LONDON – Government is all about statistics, but life is about people. That disjunction explains a lot about the cynicism and disaffection with politics that characterizes much of the world nowadays. And, while domestic problems may seem intractable, distance increases the confusion and fatigue induced by seemingly intractable international problems. As usual, the people who suffer are those who most need the world’s attention.
This is notably true of the 1.5 million people crowded into the Gaza strip, locked between Israel, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea. The West has already isolated Gaza’s Hamas-controlled government. This week, the US Congress will discuss cutting off aid to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. But this is a time for more international engagement with the Palestinian people, not less.
The statistics say that 80% of Gaza’s population is dependent on UN food aid. The youth unemployment rate is 65%. The Web site of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has a comprehensive database that shows how many trucks, containing different kinds of supplies, have been allowed in by the Israeli authorities.
The situation of the people – or rather the fight about their situation – is periodically in the news, most recently when violence broke the otherwise reasonably effective ceasefire in August. But Gaza has become the land that time – and the wider international community – forgot.