It doesn’t matter what side of the political divide you are on, how you judge history, or whether you are for a two-state solution or not. The effects of conflict on the children of Gaza are heart breaking.
In an excellent article for the Guardian yesterday, Harriet Sherwood gives us the statistics: in less than a month, at least 447 children killed and 2744 injured, according to the UN. And in a tiny area the size of the Isle of Wight with a population of 1.7 million where 43.5% are aged 0-14 years and two-thirds are below 25 years, there are literally hundreds of thousands of babies and young children terrified on a daily basis by the conflict and destruction unfolding around them on a daily basis.
Any child above six years old in Gaza has now been exposed to three wars: Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012 and the current Operation Protective Edge.
After the first of these wars, a study by the Gaza community health programme found that three-quarters of children over the age of six were suffering from one or more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with almost ten per cent exhibiting every symptom. This included sleep disturbances, nightmares, night terror, regressive behaviour, bed wetting, becoming more restless and hyperactive, refusal to sleep alone, overwhelmed by fears, and heightened aggression. A study by the UN following Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012 found that 82 per cent of children were either continuously or usually in fear of imminent death, 82 per cent felt angry, and 97 per cent felt insecure.
We all know that the conflict in Israel/Palestine is long, complicated and fraught with difficulties. Both sides blame one another for the death and terror facing children in Gaza. And Israelis call for understanding about the terror they face, too. So, what does that mean? Where does that leave us?
I don’t care for complex political arguments when babies and children are dying and being terrorised, whatever the reason, whoever is to blame. ‘Complicated’, in my experience, usually means inertia, inaction, and the continuation of ‘business/conflict as usual’.
In the short term there are some glimmers of hope – the current ceasefire seems to be holding up, allowing desperately needed humanitarian assistance to be delivered. Talks between both sides have at least not yet broken down. The UN is stepping up to the mark, offering international leadership. While all this is to be welcomed, we simply can’t return to the same old stalemate.
It’s time to abandon ‘complicated’ for a simple political analysis of the situation – enough is enough.