Gazans are suffering, says resident Ghada Al Kord. Photo: Alison Baskerville, CARE
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Letter from Gaza: “You cannot understand how it feels... There is no dignity”

Palestinian Ghada Al Kord tells of the difficulties of navigating a warzone while pregnant and the indignity of being trapped in Gaza. 

Ghada Al Kord, 28, has lived in Gaza since she was born and co-ordinates safety and security for CARE staff there. She lives with her husband and 18-month-old daughter and is expecting her second child.

I heard the first strike of the military operation on the day that I went to a clinic to check on my health for the pregnancy. Since then we have just watched it escalate and escalate. I thought it might be for one week, like “Pillar of Cloud” but the violence from both sides is not stopping.

I was pregnant during Pillar of Cloud and now I am pregnant in this war too. I’m suffering physically, it is difficult – we are fasting for Ramadan, there is the military operation and all these things are happening together, so it is a very big strain, especially for pregnant women. We cannot sleep for the air strikes.

On the first day there was an air strike outside our door. My husband and daughter had just been standing in that same place one minute before. Thank God they are not injured. The next day I went to my sister’s for the night. My niece answered the phone and it was a call from the IDF telling us to evacuate the house. In two minutes we were in the street with my nieces and nephews screaming and shouting. The whole neighbourhood got the same information, there was chaos, but we got back to my home.

That night there was an air strike very close to my sister’s home, the place where I would have been sleeping was badly damaged. We moved to my husband’s family home, but again there were air strikes targeting the houses and then the ground operation started and we moved back to our house. Whenever we move we are scared that we will be targeted, you can be on any street, any building. My sister’s family are now living in a basement because their building was so damaged, they can’t even go into their garden – imagine not leaving a basement for three weeks? If they go out they might be targeted.

My daughter does not understand, but she is scared. She comes close to me and hides in my arms when we hear the strikes. I try to tell her stories to calm her down so she will not remember. I worry for the life of my next child, our children are growing up surrounded by violence. There is no safe or calm environment for them, everything they learn is violence. They have the right to live in peace like other children, they should be able to play in the sea and in the park – I cannot even let my daughter out of the house.

We are living between wars. You cannot understand how it feels not being able to move, to be trapped, to not even see family or friends. There is no dignity. We are frustrated and we do not know when it will end.

We will not be able to celebrate Eid. How can we when we have lost relatives? My sister-in-law lost her brother, and two of our friends have been killed?  I lost my brother in Operation Cast Lead to a drone. He was just a civilian. He has four children and their life is so hard. They feel anger and hate and aggression. When I visit them in Rafah, I try to be strong in front of them, but inside I am very scared for them. There are air strikes in Rafah too.

The pregnancy clinic told me to come back after my last check-up, but I can’t go as it is now shut. There are many pregnant people like me and other sick people with diseases who need medicines but we cannot get any help because the hospitals and clinics are full of all the injured people. I have to be strong.

We just want to live in peace, not war. I am 28 and for more than 14 years I have witnessed war, 14 years of violence. We just want to live like other people. I’m 28 and I have never left Gaza, I would like to travel, I would like to meet people in other countries but we can’t – right now I cannot even see my own family and friends.

I ask the world to think of the civilians. We are good people. Everyone I know wants to live in peace. It is enough now. Our children deserve to grow up with their rights, and that is all we ask.

CARE and its partners are preparing to provide emergency mobile health teams to serve people affected by the violence in Gaza. As soon as the security situation allows, CARE and its partner, Palestine Medical Relief Society (PMRS), are planning to run two mobile health teams that would visit an average of 200 patients per day, providing basic health care to people living in communities affected by the ongoing violence, The teams will include medical staff and a psychosocial worker to help traumatised families, and will focus in particular on women’s health needs, particularly pre- and post-natal care for pregnant women and new mothers with infants.

Photo: Getty
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The UK press’s timid reaction to Brexit is in marked contrast to the satire unleashed on Trump

For the BBC, it seems, to question leaving the EU is to be unpatriotic.

