The world has recently been riveted on the Gaza Strip, which has functioned as an open-air prison or concentration camp keeping the Palestinian people under guard by land, sea, and air until October 7 when Israeli security was breached.

The Israeli publication, Haaretz, reports 1,200 Israelis were tragically killed and over 200 civilians and military personnel were taken hostage by Hamas and other militants. Subsequently, Israel maximized its nearly seventeen-year siege on Gaza and horrified people across the globe with nearly relentless bombing campaign on a defenseless population followed by military operations on the ground. With more than two million people on 140 square miles of land, Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world-  though the population is currently being reduced through Israeli  bombing and siege, supported by the U.S.  (Note: The name “Gaza” generally refers to the entire Gaza Strip.) Simultaneously, Israel has embarked on a reign of terror in the West Bank, causing rising numbers of Palestinians to be displaced, killed, held in detention and tortured, many without charge. The following article is based on a speech delivered by the writer at the Palestine vigil in November of 2023.

GAZA:A Graveyard for Children”


Gaza Statistics as of January 10, 2024  Image: Al Jazeera

by Liza Burr  Women Against Military Madness Newsletter, Vol. 41 No. 6, Winter II 2023

Government statistics from Gaza (current as of November 27) indicate that 14,854 Palestinian people have been killed, including 6,150 children, and more than 36,000 people have been wounded, with 75 percent of the casualties being women, children, and elderly people.1 “Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor estimates the toll to stand at 20,031 killed in Gaza, including 8,176 children.”2 Defense for Children International-Palestine states that one child is killed every 10 minutes, a figure cited by the UN World Health organization.3 The United Nations Children’s Fund calls Gaza a “graveyard for children” and “hell for everyone else.”4 By October 26, in less than three weeks, according to Palestinian diplomat Hanan Ashrawi, 731 Gaza families had been wholly eliminated;5 now, a month later, that number may well have doubled. Across the Gaza Strip, north to south, 60 percent of Gaza’s housing units (residential buildings) have been entirely or partially reduced to rubble,6 with thousands of children and adults missing under the rubble. Civilian infrastructure has been systematically targeted: hospitals and clinics, universities and schools, mosques, churches, communications, and refugee camps (70 percent of Gaza residents are 1948 refugees and/or their descendants). Israeli President Herzog has asserted that all Palestinian residents of Gaza are responsible for the Hamas attacks of October 7 – according to his logic, their mass slaughter is justified.7

The pretext

In case the slaughter isn’t justified, Israel’s pretext for this wholesale destruction of Gaza’s civilians and their infrastructure is its right to “self-defense” against Hamas, labeled as a “terrorist organization.” Hamas in realityis a resistance organization with a military wing and a political wing (the latter being the political party that governs Gaza); it also provides social services and includes women’s and children’s organizations and more. According to Ashrawi, Hamas represents 30 percent of the Palestinian population – it cannot be militarily eradicated, which affords the perfect cover for Israel to wage a long-term war against it. Fatah, the political party that governs Palestine in the West Bank, is regarded as a subcontractor for Israel. By contrast, Hamas stands up to Israel, however one may assess October 7.

Resistance in context

Palestinian resistance has a context, which is decades of Israeli oppression and illegal occupation. Israeli historian Avi Shlaim has written that “Israel’s entire record is one of unbridled and unremitting brutality towards the inhabitants of Gaza.” He states that since 1967 Israel has operated “one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.”8 On the contrary, Israel and the mainstream media portray the current situation in Palestine/Israel as if it BEGAN on October 7. Another Israeli historian, IlanPappé, maintains that Israel is exploiting October 7, in defiance of human rights and international law, in order to far exceed anything that could be called self-defense, or even “revenge.”9

Ethnic cleansing and genocide

What Israel is actually doing to Gaza is ethnic cleansing and genocide: On October 28, three weeks into Israel’s bombardment, Craig Mokhiber, director in the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, resigned his post and, in a letter of resignation, described the situation as a “textbook case of genocide.” Genocide is being enacted by means of bombing, starvation, dehydration, lack of medicine, and total lack of fuel – the last meaning, for example, that water (if available) cannot be pumped or desalinated, incubators that formerly protected premature infants are no longer operating, and there is little to no anesthesia for the few remaining functioning hospitals. Through its siege and destruction of civilian life and infrastructure, Israel is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. Among those crimes is the deliberate disabling of the health care system. Even ambulances have been attacked and cannot run without fuel. These crimes add up to the ultimate war crime: genocide.

From Article II of the UN Genocide Convention:

Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.10

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The role of the U.S.

