The latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestine in the Gaza Strip is a matter of great concern. It is our human duty and democratic imperative to, first and foremost, offer condolences to families who have lost their beloved ones in Israel and Gaza and declare our solidarity with the survivors, especially those injured and who face long paths to recovery, and to those who have been taken hostages. Never has indiscriminate loss of life, killings, abductions, and violent conflicts led to peace and justice and nothing can justify such actions. Not now, not in history and never in the future.
Attacks aimed at causing large-scale deaths of non-combatants and terrorism in any form are condemnable. They must be rejected by all people, organizations and nations irrespective of ideology, geostrategic, economic or political interests.
The actions of Hamas in the early hours of October 6, 2023, in launching “Operation Al Aqsa Flood” lie at the beginning of this tragic episode. Since its victory in the Palestinian legislative elections on January 25 2006, Hamas has been in control of the Gaza Strip, one of the two non-contiguous territories that currently constitute Palestine. Israel has declared a state of war, and the Israel Defense Forces have launched “Operation Iron Swords”.
Due to the actions of Hamas and the Israel Defense Force, over a thousand people have been killed in Israel and Gaza, several thousand are injured and the ongoing conflict threatens to wreak havoc for millions in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
The real fear is that the current war may be just another tragic episode of violence and death, marking the 75 years of conflict in the region. It could be seen as a grim reminder of the unfinished need to secure solutions based on peace and justice for the people in Palestine. Open wounds and open prisons have only added to the suffering of families seeking a peaceful life and the means to live and progress.
In The Economist, Avraham “Avi” Shlaim, a professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford, recently wrote that the 1948 war led to Israeli triumph and Palestinian tragedy. While Israel has moved from success to success, Palestinians have become refugees and those who remain are denied freedom, independence and statehood. The Israel state has pursued settler colonialism, which seeks to subdue and drive out native populations. After the 1967 conflict and contravening the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel built civilian settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. For long, those who are at the suffering end of Israel’s expanding occupations over the last century are calling out for decolonisation and saying that accounting for Zionism’s diversity, its pre-settler history and the oppression it faced in Europe does not absolve it from being colonial, settler and otherwise.
Israel has been running an ongoing land, air and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has become permanent after the Hamas takeover of the territory. The blockade has been accompanied by periodic escalations of violence, which Noam Chomsky wrote that in Israeli parlance is called “mowing the lawn”. Over the years, this has resulted in the loss of several hundred lives and an unprecedented distress and precarity for people in the territory, home to two million people. According to the Geneva-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, the poverty rate has increased from 40% in 2005 to over 61% in 2022, and the unemployment rate has risen to 47% by the end of 2022, from 23.6% before the blockade. With Gaza under blockade for the past 17 years, the people have nowhere to go and no shelters to move into. The current “complete siege” of the long blockaded enclave would mean no electricity, water, gas and also food transits for the 2.3 million Palestinians.
While on all counts condemnable, we must see the desperate act of Hamas in the context of the economic distress, multiplied precarities, the blockade and a permanent conflict. So much so that Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, situated in the West Bank and having a long history of differences with Hamas, stated that the “Palestinian people have their right to defend themselves against the terror of settlers and occupation troops.”
“Operation Al Aqsa Flood” was launched on the 50th Anniversary of the 1973 surprise attack by Arabs on Israel (which the latter called the Yom Kipper war), where both Egypt and Syria had taken back the occupied Sinai and Golan heights, which Israel had occupied in the 1967 six day war. Thus, war and conflict are not new to the region, especially since the formation of Israel.
However, this new and deadly escalation and war should make the international community and all justice-loving people demand that all parties immediately stop the war and hostilities. Civilians and non-combatants on both sides should not come at risk of death or bear the brunt of violent attacks. Peace must prevail. Without delay, the G20, the G77+, the UN and all international community must intervene to end any escalation and call for an immediate ceasefire.
Given the humanitarian situation, the international community must ensure an uninterrupted supply of humanitarian support and aid to all those in need, including the blockaded Gaza. People wanting to seek refuge must be guaranteed safe movement to neighbouring or other countries.
At the same time, the international community must spare no effort to resume negotiations that lead to solutions and guarantee the existence of an economically viable Palestinian state with secured guarantees of sovereignty and peaceful coexistence with Israel with safe and open borders on both sides.
We must recognize and beware of double standards in our world. Sovereignty is for all. It should not be the case that the rights of some countries are defended while those of others are ignored.
Our world has urgent work to do; to end the many years of conflict in Palestine and work to protect and promote the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.
Disclaimer: The article was originally published on Financial Express. The views expressed in the article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of ActionAid Association.
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