I’m preparing to run 268 miles on Sunday, in one of the toughest races in the UK, if not the world. But for me, this is about much more than a race
“But that’s an argument for destroying the whole of Gaza, every single building”, exclaimed the LBC interviewer.
“So, do you have another solution?”, asked Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s ambassador to the UK1.
2.3 million people lived in Gaza. Over the last 3 months, at least 1% of them have been killed, and a further 2.5% have been injured2. For those still clinging to life, conditions are beyond dire. The lucky ones who made it to UN refugee camps in Rafah find themselves sharing a single toilet with at least 486 other refugees3. That’s quite the loo queue.
Starved of food, water and shelter, denied basic hygiene and medical care, exposed to disease, and bombed from the air; how much longer can they survive?
Tzipi asked for another solution… how about a ceasefire? So we can truck in fuel, water, food, shelters, clothes and medicine. So we can dispatch search-and-rescue teams. So we can bury the bodies and mourn the dead. So we can stop a genocide.
Palestinians have been living under apartheid-style occupation for many decades4. October 7th didn’t arise from a vacuum. I cried for the Israelis killed, injured and kidnapped in that horrific attack on Israel. Then I cried for the same number of Palestinians killed in the immediate military response. It was an eye for an eye, or so it seemed at first.
It rapidly became clear there was to be no proportionality to the retaliation. We passed 10x the Israeli death toll, and still it escalated. Rumours from in and around the Israeli government seemed to suggest a desire to remove the entire Palestinian people from Gaza5,6, in what would surely be considered ethnic cleansing. Meanwhile, health facilities7, schools8, refugee centres, journalists and community leaders were hit increasingly frequently in what might have been targeted attacks9, while the north of Gaza was largely reduced to rubble, rendering it virtually uninhabitable. Humanitarian and aid agencies warned of mass dehydration, famine, and disease10. Well over a hundred UN workers were killed3, white phosphorous munitions deployed 11, and Gaza invaded, with the results predictably grim. There was even a documented case of the shooting of three Israeli hostages waving white flags12.
Today the known Palestinian death toll is estimated to be somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000, but ultimately unknown and unknowable. Some 355,000 residential units are destroyed or damaged, including 80% of buildings in the north13. 60% of Gazans are sheltering in UN facilities14.
Over the past months, I have written letters to my MP. I have signed petitions. I have protested locally, and in London. I have run for Gaza and donated race winnings to Medial Aid for Palestinians. And it’s all felt utterly hopeless.
Meanwhile, my government parrots the same tired rhetoric that Israel must “take every available precaution to protect innocent civilian lives”, while continuing to enable its actions behind the scenes, such as abstaining on UN votes for a ceasefire15,16.
At the time, ActionAid responded: “With aid operations no longer able to meaningfully function anywhere in the territory and infrastructure on the brink of collapse, now is the moment for international action. The scenes in Gaza have rightfully been described as apocalyptic. How much more death and destruction will it take before leaders put humanity first and decide enough is enough?”
Personally, I’ve found the last 3 months to be mentally exhausting. While the International Court of Justice considers South Africa’s case for genocide, I really need a break. A nice, week-long, mind-clearing getaway from the whole agonising ordeal.
Thank goodness for the icy flagstones, waterlogged bogs, -11°C temperatures, and 268 painful miles of Britain’s most brutal race, the Winter Spine.
It’ll be my holiday away from genocide.
I can’t wait.
- Youtube: “Do you have another solution?” Israeli Ambassador defends destruction of Gaza
- UN OCHA: Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel | Flash Update #88
- UNRWA: UNRWA Situation Report #59 on the situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem
- Gaza: UNRWA: What the Gaza blockade means. The occupied West Bank: B’Tselem: The pogroms are working – the transfer is already happening
- France 24: Israeli ministry drafted ‘concept’ proposal for transfer of Gaza civilians to Egypt
- Reuters: Israeli minister repeats call for Palestinians to leave Gaza
- The Lancet: Gaza hospitals: military siege and bombings
- Wikipedia: School airstrikes in the 2023 Israel-Hamas war
- CPJ: CPJ calls for probe into whether Hamza Al Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuraya were targeted in strike
- UNICEF: Intensifying conflict, malnutrition and disease in the Gaza Strip creates a deadly cycle that threatens over 1.1 million children
- HRW: Questions and Answers on Israel’s Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza and Lebanon
- BBC: Israel Gaza: Hostages shot by IDF put out ‘SOS’ sign written with leftover food
- FT: What will be left of Gaza when the war ends
- PRC: UN: Over 500,000 Palestinians Will Have no Home to Return to in Gaza
- UN: Security Council Fails to Adopt Resolution Demanding Immediate Humanitarian Ceasefire in Gaza on Account of Veto by United States
- UN: UN General Assembly votes by large majority for immediate humanitarian ceasefire during emergency session