What is the role of the U.S. (allied with the UK and the European Union)? By supporting Israel materially and rhetorically, the U.S. has become not only complicit, but also a “partner in crime,” as Ashrawi says. As part of a larger foreign military “aid” package, the Biden administration seeks to rush an ADDITIONAL $14.5 billion to Israel on top of the $4 billion already donated annually for military purposes: more money to buy more weapons, which will be used to kill more people. One of the weapons Israel is inflicting on the Palestinian civilians of Gaza, in violation of international humanitarian law, is white phosphorus, which is incendiary. Shlaim has decried the West’s “hypocrisy and ruthless double standards”; their one-sided pro-Israelism, he says, translates into the deletion of Palestinian history, culture, and humanity.11


Activists hung a banner over freeways declaring “Ceasefire on Children.”
Photo: Ross Rowley

A permanent ceasefire refused

Israel claims that a ceasefire would signify surrendering to Hamas. At last count, more than 67 percent of Americans want a ceasefire, as do the vast majority of people globally. As of November 25, Biden’s partnership in crime was compounded by his refusal to insist on a permanent ceasefire, reinforcing the erosion of U.S. credibility on this issue in the eyes of the world. In Congress, a small minority of House members have signed on to U.S. Representative Cori Bush’s “Ceasefire Now” resolution. Biden’s calls for “humanitarian pauses” to facilitate the admission of humanitarian aid ring very hollow,with bombs raining down before and potentially after the “pauses” on the people supposedly being aided. [The “pause” began on November 24 and lasted six days, at which time Israel’s bombing resumed.]

What is the agenda?

Finally, what is Israel’s agenda? A document from the Israeli Intelligence Ministry was released at the end of October indicating that Israel’s ultimate goal is ethnic cleansing: to depopulate the Gaza Strip, expelling the surviving population into Egypt’s Sinai Desert and prohibiting their return.12 Commanding roughly half of Gaza’s population to flee from north to south fits this program of a premeditated second Nakba. (The original Nakba, “The Catastrophe,” violently forced the displacement of at least 750,000 Palestinians in 1948.) Following the logic of Zionism (supremacist settler colonialism), an expulsion of 2.3 million Palestinians from Gaza would greatly magnify the first Nakba.

The solution: a just peace

The solution to the current crisis is to address its root causes, end the illegal siege and the illegal occupation, and finally replace apartheid Israel with one democratic, secular state that offers justice and equality for all its citizens (Jews, Muslims, Christians, and any others) regardless of religion, ethnicity, or any identity marker. The solution is a just peace.

Liza Burr is a member of the WAMM Middle East Committee who has studied and lived in Palestine/Israel.

1Israel-Gaza War in maps and charts. Live Tracker. Al Jazeera. November 27, 2023.
2Statistics on Israeli Genocide in the Gaza Strip 07 October to 25 November 2023. Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor.
3 Gaza Crisis: Aid agencies warn of tragic, avoidable surge in child deaths. United Nations. November 22, 2023.
4 “Gaza has become a graveyard for children.” Press release. UNICEF. October 31, 2023.
5 Palestinian diplomat Hanan Ashrawi: “The U.S. Is Israel’s Partner in Crime in Deadly Assault on Gaza.” Democracy Now. October 26, 2023.
6 Shelter in Crisis. Joint Advocacy Statement. Relief Web. November 24, 2023.
7 Blumenthal, Paul. “Israeli President Suggests That Civilians in Gaza Are Legitimate Targets.” HuffPost. October 16, 2023.
8 Israeli historian AviShlaim: “How Israel Brought Gaza to the Brink of Humanitarian Catastrophe.” The Guardian. January 6, 2009.
9 “Israeli historian IlanPappé on Gaza War, Hostages, and the Context behind Current Violence.” Democracy Now. October 31, 2023.
10  CraigMokhiber has accused the U.S., UK, and much of Europe of being “wholly complicit in the horrific assault.” Pilkington, Ed. “Top UN official in New York steps down citing ‘genocide’ of Palestinian civilians.” The Guardian. October 31, 2023.

11 MacDonald, Alex. “Israel-Palestine War: Western powers giving ‘warrant for genocide,’ says prominent Israeli historian.” Middle East Eye. October 30, 2023.

12 Lis, Jonathan, and Samuels, Ben. “Israeli Intel Ministry Suggests Relocating Gazans to Sinai after Hamas War.” Haaretz. October 30, 2023.



  1. Mike Madden January 14, 2024 at 2:04 PM - Reply

    Excellent summation of the situation.

    Thank you Liza Burr.

  2. herbert davis January 14, 2024 at 10:58 AM - Reply

    Yes…you are correct

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