8th November 2023

In recent BBC TV news reports from the Middle East, key facts have been superimposed on an aerial photograph showing the border between Gaza and neighbouring Israel running down the middle of the screen. To the left, Gaza, appearing pinkish-white with the vague shapes of buildings; to the right, Israel, the land covered with a patchwork of fields of various colours, depending on their use.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. For me this visual disparity speaks volumes in one satellite snapshot. On the Gazan side, nothing but continuous built-up areas, crammed in because Gaza accommodates 2.3 million people in an area the size of the Isle of Wight – no space for vital agriculture of any significance, let alone leisure or recreation. On the other side of the border, fields a-plenty. What the photograph, not close enough to show detail, cannot convey is that many, many buildings in Gaza are now piles of rubble through bombing. Also, the photograph cannot show the ability of Gazans and Israelis to move about. The former are confined by a 7 metre-high fence (called by some the ‘Iron Wall’) on three sides, by the sea on the other. The fence was constructed in 1994, and a 1 kilometre buffer zone was later added alongside. Israeli border-guards can shoot anyone entering the zone. Individuals cannot move beyond Gaza without Israeli authority, confined inside what has been described as the world’s largest prison camp. In Israel, however, people can move about freely.

I cannot look at this photograph without a heavy heart, heavy both with sorrow and indignation.

David Bell