Here in Britain, the horrific tower block blaze which proved to be the deadliest in London since World War Two is still making front page headlines one week after the flames were finally doused.
There has been an overwhelming reaction to the blaze from across society, and rightly so; a “Day of Rage” has been called today in the capital in protest at the atrocity which exposed the reality of poverty and hardship in one of the world’s richest cities. Until the Grenfell Tower tragedy, few people outside London were really aware of the deep pockets of deprivation tucked between areas of vast wealth containing luxury apartments and run by well-heeled borough councils.
The treatment of the survivors of the fire by the Establishment has appalled and outraged right-minded people, who have demonstrated with their generosity and compassion that when decent human beings see an obvious injustice then goodness comes to the fore. Offers of help poured in within hours of the fire taking hold, as did condemnation of the rich and powerful people deemed to be responsible for the miserable condition of London’s underclass. The public’s silence in the face of such inequality is no longer guaranteed; indeed, it is no longer an option.
Moreover, it’s not just in London where people are being punished daily for being poor; people deprived of the basic necessities of life are under the cosh of those wielding obscene wealth, power and influence the world over. A classic example can be seen in the tiny Gaza Strip in occupied Palestine, where two million Palestinians barely survive under an Israeli-led blockade and occupation.
This week, the electricity supply in the coastal enclave was cut down to two hours a day. Try to imagine life without power for 22 out of every 24 hours in every day; it affects not only homes and businesses, but also essential public spaces such as hospitals, where malnourished, premature babies are being kept alive in incubators and kidney patients rely on dialysis machines. No electricity means that generators intended for genuine emergencies are now in operation on an almost permanent basis; they too need fuel, and diesel is also in very short supply due to the siege.
So why isn’t there a day of rage for the Palestinians in capitals across the West? Sadly, the mainstream media is largely silent when it comes to the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza — which, says the UN, will be “unliveable” by 2020 — and the plight of the Palestinian people reaches few beyond those interested in Middle East affairs.
Gaza is forced to rely solely on Israel for electricity, which is only right and proper given that as the occupying power the Zionist state has a legal duty to provide the people under occupation with the necessities of life. Despite this, Gaza’s only power plant ceased to function in April because spare parts and proper maintenance are not available due to the Israeli-imposed blockade. Furthermore, we should not forget that Israel targeted Gaza’s infrastructure during its 2014 military offensive and bombed the power station. The Israel Electric Company which supplies power to the Gaza Strip insists that it is reducing the supply gradually over the next few days at the request of the treacherous Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, which is trying to wrest political control from the de facto Hamas government in the territory.
Unfortunately, the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza — and their betrayal by the PA in the West Bank — has not caused much anger; it is a fact of life (and death) that such humanitarian abuses have become near normal across the region. The Palestinians are expected to suffer in silence — witness the pressure put on the “anti-Israel UN” by the US ambassador to the international organisation — but that may be about to change.
With the news that millions of litres of raw sewage are now pouring into the Mediterranean Sea because Israel also bombed Gaza’s water treatment plant and won’t allow spare parts into the coastal enclave, the wealthy, influential elite may be forced into acting to end the suffering of the Palestinians living there. While it is obvious that most couldn’t give a flying fig about the appalling levels of poverty and degradation endured by the Palestinians on a daily basis, the holidaymakers on pristine Israeli beaches will not tolerate swimming in raw sewage drifting along the coast from the Gaza Strip.
Environmentalists are now also waking up to the damage that Gaza’s sewage is doing to the Mediterranean. Health officials predict a large scale epidemic or even pandemic if the situation deteriorates further.
So in the absence of people power or a day of rage on behalf of the Palestinians, hotel owners and the holidaymakers upon whom they depend, who are affected by Gaza’s wayward effluent, might just kick up enough of a fuss for the Israeli government to act swiftly and humanely towards its neighbours. Palestinians may well be expected to put up and shut up, but it’s a safe bet that tourists paying good money to use the facilities along the beaches on either side of Gaza will not remain silent if their holidays and water sports are spoilt by raw sewage, the threat of disease and worse.
While Israel appears to enjoy the fact that it has total control over the lives of millions of Palestinians, it can control neither disease nor tidal flows. Its creation of an entirely man-made humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza might cause an even greater crisis in its own backyard.
No one on this earth should have to suffer unnecessarily because of poverty; being poor is not a crime, but state and corporate recklessness is. Someone might yet just pay the price for what Israel has inflicted on the poor in occupied Palestine.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.