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June 3, 2021

The graves of Gaza

In the midst of the global Covid-19 crisis, Palestine is once more bathed in bloodshed. Its people have been left to mourn, carrying the coffins of their children.

Many in the international community classify this crisis as a ‘conflict’, but in reality, it is nothing but a one-sided assault on the poor Palestinians who live under Israel’s mounting belligerence and bellicosity. What further exacerbates the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza is the sheer silence in the international community. The ceasefire does not guarantee the end of the predicament of the Palestinians. More needs to be done at the global stage. Gaza is in urgent need of medical supplies, not bombs.

The Israeli Defense Forces have established a culture of fear and intensified attacks in a climate of impunity. The targeting of health facilities with air strikes, the bombing of media centers and houses of innocent people clearly must be dealt with as war crimes.

Let’s not forget that children have faced the brunt of this crisis. According to Gaza health officials, at least 66 children have been killed in broad daylight while hundreds were critically injured. In one horrific incident, eight children from one family died, as they were all sleeping when an airstrike on the densely populated Shati refugee camp took place

It is important to understand that Gaza is facing a youth bulge as half of its population is under the age of 18. When IDF planes drop bombs on residential areas all over Gaza, the number of children at risk is extraordinary; many times entire households disappear with just one single blast. Children end up bearing the brunt of the Israeli brutality.

Even human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have categorically mentioned that Israel has continued to impose state institutionalized discrimination against the marginalized Palestinians. According to an official statement by Amnesty, “Israeli forces on one day killed 31 Palestinians, including nine children; many were unlawfully killed while posing no imminent threat to life. Israel maintained its illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip, subjecting its residents to collective punishment and deepening the humanitarian crisis there”. If any Muslim country was the perpetrator here, sanctions would have been imposed by the international community. But the world watched as Gaza burnt.

Furthermore, does the ‘right of self-defence’ allow any country to butcher children as the IDF has done in Gaza? Let’s not forget how the IDF also bombed Gaza’s media building which catered the offices of the Associated Press (AP), Al Jazeera, and many other media outlets. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres categorically called it a “clear violation of international law”. Israeli has time and time again violated laws which come under the historic Geneva Conventions.

In these trying times at the global stage, we need leaders like Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (SZAB) in our foreign office camp. It was SZAB only who got the Muslim World together in 1947, during the OIC annual meeting in Pakistan. SZAB made a galvanizing speech on how the Muslim world must stand united together to save the plight of the Palestinians. Everyone, including, Palestine’s Yasir Arafat, stood up and applauded SZAB for his unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause.

There is no military solution to ending the violence and repression in Gaza today. Only negotiations and dialogue in the shape of a two-state solution can end this crisis once and for all. It is extremely vital that world leaders, including the UNSC, urgently take steps to re-energize and revamp the possibility of a two-state solution, and also give it some concrete diplomatic manifestation in the international arena.

If we have any chance to save the Palestinians under Israeli state-sponsored brutality, the collective consciousness of the majority of Arab and Muslim states must be revived once again. Those who also call themselves the champions of human rights must speak out against what’s happening in Gaza today. The silence is deafening. Let’s not abandon our Palestinian brothers, sisters and children.

The writer is a member of the Sindh Assembly.