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Northern Ireland more than anywhere should stand by Gaza victims

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday Life)

Even for those of us who have witnessed the worst of the Northern Ireland conflict, the scenes from Gaza bring us into new territory in terms of the scale of the suffering and the victims' utter vulnerability.

Every hour of every day a fresh horror unfolds. Watch the TV news, read a newspaper, go online and there are a deluge of new images assaulting your eyes and breaking your heart.

In terms of the brutal loss of innocent civilian life, this is Blood Friday, Loughinisland, La Mon, Bloody Sunday, Ballymurphy, Enniskillen, Omagh and more, all packed into a handful of days.

Four little boys with the life blown out of them as they played football on a beach are soon overshadowed by another round of child deaths.

The blood splashed over the wooden classroom desks in the UN school turned refugee camp, and the trail of red footprints across the playground, told its own story.

The scenes in the hospitals are the most distressing. The endless flow of small mutilated corpses, while other tiny battered bodies cling to life by a thread.

The injured orphans who don't have anyone to comfort them because their parents were killed. The only people there to hold their hands – the paramedics and doctors.

The civilian death toll in our conflict was horribly high. But the figures in this offensive are in a different league – more than 1,000 Palestinians, a quarter of them children; 37 Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians by day 19.

To say this is unjustifiable is no more anti-Semitic than condemning the Shankill bomb as anti-Catholic or denouncing the Greysteel massacre as anti-Protestant.

What is blatantly obvious from even glancing at the scenes from Gaza is that these people have nothing.

An entire family crammed onto one moped, with a handful of possessions packed on the back, fleeing their home. Old women riding to what they hope is safety on donkey carts.

And imagine if during the Troubles our hospitals had been so stretched responding to atrocities because of a serious shortage of staff and basic medical supplies?

The suffering of civilians on the scale we are witnessing in Gaza could never be excused by claims that it's about defending any people or country. We must stand by the victim.

July 28, 2014

This article appeared in the July 27, 2014 edition of the Sunday Life.

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