Palestinians are ‘totally alone’ – civil society groups call for aid, solidarity and better reporting on Gaza ‘genocide’
Representatives from various Palestinian civil society organisations have criticised Western ‘double standards’ on Israeli aggression against Gaza, and highlighted the urgent need for humanitarian aid.
‘The international double standards, the selective outrage and political attention that we have been seeing is also an extreme indication that Palestinians are totally left alone.”
This is according to Rulla Shadid from the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, who was speaking during a webinar hosted by Palestinian civil society on the ongoing Israeli aggression against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as inside Israel.
“They are totally left alone without any type of support, and therefore Palestinians will not agree to be in such a situation where they are marginalised and facing a total ethnic cleansing in addition to an exodus that we are seeing.”
The webinar on Friday, 20 October also included representatives of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, among others.
Shadid stressed the need for equitable distribution of aid to all the people of Gaza, not only the southern part – sending aid to only the southern part would encourage one million people in the northern part to flee.
The entire population of Gaza has been cut off from supplies of electricity, food, fuel and water for more than a week under a “complete siege” ordered by Israel in the wake of the 7 October terror attacks by Hamas that left about 1400 Israelis dead.
At least 5,791 people have been killed in Gaza since that date, with 103 in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Root causes key to understand what happened on 7 October
An international advocacy officer at the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, which is based in Gaza, spoke about the root causes of genocide against the Palestinian people perpetrated by Israeli authorities in the occupied Gaza Strip.
“Palestines in Gaza have been living for 16 years under the Israel blockade, 56 years under military occupation, and for 75 years under colonialism and apartheid,” she said.
The isolation of Gaza from other Palestinians was not sustainable, and likely to erupt as it did on 7 October when Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip.
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“Palestinians in Gaza have for two years engaged in peaceful demonstrations, known as the Great March of Return. People fail to understand that Palestinians in Gaza have tried literally every possible means at their disposal to try to protest against the Israeli regime,” she said.
Aseel AlBajeh, a legal researcher and advocacy officer at Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organisation, also stressed the importance of understanding the context of increased violations against all Palestinians.
“The genocidal war Israel is imposing on Gaza is not against Hamas, it is against the entirety of the Palestinian people. It has always been, since the inception of the settler colonial movement and regime over a century ago,” she said.
AlBajeh also spoke about how Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip has resulted in systematic human rights violations against Palestinians living there.
Alarming increases documented
AlBajeh said Al-Haq had documented increased land appropriation, settler violence, home demolitions, forced evictions and almost daily raids in Palestinian communities since 7 October.
“In 2023, five Palestinians were killed on average each week and since the aggression we’re talking about more than 40 Palestinians killed in a week and unfortunately this is expected to increase,” she said.
There’s no treatment, no medication for seriously ill prisoners that suffer from cancer and chronic diseases.
Since 7 October, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 545 people have been displaced from 13 Bedouin communities in Area C of the West Bank. “This Area C has been pursued by the government and settlers for annexation for decades,” AlBajeh said.
More than 700 Palestinians were killed overnight on Tuesday in Israeli air raids on Gaza. Palestinian Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra said this was the highest 24-hour death toll in Israel’s two-week-old siege.
Conditions in prisons deteriorating rapidly
A representative from a coalition for prisoner rights groups in Palestine described the conditions endured by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Before 7 October there were roughly 5,200 Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
The representative said prisoners have since been “totally disconnected”, with no phone calls or lawyer or family visits allowed.
“Literally the prisoners are disconnected from the outside. They also closed all the clinics inside the prisons; there’s no treatment, no medication for seriously ill prisoners that suffer from cancer and chronic diseases.”
Officials had also confiscated electrical appliances and cut the water and electricity supply for several hours a day.
Before 7 October there were 1,300 administrative detainees who had not been charged, including about 20 children, a figure the representative said could increase dramatically.
There was also concern about Palestinian labourers who were working inside Israel, and there were no exact figures yet because the Red Cross had not been able to visit the area.
Evacuation order and aid not an act of mercy
Speakers during the webinar said portraying the evacuation order that Israel gave as a “warning” or as an “act of kindness” completely failed to understand the reality on the ground.
“The day that Israel asked more than one million Palestinians to leave their homes to head south, Palestinians were targeted on their way to southern Gaza on the Salah al-Din road, which is the exact road that Israel indicated for them to use as a safe passage,” said one speaker.
People had taken shelter in the south, and shelters were now completely overcrowded.
“There is no water, there is no food, there is no electricity – in some shelters they are only able to provide one litre of water per person per day for everything – drinking water, water for cooking, water to flush the toilets, and to brush teeth,” said one attendee.
Another said that when aid is allowed into Gaza it should not be seen as entirely positive. A convoy of trucks delivered water, food and medicine to the Gaza Strip on Monday, the third since limited aid began flowing in on Saturday. However, experts say more is needed.
“We are seeing Israelis using humanitarian aid basically as a tool to further the displacement and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from north Gaza in order to push them to south Gaza,” she said.
Basic necessities needed
An international advocacy officer said basic necessities and aid were needed, including food, water, medicine, tampons and nappies.
“Hospitals are running out of fuel and basic necessities including anaesthesia, or even tools to clean and disinfect before they conduct surgeries,” she said.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees warned that hospitals in Gaza may shut down by Wednesday night if no fuel is delivered. The Palestinian Health Ministry urged the “immediate flow” of medical supplies and fuel into Gaza Strip hospitals.
One speaker also spoke about the dehumanisation of Palestinians, especially in Gaza at the hands of many high-level officials in the Israeli political and military establishment.
“Among these 4,000 Palestinians [that were killed], there are more than 1,500 children. We are speaking of Palestinian children that have never known one day of freedom in their life; they have lived their entire lives under Israeli closure, under Israeli military occupation, under Israeli apartheid – and they will never know life outside of that because they were killed by Israeli bombs.”
Donors have been asked to support Gift of the Givers’ efforts to provide rapid emergency relief to Gaza’s displaced people during the humanitarian crisis.