Stressed out in Gaza
Having been laid low (low-ish) with illness this past fortnight I’ve been breaking a rule and forcing myself to take Paracetamol and Strepsils. (I’m a classic bad patient who won’t submit to sensible medication until I’m barking my head off with a cough, which I now am).
The painkillers thing came back to mind today. There’s news that thousands of young Gazan men (maybe 15,000) are addicted to prescription painkillers through the stress of the blockade. One factor, apparently, is the stress of being in the smuggling tunnels into Egypt, where a lot of Palestinian men are eking out a desperate kind of living during the blockade.
(Speaking as a bit of a claustrophobic, there’s a mildly terrifying photo on the Guardian site of a young bloke and a young cow, the poor cow presumably just as stressed as the man but without any painkillers to get her though it.)
Gordon Brown’s hosting an investment conference for Palestinians in London today and he’s been talking (quite rightly) about how illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank are a “blockage” and a “barrier” to progress toward a peace settlement. (Funnily enough, the PM’s language immediately calls to mind the security wall/fence and the 500 Israeli military checkpoints scattered across the West Bank, but I don’t see any reference to those, or to the Gaza blockade – another “blockage” if there ever was one – in what Brown has been saying).
If December is a typical time for stress and ill-health in the UK, it’s pretty much an all-year round thing if you’re unlucky enough to be living in Gaza City or Sderot (where the Hamas rockets fall).
So – here’s my little Christmas message to the Holy Land. Lift the Gaza blockade, close the settlements and checkpoints, and stop firing rockets into Israel. This could, if the will is there, start to happen within days. Peace and goodwill to all men might take a bit longer.
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