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Inhumanity in Gaza must awaken our collective humanity

Children look on as Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli strike, in the southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters)
Children look on as Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli strike, in the southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters)
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13 Nov 2023 02:11:35 GMT9
13 Nov 2023 02:11:35 GMT9

Amid all the unimaginable horrors facing Palestinians in Gaza, special mention should be made of the more than 50,000 women who are pregnant.

Many are so emaciated after weeks of inadequate food that they are unable to produce milk for their babies. The UN children’s agency UNICEF estimated that 180 women a day were giving birth without adequate care, including undergoing Cesareans without painkillers, and being discharged, still bleeding, within hours of delivery. Dozens of babies face death in neonatal intensive care units where life-saving incubator machines lack electricity.

At a time when they are most desperately needed, about half of Gaza’s 35 hospitals are destroyed or non-operational, while the remainder lack equipment and electricity. We enter the lowest circles of hell when even hospitals are being bombed, and doctors and patients alike are caught in the crossfire, with Israel accused of turning the besieged Al-Shifa hospital into an open war zone. Imagine the horror of being maimed in the destruction of your own home, only to incur further injuries when the ambulance conveying you to hospital is hit by an airstrike. The inability of hospitals to bury hundreds of dead bodies contributes to horrific conditions and the wildfire spread of infections.

Even if Hamas were to set up a headquarters in the middle of a hospital, attacking that institution would still unambiguously be a war crime. Israel acts as if international law doesn’t apply, because an indulgent and unheeding Western world for years has allowed this to be the case. Hamas in no way represents the Palestinian nation and the group bears responsibility for triggering this situation, but world leaders are alsoculpable for the bloody consequences of affording Israel decades of absolute impunity.

In a spectacular own goal, British interior minister Suella Braverman denounced the London Armistice Day pro-Palestine demonstration as a “hate march” and unsuccessfully piled pressure on the police to have it banned. Largely thanks to Braverman’s free publicity, hundreds of thousands peacefully participated in one of the largest marches in British history. Indeed, will we ever live to see a Memorial Day to the 4,500 children and thousands of other innocent civilians who have already been killed in Gaza, alongside those senselessly murdered in Israel? To avoid history repeating itself, we should emphasize and commemorate the sacredness of all human life.

Huge marches also in Spain, France, Germany, America and elsewhere demonstrate how rapidly Israel is losing sympathy among its closest allies. I’ve been struck by the fluidity of Western public opinion. Immediately after Oct. 7, anyone expressing pro-Palestinian sentiments was denounced as a terrorismsympathiser. But now, with the obvious exclusion of emotionally and morally dead self-serving politicians,can anybody with a few granules of humanity not be moved by Gaza’s heart-wrenching horrors? Many Western media outlets have lurched from outbursts of slavish support for Israel to more nuanced language for fear of losing their audiences, although certain outlets persist with editorial lines that wholly dehumanize Palestinians. 

Whether the victims are Israeli or Palestinian, this relentless diet of inhumanity must awaken our innate humanitarian empathy in seeking to end this brutality and establish a path toward lasting and just peace.

Baria Alamuddin

These events have unleashed the hateful seeds of antisemitism and Islamophobia around the world, with far-right elements speculating about genocidal measures against Jewish and Muslim communities. Even in Israel, thousands of demonstrators, including the families of hostages, demanded a halt to the violence and negotiations to free about 240 hostages before too many of them are killed by Israel’s own airstrikes.

Israeli observers worry that, despite the obvious objective of mass collective vengeance against Palestiniancivilians in Gaza, Benjamin Netanyahu’s war goals appear grossly unrealistic and self-defeating — other than seeking to temporarily save his own political skin. Although Israeli troops have timidly encircled the outskirts of Gaza City, where over a third of buildings have been damaged by bombing, they still haven’t made significant incursions through the city’s rubble-strewn streets. So if Israel is serious about following through on “eliminating” Hamas, the war has barely started yet. Indeed, the conflict could get infinitely worse if provocations on the Lebanon border and in the West Bank trigger full-scale conflagrations.

For all Hassan Nasrallah’s rhetoric about “victory” in his latest speech, the situation in both Gaza and Israel isn’t what victory looks like. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi weighed in with similarly escalatory language about how “there is no other way but to resist Israel.” Yet other than stoking the pot and exacerbating the regional situation, it isn’t clear how the actions of Iran and its proxies help the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, in unusually strong language, the Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh denounced the “war crimes and barbaric, brutal and inhumane massacres committed by the colonial occupation government,” while calling for an end to the Gaza siege. Among the summit’s tangible proposals were the establishment of media monitoring units to document and publicize violations against Palestinians, along with a number of international initiatives for holding Israel legally accountable.

As International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan argued, we cannot allow ourselves to be desensitized to this level of anguish and this “pandemic of inhumanity.” We must remember that those pulled from the rubble are the same as us and equally deserving of justice.

Several decades as a working journalist have caused me to be deeply cynical of politicians even when they are saying the right things. It is not acceptable for us as global citizens to passively accept a world where thousands are meaninglessly slaughtered before our eyes.

Whether the victims are Israeli or Palestinian, this relentless diet of inhumanity must awaken our innate humanitarian empathy in seeking to end this brutality and establish a path toward lasting and just peace —an essential component of which is ending the illegal occupation of Palestinian land once and for all.

• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

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