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Fighting for the right to walk - Ramzy Baroud

Aug. 29, 2009 4:16 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 1, 2009 12:51 A.M.)
Gaza's troubles have somehow been relegated, if not completely dropped from the mainstream media's radar, and subsequently the world's conscience and consciousness.

Weaning the public from the sadness there conveys the false impression that things are improving and that people are starting to move on and rebuild their lives.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Since the conclusion of Israel's war last year, the Palestinian Health Ministry declared that 344 Gaza patients have reportedly been added to the swelling number of casualties.

Khaled Abed Rabbu, once a young father of four, is a precise living example, such an eloquent paradigm of what no human being ought to endure in this world laden with international human rights organizations, mediators, advocates, and diplomats.

His house was completely destroyed, as were two of his little girls. He buried seven-year-old Soad and Amal, just two, soon after burying any hope that his four-year-old Samar's future would be any less bleak.

According to an IslamOnline report, Khaled's wife, Kawthar lined up the children in front of their house in the Jabaliya refugee camp, holding a white flag. But their internationally recognized gesture was disregarded by Israeli forces and the shelling of their home and family commenced. These miserable events unfolded at Christmastime last year, when the Rabbu family was reduced by nearly half.

But since then, they, and a disgracefully large number of other such families, have somehow slipped our minds. Completely surrounded still, and prevented from ever advancing back to point zero, the Israeli siege on Gaza is what one must certainly brand the quintessence of barbarism.

Like in December of 2008, the Israeli blockade means that almost nothing enters or exits Gaza; injured in need of treatment are not allowed exit nor entrance, as is the case with medical supplies, medicine, food, and almost anything in between.

With entire neighborhoods pulverized in the attack, concrete is desperately needed to rebuild the many homes, mosques, hospitals and other structures that were destroyed. That too, is forbidden. And so Khaled, like so many others, has little hope that his home, which has now lain in shambles for the better part of a year, will be restored any time soon.

From 14 September to 2 October 2009, the Human Rights Council will conduct a session where the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will present its report based on the fact-finding mission, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, conducted after the Israeli attacks.

Nearly eight months after the bloodletting of "Operation Cast Lead," a 34-page report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was released on 13 August, pressing for a lifting of the Gaza blockade. The new report, which will be presented along with Goldstone's report in September, lays out the many incomprehensible details of how the Israelis battered the Strip, one of the most impoverished and the most densely populated pieces of planet Earth.

The details were laid out, chastising Israel for snubbing the most basic norms of human decency:

• Under the Universal Declaration of Human rights, everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country - and everyone has the right to seek asylum. Such calls were ignored, and the borders of the Gaza Strip remained closed throughout the conflict.

• The right to health of children, set out in article 24 of CRC, is of particular concern in Gaza. United Nations agencies, Ministry of Health officials and health NGOs report that rising poverty, unemployment and food insecurity, compounded by the conflict, have increased the threat of child malnutrition. In January, UNICEF said that 10.3 percent of Gazan children under five were stunted.

The report continued on, expressing concern that the only export allowed out of Gaza in nearly two years was 13 large truckloads of cut flowers, fully recognizing that the siege was in direct response to the Gazan people exercising their right to elect the Hamas government.

From the denial of food to medical supplies to housing to clean water to education to any basic sense of what is called the "highest attainable standard of physical and mental health," according to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Israel managed, as the report concluded, to deny pretty much every last one.

One has to wonder, and even after so many years of witnessing such amazing ingenuity when it comes to tormenting the Palestinians, does the Israeli government, and further, does the Israeli public feel any sense of shame, remorse or even the slightest embarrassment when the most basic norms of human behavior must be laid out in so elementary a fashion, reminding, and then re-reminding them that it is a fundamental human right to have access to something as basic as food and clean water?

This is a thought that Khaled must ponder from time to time. It is for sure that life has been no cake-walk for Khaled, but perhaps this last year has been the most trying of all. Two little ones lost, homeless, and his third of four children struggling to walk in a Belgium hospital.

Sana, his four-year-old, was supposedly one of the lucky ones on that day, for she survived, and was one of very few that escaped to safety through Egypt's sealed border. But she has two bullets lodged in her tiny spine, so deeply embedded that Belgian surgeons cannot remove them.

So now she is paralyzed, her body propped up and supported by a vibrant pink and purple back brace, like a fairy suit of armor. Chances of ever walking again are grim. Just two or three short years after graduating from a crawl, and now she will most likely be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, even though her doctors and her mother say that she is desperate to walk again.

And so it seems to be the sad case that this exhaustive 34-page report failed to declare, or perhaps it may be until this point that a clause has never been drafted of, the universal right for every little girl and boy to walk.

Ramzy Baroud is an author of several books and editor of www.palestinechronicle.com.
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