Once Gaza! From Partition to Perpetual Strife

"Once Was a Gaza" tells a story that is more than just a moment in time; it is a complex, challenging, and resilient tale.

Neha Amanat
By Neha Amanat 7 Min Read
gaza israel palestine conflict middle east hamas

For a long time, I have been trying to figure it out and wanted to write about the massacre in Gaza. The conflict is not a recent development, but rather one that has spanned years. “Once Was a Gaza” tells a story that is more than just a moment in time; it is a complex, challenging, and resilient tale. Why did I prefer to use the word ‘was’ rather than ‘is’? Why did I choose this topic when I could have written about anything else? This is no longer a typical problem. The struggle impacts not just one city but humanity as a whole, posing a tragedy that transcends decades.

The word ‘Gaza’, familiar to many, refers to the city in Palestine. Once a place where every person lived their life accordingly, after the partition of Gaza by the UN-approved plan for the Arab-Jewish division of Palestine in November 1947, tensions escalated. The plan called for giving Arabs control over the town of Gaza and a portion of the surrounding land later named the ‘Gaza Strip’, situated between Israel and Egypt. Gaza has been a focal point for bloodshed and war for many years, with both sides vying for control of the area.

From the 1948 Arab-Israeli War to the most recent organized bombardment by Hamas in 2023, Gaza’s history has been characterized by conflicts, forced migration, and power struggles. Israel and Egypt began to share authority over Gaza, and a large number of Palestinian refugees settled in the strip. Tensions with Israel have heightened since Hamas’s ascent in 2006, leading to recurring hostilities and violence, including significant military operations like Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Gaza has been a focal point for bloodshed and war for many years, with both sides vying for control of the area.

The conflict in Gaza is long-lasting and complicated, as evidenced by the serious casualties from recent escalations in 2021 and 2023 on both sides. The unstable environment of Gaza remains tainted by conflict, hardship, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles as the rest of the world watches anxiously. The region is at a crossroads, where social, political, and humanitarian issues weave together in a complicated tapestry of unresolved issues and echoes of past conflicts. Can you believe this devastation has been ongoing for 80 years? Gaza’s people, humanitarian organizations, and the UN have pleaded for relief, yet even the plea for innocent children has been ignored.

After all, Israel began its brutal and illegal takeover in 2023, breaking all previous records and establishing an occupation that seems perpetual. Every person in Gaza has been held hostage to political, economic, psychological, social, and personal domination. While it may seem like October 7, 2023, marked a significant event to outsiders, Gaza has been suffering from these problems for years. There is no food, no health facilities, and no adequate housing. Israel controls what they can eat and drink and where they can live.

Consequently, Israel found it easy to continue the bloodshed in 2012, 2014, 2021, and 2023 while maintaining the stifling, medieval siege established in 2006. Along with widespread civilian casualties, “normal” included the shutting off of communications, food, water, medicine, electricity, and other necessities. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant bluntly stated that Palestinians in Gaza are “human animals,” and their deaths are not regretted. Israel has had support and encouragement from the colonial West to continue its acts of genocidal violence.

Israel began its brutal and illegal takeover in 2023, breaking all previous records and establishing an occupation that seems perpetual.

Not only has Israel targeted every source of life in Gaza, but many Palestinians, especially children, are suffering from anxiety, depression, and mental disorders. Many are not healing due to past traumas. Israel aims not only to destroy their bodies but also their minds and souls. Countries with large Muslim populations, whose governments and justice systems may or may not align with Sharia or traditional Islamic socio-political structures, are considered Muslim countries. Crucially, these countries may or may not be interested in the conflict between Israel and Gaza. Some may be attempting to make peace with Israel to improve their standing with the pro-Israel USA, while others may lack the resources to mobilize against Israel. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco made statements, but no real action was taken. Bahrain and Turkey offered support, but no one spoke out against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). South Africa showed its interest by advocating for Gaza before the ICJ.

The brutal murder of over 27,000 Palestinians, nearly half of whom were children and youth, the forced relocation of nearly two million Palestinians, Israel’s imposition of a “total siege,” and the targeting of medical professionals, hospitals, and cultural, educational, and religious sites constitute the overt manifestation of genocide. South Africa’s genocide complaint against Israel over the Gaza War led to an interim decision by the ICJ. While there were mixed responses around the world, with some hailing it as a significant win and others voicing grief at the absence of a ceasefire order, justice and accountability were emphasized.

Regardless of how the International Court of Justice case involving South Africa’s claim against Israel is settled, it will go down in history as a testament to the duplicity of Western countries and the political class in general. It may be seen as the last, desperate attempt to save the so-called “rules-based world order” or as the first step towards holding a rogue state accountable for repeated violations. As a student of international relations, I have analyzed this conflict from a different perspective. Is it a requirement of humanity to first occupy someone’s land and then make the lives of the people living there miserable, denying them the right to live?

The average number of Palestinians killed by Israel’s military per day surpasses the number of people killed daily in any other recent major conflict.

Many who left their homes were shot at and taken into custody. Communication blackouts frequently lead to families losing touch with each other. This battle has nothing to do with children, yet they experience pain no child should endure. It is difficult to envision a time when everyone will be treated equally and their human rights will be truly respected, regardless of their religion, sex, or ethnicity in Gaza’s situation. The average number of Palestinians killed by Israel’s military per day surpasses the number of people killed daily in any other recent major conflict. It has been a living hell for the people of Gaza for 122 days. All people are at risk of famine, and there is nowhere safe.

The UN website predominantly criticizes Israel, while the “UN in Palestine section” merely presents a list of global Sustainable Development Goals. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the two main international organizations working on these issues, have both neglected to focus on practical steps to rebuild Gaza.

A realistic attempt to plan separately for development in Gaza and the West Bank is unlikely to yield better results for Gazans. Any plan for the West Bank may not counterbalance the increasing issues in Israeli-Palestinian relations, including settler violence and territorial grabs. Predicting the duration and financial burden of rebuilding states following large conflicts is challenging due to its unpredictability. It is difficult to accept that Gaza will rebuild to its former state of growth and advancement within two or three years after a significant battle termination. However, it is far from certain that there is a feasible way to end the conflict that may result in another ceasefire or enduring animosity in Gaza, making a two-state solution almost impossible.

Gaza has become a symbol of perseverance in the face of persistent difficulties in the Middle East. The inhabitants of Gaza, who once called their city “life and vibrancy,” now face daily struggles for necessities, relocation, and conflict as part of their existence.

The author is a student of International Relations at the University of Central Punjab. As a blogger, she writes about the dynamics of global affairs, international disputes, and humanitarian issues.

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