There are a lot of things people try to put out of their minds as to what is happening every day in Gaza. Around 18,000 Palestinians have been killed, with the Israel Defense Forces admitting to at least 12,000 civilian deaths, but the reality is more likely to be at least 14-15,000 civilian deaths. However, little discussed is that the lack of sanitary conditions and clean water, for now over two months, was always going to rear its ugly head. That always is now.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor reported yesterday on the record number and overcrowding of displaced people, the lack of clean drinking water, inadequate sanitation and malnutrition have created a public health disaster, as “infectious disease and epidemics spread in a way that is catastrophic and unprecedented in modern history.” The group detailed how “Paired with the power outage crisis, the fuel shortage has led to the total closure of water desalination and sewage plants, greatly increasing the risk of … infections, as polluted drinking water transmits diarrhea-related diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, and polio.”
Now, Haaretz reports that some of the released hostages, having drunk of that water, are showing “signs of dangerous viruses ... signs of the spread of dangerous diseases.” If even a few of the hundred or so released hostages evidence such viruses, what can be said of 1.8 million displaced, malnourished Palestinians?
There’s a debate, reflected in a Politico article, in Haaretz, and in other Israeli publications, as to whether Washington has given Netanyahu until the beginning or the end of January to wreak as much damage as possible. While prognosticators can attempt to make book on the Biden-Netanyahu prize fight (and Netanyahu has shown he is the odds-on favorite in that contest), reality has a way of intruding. Unnamed “dangerous viruses” go beyond the killers we already have names for—diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, polio, etc.
There was a rare emergency session of the World Health Organization board today, Afghanistan, joined by Qatar, Yemen and Morocco, put to the United States that WHO had to get into Gaza with massive medical personnel and supplies. (There is a delicious irony in Afghanistan calling out the U.S. on the need to stop massive poverty and deaths in Gaza.) The Israeli Ambassador to UN agencies in Geneva Meirav Eilon Shahar did the new abnormal, actually calling the adopted text a “complete moral failure,” for not mentioning Hamas’ holding of Israeli hostages, etc. However, the U.S. actually communicated to the 34-member board that they would not oppose the resolution, and it was passed by acclamation. Certainly too little, too late on the part of the U.S. for many in Gaza, but it is of some note that the U.S. did not automatically submit to Netanyahu, or to the war party in Washington and London, for part of one day.
A nasty virus not yet bearing a name comes on the scene, as Schiller’s famous Cranes of Ibykus, interrupting the prevailing, impotent narrative.
The path to clean water, to desalination, to plentiful nuclear energy to run such processes, to moving fast enough to remedy the recent evils, lies in an international mobilization for the massive “Oasis Plan” for economic development of Israel, Palestine and their neighbors, along with the series of projects in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. After all, a proven track record of lifting over 800 million Chinese out of severe poverty over the last three decades is nothing to be sneezed at. Real physical economic development rules, by omission with nasty viruses, by practice, with solutions for peoples and nations.
So the question is, do Americans and Europeans—those poor unfortunates outside of the Global Majority—have the freedom and the democratic rights to join in such economically sound projects? And the projects have the added advantage that very little can repair the psychological damage of watching genocide, or alternatively suppressing the ugly reality, except to rise to the occasion of such projects—so that, as Abraham Lincoln would have put it, those innocents in Gaza and Israel “shall not have died in vain.”
Two weeks before Christmas is not a great time to kill little babies in Gaza, or in Bethlehem.