Artists urge end to Israel's siege of Gaza amid coronavirus crisis
Long before the global outbreak of COVID-19 threatened to overwhelm the already devastated healthcare system in Gaza, the UN had predicted that the blockaded coastal strip would be unliveable by 2020. With the pandemic, Gaza’s almost two million inhabitants, predominantly refugees, face a mortal threat in the world’s largest open-air prison.

Two years ago on May 14th, Israeli snipers killed sixty Palestinian men, women and children in Gaza, with total impunity. The overwhelmingly peaceful Great March of Return weekly mass demonstrations, currently on hold due to the threat of coronavirus, were met with brutal violence.

Well before the ongoing crisis, Gaza's hospitals were already stretched to breaking point through lack of essential resources denied by Israel’s siege. Its healthcare system could not cope with the thousands of gunshot wounds, leading to many amputations.

Reports of the first cases of coronavirus in densely-populated Gaza are therefore deeply disturbing. As several health professionals recently wrote: “Epidemics (and indeed, pandemics) are disproportionately violent to populations burdened by poverty, military occupation, discrimination & institutionalised oppression.”

Yet Israel’s blockade impedes the flow of medical equipment, personnel and fundamental humanitarian aid. International pressure is urgently needed to make life in Gaza liveable and dignified. Israel's siege must be ended. And most urgently, a potentially devastating outbreak must be prevented.

What happens in Gaza is a test for the conscience of humanity. We back Amnesty International’s call on all world governments to impose a military embargo on Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law. We recognise that the rights guaranteed to refugees by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be upheld for Palestinians as well.

In these times of international crisis, we must stand for justice, peace, freedom, and equal rights for all, regardless of identity or creed. We may be staying at home, but our ethical responsibility shouldn’t.

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