On Friday May 15th, Palestinians around the world commemorated 61 years of Nakba, the Catastrophe, 61 years of ongoing crimes against humanity, massacres, slow motion genocide in an unending process of ethnic cleansing, in a bundle of unjust “peace” treaties benefiting the colonizer and re-colonizing the oppressed. In addition, lack of civil rights and system of racial discrimination within the 1948 lands, what is now called ‘Israel’, and the 1967 lands, Gaza and the West Bank, both under direct occupation, both “homelands” for a people based on an ethnic background, re-producing the White Man’s categorization of what used to be called Bantustans (homeland for “Bantu” or “Black” man) during the Apartheid regime in South Africa; the West Bank composed of Bantustans with checkpoints separating each, occupation, repression, settler colonialism, settlement expansion, home demolition and land expropriation.
Gaza, the Bantustan, the largest concentration camp modern history has witnessed; the indiscriminate killing of civilians unhesitatingly by the occupation forces, the largest prison on earth; illegal collective punishment and siege imposed on a population of approximately one million and five hundred thousand citizen for around three years now.
The occupation forces claimed to have withdrawn their troops in 2005, but instead, have redeployed them around the borders. The Strip has been under slow motion genocide, with the intensification of bombardment during a 22-day attack from December 27th 2008 till January 17th 2009, by air, sea, and land on the residents culminating in a death toll of over 1400, around 400 of who are children. During and after the 22-day heavy bombardment, attack and resulting man-slaughtering in the Strip, the residents live, now, under ongoing slow motion genocide. This "gas chamber" still undergoes killings of its inhabitants such as farmers, where everything that is one kilometer or closer to the borders is a shooting target to the occupation forces, most often resulting in the killing of minors working with their mothers and fathers on their land, resulting in an inability of harvesting the land with the crops destroyed from lack of irrigation and care. The fishermen, not allowed to exceed 3 miles in their boats, who are often abducted by the occupation forces at sea (since Friday March 13 2009, 16 fishermen from the Gaza Strip have been abducted by the Israeli Navy), have their boats frequently targeted and shot at causing destruction to their livelihood.
Not to mention the severe malnutrition the citizens suffer from due to the perpetual siege imposed on agriculture, the importation and exportation of agricultural products and goods is rendered impossible. No exportation is allowed, but importation is controlled by the Israeli government. Poultry are usually smuggled in from the tunnels, still insufficient to sustain a healthy diet within the Strip.
Not to mention the siege on the health sector, where over a 100 drugs are not available: pediatric drugs, antibiotics, chronic disease medication, and kidney dialysis machines. Palestinian are dying from the lack of medical support within the Strip, and those who are to receive medical attention in hospitals within Jordan, Egypt, the West Bank and the 1948 territories are denied access to leave the Strip. The Rafeh Crossing remains shut in the face of the Palestinians in the Strip, many of whom are patients, students, social workers and rights activists wanting to speak abroad, and families who wish to visit their kin.
The siege on education disallows students wishing to pursue masters, doctorate and undergraduate degrees abroad from traveling. Due to the siege, and after the recent massacre, over 80% are below the poverty line and unemployment has risen to around 70% since the new year according to the ministry of social affairs. Students have minimal to no financial assistance to complete their education within the Strip. This drives thousands of young men, some of whom are minors, to work in the so-called tunnel industry, which is extremely life-threatening with the bombardment of these tunnels by the IOF, and the dumping of illegal gases such as the Mustard gas by the Egyptian authorities and other gases by the occupation forces, which is internationally prohibited, into these tunnels, causing many young men who are students to suffocate and die inside. These tunnels are observable to the naked eye on the borders, some of which, according to workers in the tunnels, are to the financial benefit of a few Egyptian businessmen and officers.
Books and education material and stationary are not available. Many professors resort to editing material they can access via internet and distribute to the students who must photocopy and buy. There are around 35 academic institutions distributed around the Strip, most of which are lacking in financial support, study materials, computers, paper, research resources, books, and other necessities. With fuel in scarcity and, thus, in stupefying prices, many students cannot commute to their schools and universities, resulting in a high drop-out range.
Scarcity of fuel caused the shutting down of many factories in the Strip and there are tens of thousands of workers who have lost their jobs as a result. Also, due to the continuous breaking off of the electric current, with the crisis of fuel, dialysis and cancer patients face yet another threat to their health.
The situation in Gaza is deteriorating more and more. No international criminal court has been set up yet for the trying of Israel for its crimes against humanity in the latest of a series of massacres of which it has committed and is still committing, of which the history of the oppressed has been noting down, and there is no need to remind ourselves that the violence of the oppressed originates and is a direct result of the violence of the oppressor, the colonizer, and is a reaction to it. Just as we have learnt to fight the Apartheid South African regime, in acts of non-violent civil resistance, it is crucial that the international community endorses the Palestinian civil society's call for acts of boycott, divestment and sanctions from the Apartheid state of Israel.
Natalie Abou Shakra