An alumna of Seattle University, I work in the Galilee region for an environmental advocacy NGO. My colleagues are some of the 1.1 million Palestinians living in Israel. They are geographically separated from Palestinians living in the West Bank, 2.5 million, and the Palestinians in Gaza, 1.5 million. Palestinians are Christian and Muslim and belong to various political parties. I live next to a Roman Catholic Church, a mosque, a Greek Orthodox Church and a Protestant church. Despite these differences, all are united in collective horror as we witness the latest attack on the Palestinians living in Gaza.
Pilgrims poured into the West Bank -- the location of Bethlehem -- for Christmas, yet Palestinian Christians living in Gaza were not granted permission by Israeli authorities to visit Bethlehem. As an international, however, I was able to light a candle on Christmas in the Church of the Nativity. Two days later, candles were still lit as the Israeli military released its first massive air strike on Gaza. More than 100 people were killed. Seven days later, the death toll has reached 420 in the bloodiest attack by Israel against the Palestinians since 1967.
While much has been written about the fear felt by Palestinians and Israelis alike, the situation for Gazans is not the same as the situation for people in Southern Israel. Gaza has been under an Israeli siege for a year and a half. This means that Israel controls all people and products that travel between Gaza and the outside world; the border crossings are closed for days at a time.
Staples like food, cooking oil, fuel oil, heating oil, water, medicine and bandages are scarce. People cannot even use their own resources to feed themselves as Israel has imposed a limit of six nautical miles on fishing boats, as reported by the Israeli human rights organization B'tselem. Many of the Palestinians living in Gaza are refugees registered with the United Nations; they depend on U.N. rations for survival.
When Israel closes their borders and denies access to these rations, the situation becomes desperate. In Gaza there are no bomb shelters, no air raid warnings, no place to evacuate. Southern Israel is equipped with all these tools.
Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on the planet. Its 1.5 million people live on a strip of land that is 140 square miles. Ask yourself: In such a situation are "surgical" strikes, as Israel claims, a possibility? Israel's weaponry -- unmanned drones, F-16s, Apache helicopters -- cannot avoid killing children, women and grandparents. Not Hamas combatants, they are people who go to school, go to work and go to pray; who love their families, as we all do. Ask yourself, what is the value of a human life? Does an Israeli life have more value then a Palestinian life? Is this the equation we are using to measure the legitimacy of such an attack?
We know better. We know that 420 causalities in Gaza and four in Israel is 424 too many for the week after Christmas. We, even all the way removed in Seattle, have a moral imperative to speak out for a cease-fire, to allow aid into Gaza and to avoid the increasing possibility that Gaza will be the most densely populated graveyard on the planet.
Anne Gough is a Seattle resident now living in the Middle East.
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