Her name is Hadil Ghabin. She is, or was, a cheerful 9-year-old girl who loved reading, writing stories, and of most of all, the vast imagination she continuously employed, which led her away from the largest prison in the world that is the Gaza Strip, surrounded by Israeli tanks, soldiers and checkpoints, to a land that looks much like ours, one filled with chiming children, handsome homes, towering trees, and something she always yearned to know — peace.
Peace, however, was nowhere to be found Monday, as incessant tank-shell fire from Israeli gunners filled the sky over Hadil’s home.
Laila al-Haddad, a journalist living in Gaza, described the shelling in her web log, “The shells keep falling. They’ve gotten inside my head, so that it’s not just my house shaking but my brain throbbing. It’s like someone is banging a gong next to my ear every few minutes; sometimes 5 (sic) times a minute, like last night. And just when I savor a few moments of silence, it starts again as if to say ‘you're not going to get away that easily.’”
Overshadowed by gruesome attacks in Iraq and an increasingly chaotic dance between the Bush administration and Iranian government regarding nuclear energy, Hadil died.
Mangled by an Israeli tank shell that hit her home, it was one mortar out of many the Israeli army launched into a city densely populated and teeming with activity. If Hadil were to survive the massive explosion, she would have found the 15 other individuals in her family either bruised and battered, or possibly blind, as her brother is now.
And Hadil is not alone; nor is her family. Over 3,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed or seriously injured since the 2000 popular protest, or intifada, began in the occupied territories led by millions of Palestinians who refuse to live under humiliation as manifest through military occupation.
But it is not merely continued military bombardment that is destroying Palestinian lives; rather it is something seemingly more benign and difficult to document for the purveyors of infotainment; hunger and desperation.
The closing of the Karni Crossing, the main route for humanitarian and commercial goods to and from the Gaza Strip, has resulted in an estimated loss of $10.5 million and reduced Gaza’s main food staples to a bare minimum, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Trying to play down the humanitarian disaster that occurred in Gaza, Israeli prime ministerial advisor Dov Weisglass was quoted as saying the closure policy was "to put the Palestinians on a diet but not make them die of hunger."
This closing, coupled with the Bush administration’s decision to punish the Palestinian people for voting for the “wrong” people in fair and free elections has strained the Palestinian Authority creating further chaos throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Because there is no money to pay the wages of employees in the bloated Palestinian public sector or maintain a decrepit social infrastructure made almost inoperable by continued Israeli military damage, the economy is on the verge of collapse, with 65 percent of Gazans and 48 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank unemployed.
But even if bags of flour, rice, cooking oil and sugar make it into the occupied territories to stave off a humanitarian catastrophe, as Hadil knew, Palestinians live under complete military occupation, in isolated Bantustans that offer little but a sure impetus for impressionable youth to join the ranks of militant organizations able to deliver essential social services the crippled Palestinian Authority could only dream of providing.
Commenting on the futility of attempting to cover the crimes of occupation with subsitence level food aid, Israeli columnist Gideon Levy wrote April 4, "Those who have been silent until now can remain enveloped in their silence. Those whose conscience doesn't torture them and whose sleep is uninterrupted by Israel's behavior in the territories can continue resting in peace. There is no "humanitarian disaster." Israel will find a solution to the food crisis, and the stores in Gaza won't lack for flour. But those who regard the Palestinians as only requiring basic food should remember that even in the zoos, where the animals presumably don't lack for a thing, people are often shocked by the conditions of their imprisonment."