisherman was shot dead not far from the shore.
The blockade has also systematically devastated Gaza’s economy. As a result, a million of Gaza’s population of 1.8 million is dependent on aid.
An average of 48 truckloads of exports have been allowed to leave Gaza per month recently. That was just 4.5 percent of the level before the siege was imposed in 2007.
The transfer of agricultural products and other goods to Palestinian markets in the occupied West Bank is almost entirely banned.
Unemployment rates have hit an unprecedented level at around 50 percent. Hundreds of factories and workshops have either been destroyed or stopped functioning as essential materials are not allowed into Gaza.
Furthermore, most people are unable to leave Gaza which has been effectively disconnected from the rest of Palestine and the world. Many patients have died due to limitations on movement of individuals.
It is impossible to quantify the opportunities that have been lost because of Israel’s blockade.
History teaches us that peace which is not built on justice and freedom is only temporary. The foundations for a lasting peace demand the end of the Israeli occupation in Palestine, and the restoration of our rights, starting with the most basic. Ending the siege is merely the beginning; a small step on the road.
Thick cloud of propaganda
The first step towards achieving this noble end is to understand, to undertake a comprehensive appraisal of the facts on the ground as well as the facts of history and then to convey this understanding to others.
We understand that it can be difficult to see through the thick clouds of propaganda. But Gaza must not to be seen just through Israeli eyes — as a security threat. Instead, it must be seen for the steadfastness displayed by its people in the face of enormous injustice and for their limitless potential.
We, the people of Gaza, urge complete support for and involvement in the Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Universities have been among the most active in boycotting the institutions of Israeli apartheid; we call for this trend to continue and to intensify.
Every step matters. Earlier this year, 700 UK-based artists, journalists and writers denounced Israel’s occupation and policies and joined the campaign for an academic and cultural boycott. This step was warmly received by Palestinians. The positive reverberations of every such move are immense.
Parliaments, too, carry a share of the responsibility. Palestinians welcome the recent steps taken by many countries towards recognizing Palestine as a state. At the same time, we strongly request that this step be followed by actions to push Israel to fulfill its commitments and to end its illegal siege and occupation.
Accountability is of key importance towards achieving a sustainable peace. When we, Palestinians, applied to join the International Criminal Court, we were hit with sanctions, both financially and on the ground, which made the lives of the wretched even more difficult.
We need our efforts to attain justice to be backed up by international action. After the campaign of terror known as Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009, legal teams in the UK filed a lawsuit against the British government’s complicity in Israel’s crimes. Lawyers sympathetic to Palestine were able to deter war criminals — including the prominent politician Tzipi Livni — from entering the UK for fear of being apprehended.
This is just one example of what small but brilliant efforts could achieve. Let these efforts continue; we are ready to submit whatever evidence they need to proceed.
Israel fears facts, and it thrives on propaganda. For eight years, Israel has been efficiently stifling our voices, limiting our activities to Gaza, and our access to the Internet.
It is our belief that an independent body, free from the pressures of the Israel lobby, would be of great help and have a major impact. I long for the day when we will have an active European organization to end the siege of Gaza.
Despite the many hardships we are facing, and the endless list of catastrophes that we have endured, glimmers of hope reach us every time a human being — even if he or she is thousands of miles away — expresses sympathy and understanding.
Believe me when I say that, in Gaza, hope is as important as oxygen.
Jamal Khoudary is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege.