In the Bible we can find a peaceful region which in our days has become very difficult to get a reasonable picture from. Worse than in Roman times it is now a place of indiscriminate assaults on civilian populations.
Confined in the crowded, sandy coast enclave of 2 million, where poverty and unemployment hover around 40 percent, weary Gazans say they hope the continuous battle will break the blockade that Israel and Egypt impose on them. Many have given up the hope that they shall be able to see peace in the Middle East in their lifetime.
We may think of what goes on in that “stroke of land” as the Middle Eastern equivalent of a self-fulfilling prophecy, which means it hardly even qualifies as a prediction to say that Israel’s violent and punishing acts against the civilian population of Gaza will settle nothing whatsoever. Around the area we may find an “arc of instability”.
The Israeli authorities (aided, alas, by Egypt) have completely forbidden the entry of tourists, one of the lesser-known facets of their perverse siege of the Gaza Strip that has ground on now for a dozen year.
Gaza used to be an ancient crossroads connecting Arabia to Europe and, in more recent years, a magnet for international visitors exploring the Holy Land. Today this narrow strip on the Mediterranean Sea is one of the most isolated spots on Earth.
Ever since the Islamist militant group Hamas took control in 2007, Hamas and Israel have fought three wars, and neighbouring Egypt and Israel have imposed a blockade, restricting goods, trade and travellers. Israel not always allows international aid workers, but is more willing to admit journalists and diplomats, whilst tourists are prohibited.
Israeli officials say the blockade is necessary to shield against Hamas. Palestinians call it collective punishment for the enclave’s 2 million residents, who suffer daily electricity cuts, bad drinkable water and a collapsed economy.
“Even if it were possible for tourists to enter Gaza, it would not be advisable,”
the Lonely Planet travel guide company’s website says. White House adviser and newspaper publisher Jared Kushner has a proposal to revitalize Gaza’s tourism industry, but for now it is but a dream, only to be implemented if an elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is ever reached.
In Europe we’ve become used to hearing about the world’s “looming” humanitarian catastrophes. But most of them, like the present one in Gaza (not to mention Yemen), are not only 100% preventable but exist solely because they serve the perverse interests of some cluster of state actors and their global enablers. It is a shame, but we cannot resist to admit that the Gaza crisis is “made in Israel” and that it are the people in government who take the ordinary people hostage.
It are not only Muslims who undergo the troubles of the Israeli aggression. Part of the Palestinian people two Christian communities in Gaza – Catholic and Orthodox – since the First Intifada started are in decline. The number of Christians declined from 18 000 in 1987 to 2 500 by 2006 to reach a low 800 Christians now.
Can you imagine what those inhabitants of the Gaza-strip have to endure? The multiple Israel’s invasions and bombing campaigns in 2008/9, 2012 and 2014; daily fear of another bombing, all the terrible noise can not be put out of the head. Not only that may be bringing a lot of stress when they are daily confronted with the 360 degree military blockade by Israel. Palestine’s divided government; poverty and unemployment at abnormally high rates — both over 50%; little to no economic development; unpotable water; electricity less than twelve hours per day; without power, untreated sewage flows into the sea; 80% of the beaches polluted endangering coastal fishing; hospitals understaffed and without sufficient medicine or essential equipment are putting the whole population under psychological pressure. The regular fly-overs by Israeli drones and fighter jets; and every week Israeli soldiers shooting nonviolent protestors in Gaza’s Great March of Return are good for bringing people to a “melt down” or mental illness.
These days the hospitals not only receive the casualties of the continuous fighting. Doctor Abu Samia reported sharp rises in gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, and dehydration, because of the terrible condition of the present water or missing safe drinking water. And because of high nitrate levels, the doctor was seeing other effects.
“We have children, their kidneys are not working now,”
Abu Samia said.
“Before, we had 15, 20. Now, 40. Every day I have 10 babies on hemodialysis because of renal failure. And that number is increasing.”
Also, on the rise due to elevated nitrate levels, he says, are cases of blue baby syndrome —
“bluish lips, bluish face, bluish skin, and blood the color of chocolate.”
Before, the overwhelmed doctor saw one or two children with blue baby syndrome in 10 years.
“But now I see five cases in one year.”
It gets worse. Abu Samia says he’s seeing more cases of paediatric cancer — whether from bad water, the effects of three wars, or something else, he doesn’t know. And he’s seeing the effects of malnutrition, which he blames less on the tainted water supply than on Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza.
“No water, no electricity, poverty is very very high, and nutrition is very bad,”
Abu Samia says.
“It is affecting babies. Before the siege, we didn’t have any patients with malnutrition. Now we have nutritional diseases,”
including a sudden rise in infants with marasmus — a form of protein-energy malnutrition occurring chiefly among very
young children in developing countries, or, as the doctor sees it,
“just bone and skin.”
In some cases, no formal studies exist to corroborate what Abu Samia is seeing.
“We don’t have medical research for these.”
For him the people of Gaza live in an emergency situation and need for the relieve of the problem, not so much to research it, though data from the Palestinian Health Ministry notes “serious increases” in kidney disease, and in food and waterborne diseases.
“The risk factors are related directly to drinking water, and to a lesser extent, to exposure to sewage-laced seawater”
says Dr. Majdi Dhair, director of preventative medicine at the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
By the registered waterborne diseases are a “doubling” of cases of diarrhoea, and sharp rises in salmonella and typhoid this summer, compared to the five-year average for these diseases, and to the data for the same period in 2017. Dhair said
“We are near to declare an outbreak in diarrheal disease,”
the world’s second leading cause of death for children under five.
Independent medical journals have documented similar results. The British medical journal The Lancet linked water shortages to sharp increases in diarrhoea among Gaza’s young children. Other peer-reviewed journals confirm increases in infant mortality, anemia, and a significant increase of intestinal parasites among Gazans.
“All the people in Gaza — so much hard suffering,”
says Dr. Abu Samia.
“We’re talking about life and death. It’s enough.”
We can wonder how long civilized people are going to stand at the side, doing nothing or letting it happen, because they do not want to step on some ones toes.
Next: Much to see in Gaza
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