Jailbreak (not the Thin Lizzy classic)

Wheres the biggest prison in the world? China? The USA? Russia? No? Any other thoughts?

 

Okay, its a trick question (of a kind), because effectively the worlds biggest prison is the entire Gaza Strip, the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel over 40 years ago.

Who says so? Well, Amnesty, Oxfam, Save The Children, Christian Aid and various other expert groups. Its true that there arent exactly steel bars around the entire country of 1.5 million people, but all of its borders, airspace and coasts are controlled by the awesome Israeli Defence Forces, one of the worlds most powerful militaries.

Last month there was a Gaza jailbreak. Thousands of Gazans broke through a border point where Gaza neighbours Egypt and the world got a glimpse of the desperation of Gazas ordinary people. People were frantically trying to buy (overpriced) food and household goods in Egyptian shops.

Not surprising, really, when you consider that 95% of Gazas own industrial production has collapsed, there are power cuts for 12 hours a day, and four out of five people in Gaza are dependent on food aid. Hospitals havent got medicines and even patients with cancer cant get treatment and Israel wont let them leave the country to go to a hospital in Egypt or Jordan. Check out a Gazan doctor Mona El-Fara who blogs on this at From Gaza, With Love.

But hey, those Gazans! They cant get their act together can they?

Well they are living in an open-air prison, which tends to lead to a dependency culture. But the point, of course, is that the Gazan population has been half-starved and economically strangled by Israel in retaliation over the Qassam rockets being fired into southern Israel. (Theres also the question of Israel turning the screw on all of Gazas people because of Hamas governance of Gaza).

But yes, indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israel from Palestinian armed groups are wrong. No doubt about that. But so are daily air and ground strikes on Gaza from the IDF military - and the death toll is scary (over a 100 Palestinians killed in a week now, many of them children).

But, and heres the point, the Israeli blockade of all one and half million people in Gaza is itself totally indiscriminate and is clearly an act of collective punishment.

Im pleased to say that the Amnesty and aid agencies new report on Gaza has got good coverage today, so click through to the Daily Telegraph and the Independent if you have time. Its sobering but important stuff.

Finally, seeing as I mentioned the late-lamented giants of 70s righteous rock Thin Lizzy in the title, check out Jailbreak live in Sydney from 78!

Its probably worth me mentioning here that I saw Phil Lynotts headbangers in (I think) 1978 at Bingley Hall in Staffordshire. There were, I dimly remember, a lot of people way older than me in (kind of) oily Wrangler flares and biker jackets with tassels. Grebos! There was a lot of leaning forwards, hands on hips and (long) hair being shaken in classic headbanging mode. Amazing! It was (then) the biggest-ever UK indoor stadium concert of (about) 15,000 people. Beat that!

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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