Over 250 global artists urge Israel to stop the siege of Gaza

Updated May 16, 2020

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Palestinian children are pictured outside their shacks in Gaza City's Al-Shati refugee camp on May 15 as Palestinians marked the 72nd anniversary of Nakba (Day of Catastrophe). — AFP
Palestinian children are pictured outside their shacks in Gaza City's Al-Shati refugee camp on May 15 as Palestinians marked the 72nd anniversary of Nakba (Day of Catastrophe). — AFP

More than 250 global artists and writers including rocker Peter Gabriel, director Ken Loach and actor Viggo Mortensen have appealed to Israel to stop the “siege” of Gaza, saying the coronavirus pandemic could have a devastating effect on “the world’s largest open-air prison".

“Long before the global outbreak of Covid-19 threatened to overwhelm the already devastated health care system in Gaza, the United Nations had predicted that the blockaded coastal strip would be unlivable by 2020,” the online letter said.

“With the pandemic, Gaza’s almost two million inhabitants, predominantly refugees, face a mortal threat in the world’s largest open-air prison,” it added.

Other signatories included poet Taha Adnan, Canadian writer Naomi Klein and British group Massive Attack.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007 when the Islamist movement Hamas started controlling the enclave.

Israeli soldiers guard on top of a watch tower in a community along the Israel-Gaza border strip. — AP
Israeli soldiers guard on top of a watch tower in a community along the Israel-Gaza border strip. — AP

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since but reached a truce in late 2018 that was renewed after successive flare-ups last year.

“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 health care system could not cope with the thousands of gunshot wounds, leading to many amputations,” the artists said.

“Reports of the first cases of coronavirus in densely-populated Gaza are therefore deeply disturbing,” they said.

“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.”