Many Palestinians are expressing delight over the pull-out of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip. But as human rights lawyer Raji Sourani argues, the celebrations maybe premature. The streets of Gaza are full of flags, hats and t-shirts celebrating the end of occupation, the liberation of Palestine. There are nightly street celebrations by the political factions each of them claiming they were the ones responsible for the Israeli ‘withdrawal’. In the media speeches are made and songs are played all contributing to this euphoric atmosphere.
As I walk around the dusty Gaza streets and watch these often colourful celebrations I understand that after 38 years (of occupation) people are looking for somewhere to place their hopes. However, the redeployment of the Israeli military to Gaza’s borders and the cementing of control of the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem should not be it.
In PCHR we have decided each day to try and tell the stories of various Palestinian civilians whose tales will never be told in the international media.
Publishing them on our website, adding their voices to the many other voices that express fear about the ‘disengagement’ is an act of empowerment which may just help to make an impact, to change an opinion, to help us seek justice.
Even though settlers are leaving Gaza, the occupation, arbitrary arrest, house demolitions and expanding settlements continue in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
People increasingly understand that ‘disengagement’ means that the suffering of the occupation will continue - that Israel’s Annexation Wall will cut them off from the rest of the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem as well as the Gaza Strip.
The people you see on television celebrating on the streets of Gaza will also come to realise that Israel remains in control of the land borders (including the only access point from Gaza to the outside world), the sea (preventing fishing, pleasure boating or travel for work or holidays) and the air (ensuring that the airport runway remains bombed-out and inoperable).
In short - the Israeli occupation of Palestine is continuing in its legal and physical form - this is not liberation, this is not self-determination, this is not human rights - this ‘disengagement’ is not designed to bring peace but rather to institutionalise the effects of war.
Raji Sourani is Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and an internationally renowned human rights defender. He has campaigned all his life for the realisation of peace and human rights in Palestine and many other parts of the world.