The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a topic of interest to many students at Sussex, while others couldn’t care less. It’s also a topic consisting of an endless debate which will never amount to anything more than unwanted tension on our campus. However, the interview featured in last weeks The Badger (‘Existence is resistance’ 24/11/08) with students that visited the West Bank in Israel earlier this term, painted an elaborate picture of what life is like for some Palestinians living there.
The interview gave insight into the aggravations that some Palestinians face on a day to day basis. Though the group were evidently looking to find out more about people caught up in the conflict, they chose to ignore that there are also places where some Israelis are living in dire circumstances.
To find out more about the humanitarian situation in Israel, it would also have made sense for the delegation to visit Sderot, a town on the edge of the Gaza strip that on a daily basis has Quassam rockets fired at it from inside Gaza. Between the takeover of the Gaza strip by Hamas in mid-June 2007 until mid February 2008, 771 rockets and 857 mortar bombs have been fired at Sderot and the western Negev which brings the current total up to over 7000 rockets that have been fired into the region from Gaza.
Almost every day in Sderot and areas of the western Negev when Quassams are fired (and continue to be fired during the recent ceasefire that is due to end on December 19th), the rocket siren ‘Red Alert’ is sounded. People then have 15 seconds to run to a bomb shelter. The alarm is triggered by sensors and cameras that can detect from where the rocket is fired to where it will fall.
For this reason, bomb shelters in the playgrounds of Sderot kindergartens are commonplace and there is no child under the age of 7 years old in Sderot that has lived without knowing what the Red Alert alarm is, or gone less than a week without hearing it. Because of this, over 74 percent of children aged 7 – 12 in Sderot are suffering from either anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder according to a recent study by Natal, the Israel Trauma Centre for Victims of Terror and War. The delegation from Brighton missed seeing all this during their visit.
It is important for us here to recognise that in this horrible conflict, there are two sides to both the political and civilian stories. Recently, the Amnesty International Society at the University of Nottingham held a ‘Save Sderot’ stall with information and petitions, recognising that there are also Israelis who face human rights violations.
I therefore offer a suggestion to the delegation for their next visit. Take a look around and see how much you have blinded yourself to.