Thursday, January 22

Same report, different day

“A report sponsored by eight British-based aid agencies and human rights groups has described the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip as the worst in 40 years. And a senior UN official has warned that the entire infrastructure there is close to collapse.

“The report …also describes the terrible situation in hospitals where power cuts can last up to 12 hours a day.”

“[T]he water and sewage systems are close to collapse, with 40-50 million liters of sewage pouring into the sea every day.”

“The report comes hot on the heels of the Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip…The incursion was a response to the escalation in rocket attacks fired by militants at Israel…The Israeli response was condemned by many international observers as disproportionate.”

“Israel's Defense Ministry rejected the report, saying Hamas, the militant Islamist rulers in Gaza, was to blame for the hardships.”

John Ging, director of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, told Reuters: "The whole infrastructure is in a state of collapse, whether it's water, sanitation or just the medical services."

The above excerpts were taken from an article in Der Spiegel and sound a lot like many articles I have read in the past week since both the Israeli military and Hamas declared unilateral cease-fires. What is remarkable about this article is that it was published on March 6, 2008—nine months before this latest round of violence in Gaza.

What happened in Gaza in the past month has happened before. And it happens in smaller ways everyday, even when truces are in place. Why, then, have we repeated history?

I think that Sabeel, a Jerusalem based MCC partner, identified a key reason why we have yet to see stability in Gaza. In their weekly prayer that was distributed today, they included the following: “We hope that the world remembers that Gaza is not simply a humanitarian crisis, it is also a crisis of justice. For a lasting peace, Israel must end its siege and occupation of Gaza.”

When examining Gaza from the outside, it is all too easy to view the situation as one of two things—a humanitarian crisis or an intractable cycle of rocket attacks and “defensive” actions. But these two perspectives miss the larger point. Gazans—like all Palestinians—live under occupation. Even if Gaza was rebuilt tomorrow and not another rocket was fired (in either direction), Palestine and Israel would still not have true peace. A just and lasting peace requires much more than food and a lack of violence. It requires dignity, self-determinism, and legitimacy.

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