Faced with arguably their biggest political-cum-constitutional ­crisis in half a century, the press on either side of the pond has reacted very differently. Confronting a president who, unlike many predecessors, does not merely covertly dislike the press but rages against its supposed mendacity as a purveyor of “fake news”, the fourth estate in the US has had a pretty successful first 150-odd days of the Trump era. The Washington Post has recovered its Watergate mojo – the bloodhound tenacity that brought down Richard Nixon. The Post’s investigations into links between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s associates and appointees have yielded the scalp of the former security adviser Michael Flynn and led to Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from all inquiries into Trump-Russia contacts. Few imagine the story will end there.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has cast off its image as “the grey lady” and come out in sharper colours. Commenting on the James Comey memo in an editorial, the Times raised the possibility that Trump was trying to “obstruct justice”, and called on Washington lawmakers to “uphold the constitution”. Trump’s denunciations of the Times as “failing” have acted as commercial “rocket fuel” for the paper, according to its CEO, Mark Thompson: it gained an “astonishing” 308,000 net digital news subscriptions in the first quarter of 2017.

US-based broadcast organisations such as CNN and ABC, once considered slick or bland, have reacted to Trump’s bullying in forthright style. Political satire is thriving, led by Saturday Night Live, with its devastating impersonations of the president by Alec Baldwin and of his press secretary Sean Spicer by the brilliant Melissa McCarthy.

British press reaction to Brexit – an epic constitutional, political and economic mess-up that probably includes a mind-bogglingly destructive self-ejection from a single market and customs union that took decades to construct, a move pushed through by a far-right faction of the Tory party – has been much more muted. The situation is complicated by the cheerleading for Brexit by most of the British tabloids and the Daily Telegraph. There are stirrings of resistance, but even after an election in which Theresa May spectacularly failed to secure a mandate for her hard Brexit, there is a sense, though the criticism of her has been intense, of the media pussy-footing around a government in disarray – not properly interrogating those who still seem to promise that, in relation to Europe, we can have our cake and eat it.

This is especially the case with the BBC, a state broadcaster that proudly proclaims its independence from the government of the day, protected by the famous “arm’s-length” principle. In the case of Brexit, the BBC invoked its concept of “balance” to give equal airtime and weight to Leavers and Remainers. Fair enough, you might say, but according to the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, it ignored a “near-unanimous view among economists that Brexit would hurt the UK economy in the longer term”.

A similar view of “balance” in the past led the BBC to equate views of ­non-scientific climate contrarians, often linked to the fossil-fuel lobby, with those of leading climate scientists. Many BBC Remainer insiders still feel incensed by what they regard as BBC betrayal over Brexit. Although the referendum of 23 June 2016 said nothing about leaving the single market or the customs union, the Today presenter Justin Webb, in a recent interview with Stuart Rose, put it like this: “Staying in the single market, staying in the customs union – [Leave voters would say] you might as well not be leaving. That fundamental position is a matter of democracy.” For the BBC, it seems, to question Brexit is somehow to be unpatriotic.

You might think that an independent, pro-democratic press would question the attempted use of the arcane and archaic “royal prerogative” to enable the ­bypassing of parliament when it came to triggering Article 50, signalling the UK’s departure from the EU. But when the campaigner Gina Miller’s challenge to the government was upheld by the high court, the three ruling judges were attacked on the front page of the Daily Mail as “enemies of the people”. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he would rather have “newspapers without a government” than “a government without newspapers”. It’s a fair guess he wasn’t thinking of newspapers that would brand the judiciary as “enemies of the people”.

It does seem significant that the United States has a written constitution, encapsulating the separation and balance of powers, and explicitly designed by the Founding Fathers to protect the young republic against tyranny. When James Madison drafted the First Amendment he was clear that freedom of the press should be guaranteed to a much higher degree in the republic than it had been in the colonising power, where for centuries, after all, British monarchs and prime ministers have had no qualms about censoring an unruly media.

By contrast, the United Kingdom remains a hybrid of monarchy and democracy, with no explicit protection of press freedom other than the one provided by the common law. The national impulse to bend the knee before the sovereign, to obey and not question authority, remains strangely powerful in Britain, the land of Henry VIII as well as of George Orwell. That the United Kingdom has slipped 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index in the past four years, down to 40th, has rightly occasioned outrage. Yet, even more awkwardly, the United States is three places lower still, at 43rd. Freedom of the press may not be doing quite as well as we imagine in either country.

Harry Eyres is the author of Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (2013)

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder