Palestinians deserve chance at real peace | | The Ithaca Journal




By Max Ajl • January 25, 2011, 12:00 am

It has been two years since the winter 2008-09 Israeli Cast Lead assault on the Gaza Strip, and the coastal finger of land continues to shudder under Israeli bombardment, its borderlands almost daily fired upon by the surrounding Israeli army, while chatter of war once again fills the airspace above Tel Aviv.

Everyone is scared, and speculations about the next war bloom everywhere. Some think it will consist of a series of targeted assaults, meant to decapitate Hamas. Others think it will be worse than the ruinous assault whose biennial everyone is commemorating in quiet fear. Still others think, as my barber told me, that “No matter what happens, Hamas will remain and we will die.”

Two years after the Cast Lead assault, the rubble remains scattered across Gaza City. The remains of the massive parliament building lie in heaps of wire-threaded rubble, and oddly empty lots pepper downtown Gaza, both reminders of the bombs that fell in a hard, 22-day rain two years ago.

The physical detritus is the most jarring, but it’s also the easiest to fix — at least in theory. In practice, according to a report, “Dashed Hopes,” recently put out by a group of international NGOs operating in the Gaza Strip, the much-touted easing of the blockade that the Israeli government announced after the attack on a humanitarian aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, has lightened but not removed the blockade.

The report notes that these import restrictions are “hampering efforts of people in Gaza to rebuild their homes, businesses and other property.” Development, economist Omar Shaban tells me, is impossible amidst such restrictions and a “near-total export ban.” Meanwhile, Gaza’s population burgeons, but the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) cannot bring in sufficient materials to build the new schools necessary to accommodate Gaza’s growing school-age population.

Gaza’s population is young. The majority of the people here are under the age of 18, and they can barely remember anything other than the violence of the Second Intifada, the siege that began in 2006 with the victory of Hamas in the Legislative Council elections and the subsequent barrages. Ninety percent of them have post-traumatic stress disorder. One frequently sees children frighteningly upset here over nothing, or oddly disassociated, an indelible reminder that war on Gaza has meant war on children.

Israeli attacks put the claim that it is not occupying the Gaza Strip in an odd relief. Israeli General Gabi Ashkenazi’s widely reported comments — “during the next war, we will do everything we can to minimize injuries amongst civilians as we have done in the past” — have led many here to conclude that we are merely counting the hours until the next high-explosive storm blows in from the Negev, the bombs gifts from the American government, which gives Israel $3 billion of military aid yearly.

The people here do not want war. They want what people everywhere want: to farm their land, to get married and have children, and grow old.

Israeli forces killed nearly 1,000 civilians during the last war on Gaza. In that context, Ashkenazi’s commitment to curtail civilian casualties is not reassuring. How long must the people here live in terror before Israel chooses another way to relate to the Palestinians of Gaza other than through a bombsight?

Ajl is a journalist and human rights advocate, and a doctoral student in sociology at Cornell University. He blogs at and lives in Gaza.

Palestinians deserve chance at real peace | | The Ithaca Journal.

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