The two-state compromise facilitates the international community’s alienation from the repercussions faced by Palestinians as a result of Israel’s ongoing settler-colonialism and violence. Imagining Palestine through the imposed (and moribund) two-state framework creates desensitisation from the suffering of the Palestinian people, which is almost never brought into the spotlight when diplomats speak about Israeli aggression against Gaza, for example, or the consequences of forced displacement and illegal settlement expansion. The international community wants instead to publicise its diplomacy, which simplifies and dehumanises Palestinians.
When reports about Palestinian suffering do emerge, and they do so regularly, it is a pity that some are marred by quoting the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as in the recent detailed report titled “Trapped: The impact of 15 years of blockade on the mental health of Gaza’s children” by Save the Children. This documents the psychological toll of Israeli aggression on children living in the enclave.
“It is no surprise that the lives of children in Gaza have been described as ‘hell on earth’ by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres,” says Save the Children in the executive summary. However, let’s keep in mind that Guterres advocates for Israeli colonial violence when he claims, falsely, “There is no Plan B.” Quoting him distracts from what is otherwise a vital report that the UN and diplomats worldwide would do well to read with the intention of bringing justice, not temporary pain relief, to the Palestinians. But then again, the report’s language focuses on conflict and recommends creating “conditions for renewed talks between the parties to the conflict for a just solution that addresses the underlying causes of violence,” as if Israel’s settler-colonialism and its inherent violence is a phenomenon yet to be discovered and articulated.
The report reveals a decline in the mental health and well-being of children in Gaza since 2018. Children feel vulnerable due to the impact that Israel’s violence has on the concept of home, as well as their daily lives which have been permanently ruptured and disrupted. “In 2022,” says Save the Children, “80 per cent of children and young people reported emotional distress compared with 55 per cent in 2018.” A teenage boy from Gaza is quoted in the report as saying: “All of a sudden, we were bombed… It was horror. Before we didn’t fear anything. Now, all we feel is fear. Now it’s worse.”
The report also notes an increase in self-harm among minors in Gaza, as well as an increase in suicide attempts. Caregivers also face various stressors which hinder their ability to provide for their children in terms of physical and psychosocial support.
Yet the report skirts around the main cause of all of this: Israel’s colonial violence. The measures suggested do not take into consideration the fact that Israel thrives on violence and forcing Palestinians to concentrate on their survival rather than living. Incomplete pictures of Palestine keep emerging. Diplomats prefer attention to be focused on their meetings, while rights organisations fall into the trap of discussing the humanitarian, economic and psychological repercussions without faulting Israel’s colonial existence and inbuilt violence. Neither politicians nor human rights organisations are ready to call out Israel for what it is: a settler-colonial enterprise built upon terrorism and violence, and sustained by state terrorism and violence. Addressing this discrepancy is the first step towards empowering the Palestinian narrative.
Generalisations by the UN, such as referencing Guterres to provide some context, makes Palestinian suffering an appendage to UN rhetoric, which is unfair and inaccurate, and only provides yet more impunity to Israel and its international allies promoting the two-state narrative as a solution. Israel and its colonial violence must be named and shamed as the cause of Palestinian suffering.