Gaza, One Year On: the Palestinian Struggle Continues
Palestine Center Brief No. 188 (27 December 2009)
By Yousef Munayyer
One year later, the deadly attacks which targeted an already
suffering Gaza Strip have become yet another chapter in the epic
tragedy that is the Palestinian struggle for freedom.
During the attacks, over 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza woke up
unsure if they would be able to experience waking up ever again.
The Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip termed "Operation Cast Lead"
by Israel, was a pivotal moment in the region and one that
horrified people across the globe. Prior to the start of the
attacks, Israel had a negotiated cease-fire with the Palestinian
government in Gaza.
During the cease-fire, projectiles fired from Gaza into Israel had
dropped 99 percent. Despite this, on 4 November 2008, while the
world was consumed with a historic election in the United States,
Israel launched an attack that shattered the cease-fire, killing
several Palestinians. The crisis elevated through an increase in
strikes by both sides and the tightening of an already debilitating
Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.
Instead of working to restore a cease-fire that worked well, on
December 27th Israel launched aerial attacks killing hundreds of
Palestinians. It became clear from this point forward that life in
Gaza, which no one thought could possibly get worse, quickly
For two years, Palestinians in Gaza had been struggling to live
under siege. Israel controlled all of Gaza's commercial ports and
had sealed them shut, allowing in the bare minimum to keep
Palestinians alive. Still, the devastation that was to come made
the situation far worse.
The Israelis followed the air attack with a ground invasion. One of
the highest-powered and most-mechanized armies in the world invaded
a tiny, densely populated area where 80 percent of the population
were refugees and half were children.
The human toll was tremendous and an Israeli arsenal that included
one-ton bombs, white phosphorus shells and M-16 machine guns
courtesy of American tax-payer money, made a visiting U.S.
Congressman later say "I will admit and I was a little reluctant to
say that I was an American Congressman. Quite frankly, it might
have been the IDF launching the bombs, but they all said made in
After 22 days, more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed. The
majority of these casualties were civilians, over 300 of them
children and over 100 more were woman. Countless more were injured
or maimed in a walled off prison with inadequate medical
But it was not only the destruction of human life that was
inflicted upon Palestinians in Gaza; unprecedented destruction of
infrastructure was wrought upon an already impoverished place.
Entire industries were bombed into oblivion.
For example, one of the most badly damaged industries was the
construction industry. The United Nations Human Rights report on
the Israeli attacks on Gaza, which was released earlier this year,
detailed what seemed to be a deliberate Israeli policy to target
the construction industry infrastructure to make the reconstruction
of Gaza more difficult.
Certainly, this has succeeded. Today Gaza lies virtually in the
same situation it did after the war. The only difference now is
that more graves have been dug.
The American School in Gaza, which was funded by American taxpayer
dollars and ultimately destroyed by bombs bought with American
taxpayer dollars, still lies as a pile of rubble. The textbooks
that were intended to educate the Palestinians of Gaza can still be
found amidst the destruction.
It is obvious that as Americans we have some responsibility for
what happened. Not only because we funded the operation, but also
because our government, the only one with the necessary influence
over the state of Israel, did little to stop the heinous
At this point, some would make a plea for humanitarian assistance
to the Palestinians in Gaza and they certainly do need it. What
they need more, however, is a real solution to the political crisis
that underlies the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation.
Humanitarian assistance gives Palestinians the ability to survive,
but it is the desire to pen the final sentence of their struggle
that gives them the will to live.
If we as Americans can help them write it, we can work to erase the
painful scar that "Operation Cast Lead" left on the human
Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Center.
Palestine Center is an independent think-tank committed to
communicating reliable and objective information about the
Palestinian political experience to American policy makers,
journalists, students and the general public. Established in 1991,
it is the educational program of the Jerusalem Fund for Education
and Community Development.
The Palestine Center brings together people and resources within
the American and Palestinian communities to educate about Palestine
and the Palestinian people's ongoing quest for sovereignty on their
land, civil and political rights and an end to Israeli occupation.
The need for an organization such as The Palestine Center can be
found in the effects of the economic, cultural and political
oppression Palestinians have endured and which continues on a daily
basis in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the
surrounding refugee camps and for Palestinians world-wide as they
struggle to retain their homeland.