As the 27 December draws near, many of us will look back to the year's event to note how little has changed with regards to the conditions in Gaza. In that corner of the Middle East Palestinians continue with hunger, homelessness and imprisonment as they move forward to face 2010. There is also the constant threat of yet another assault. Despite the efforts of organisations and friends from all over the world to pressure Israel and Egypt to open the borders Gaza is still hermeneutically sealed. Essential food and medical supplies are negotiated in by the UN to ensure that Gaza's million and a half although hungry, do not starve to death; or succumb to epidemics of infectious disease. The 21,000 destroyed homes cannot be rebuilt as building materials are blockaded. Tents are pitched over the rubble for the surviving families, as they face the bitter, cold and wet winter.
Since leaving Gaza in February 2009, I have spoken on about a hundred different occasions about the situation in Gaza. While in Gaza, Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta and I wrote about our impressions on 28 January 2009. It described the death, injuries and destruction of Gaza from 27 December 08 to 18 January 09. The Lancet Global Health Network published it on 2 February 2009, but came under enormous pressure to withdraw it a month later. Our figures were said to be shocking and unbelievable! The Goldstone Report which came later confirmed our observations, but still cannot silence these protests.
I am grateful to Middle East Monitor for reprinting the first chapter to the 2009 edition of my book "From Beirut to Jerusalem". This chapter is titled "The Wounds of Gaza". As a surgeon I know how wounds heal. First the cause of the injury must be removed. For Gaza it is the blockade and the constant threat of a new assault. People have to be restored through healthy nutritional support and if necessary surgery and medicines. These are in short supply. Then there has to be security: safe homes and rehabilitation through work, education and play. There has to be a future to look forward to, so that despair and depression can be removed. Gaza has none of these conditions.
For my Gaza friends our campaigns abroad to lift the siege have not come to fruition. But they must know it is not through the lack of effort. As the end of the year draws near I can only greet them with the universal greeting Salaam-a'-laykum. – Peace be with you. May the peace of God who passes all understanding keep your hearts and souls close to Him, and strengthen you in these horrendous circumstances.
Dr Swee Ang
Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
Also read Dr. Ang Swee's Introduction 'From Beirut to Jerusalem' 2009 – The Wounds of Gaza
Dr Ang Swee Chai grew up supporting Israel. Arabs, she was told, were terrorists. But in 1982, on the television she saw the relentless bombing of Beirut by Israeli planes. Shocked, her view of Israel began to change. It was then that she heard of an international appeal for an orthopaedic surgeon to treat war victims in Beirut. The petit woman – she was just under 1.5 meters – resigned her job in London, bade her husband farewell and set out on a journey to civil war Beirut, there she was to eye-witness the Sabra-Shatila massacres*.
With her husband Francis Khoo, and some friends, Dr Ang Swee Chai helped to form the British charity, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), following the 1982 Sabra-Shatila massacres. In 1987, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat awarded Dr Ang Swee Chai the "Star of Palestine" the highest award for service to the Palestinian people.