A Palestinian woman living in Lincoln has likened the Gaza-Israel conflict to genocide and is urging local policymakers to demand an immediate ceasefire.
Victoria Araj, 37, an academic specialising in Equality at the University of Lincoln, moved to Lincoln during the pandemic. Since the conflict reignited in October, she has been vocal in her outrage towards the situation, having taken part in a recent pro-Palestine protest and will be attending another march on Saturday.
On October 7, the Palestinian Sunni Islamist group Hamas initiated surprise attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, sea, and air, resulting in approximately 1,200 casualties, including an estimated 28 children.
The attack prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare "We are at war." The country later responded with air strikes on Gaza and also launched a ground offensive.
The death toll has reportedly escalated to around 11,500, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
"Holocaust survivors have called it a genocide. This is probably the biggest humanitarian catastrophe that the world has seen in recent history that has been man-made," said Victoria.
"We've seen that the humanitarian situation is horrific and the difference between this and other conflicts is that nobody can run away. People can’t run away from the bombs, they’re stuck. That’s very different from the norms of war.
"If we don't stand up to this, then the fence post changes in the rules of war and it could mean that other places could see an increase in violence against civilians. It could be us next time."
The recent pro-Palestinian protest in Lincoln | Photo: Submitted
Ms Araj also highlighted recent reports from the United Nations stating that the threat of starvation and disease is prevalent in Palestine due to halted aid deliveries, a consequence of fuel shortages and a communications breakdown.
"It's absolutely barbaric, don't forget this has been going on for a month now," she continued.
"What's really concerning is the amount of people who have lost limbs. Who is going to look after them? Who is going to provide care for those people?
"Children are being amputated without anaesthetic, it's horrific."
Although Victoria's immediate family resides in the West Bank of Palestine, nearly 60 miles away from the conflict, she remains deeply concerned about the well-being of her close friends in the affected areas, whose fates are currently unknown.
"We have family friends in Al-Shifa who are the family of a doctor who has been killed. Obviously, we have close friends in Gaza, many have died and we don't know if some are alive or not,' she said.
Labour Leader Keir Starmer recently called for humanitarian pauses in the conflict to allow aid to reach those in need. However, on Wednesday evening, MPs voted against the proposal, with a vote of 293 to 125, a majority of 168.
Notably, nine of the 10 MPs from Greater Lincolnshire voted against the ceasefire, with Grimsby’s Lia Nici abstaining from the vote.
Given Britain's historical ties to Palestine post-World War One, Victoria and many others have been questioning the UK's lack of involvement in the current conflict.
"Why is Britain not doing anything? My family cannot understand why this government is taking this stand. They need the people of Britain to stand up and say they cannot do this in our name," Victoria continued.
In response to the recent parliamentary vote, Lincoln Friends of Palestine has organised a protest for Saturday at 2:30pm. The event aims to pressure local MPs into demanding a ceasefire and to raise awareness about the impact of the conflict.
"We are calling for an immediate ceasefire so that humanitarian aid can get into Gaza and so UN agencies can operate safely. Everyone wants to see an end to the horrors we are seeing on our TV screens," added Ms Araj.
She further criticised Lincoln MP Karl McCartney (Conservative) for not supporting a ceasefire and also expressed disapproval of his recent social media posts regarding the conflict.
Lincoln's Member of Parliament, Karl McCartney. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite
The Tory MP previously outlined his stance on the matter, commenting: "I understand why people feel the need to show their solidarity for any cause they believe in. However, the whole situation is hard to understand given we are in the third decade of this century, the 21st Century, and the people of Israel were attacked and killed for religious reasons.
"As a human race, surely we should be beyond that by now? Israel has every right to defend itself including neutralising its Hamas terrorist enemies. Just as we have the right to defend ourselves as a country here in the UK, particularly if we were in their situation and as we have been before across history.
"Any marches for any cause in Lincoln must be orderly and civilised. This is in keeping with the calm nature of our city for those who live here and for our visitors, workers and students.
"I want to be clear though. Anyone found to be supporting Hamas, celebrating or calling for the murder of Israelis, or the destruction of the country of Israel, need to be very robustly dealt with by Lincolnshire Police. Immediately and without delay.
"The Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner, Marc Jones and his Chief Constable must be clear on what they expect from their police officers both now and in the future."