Liberation calls for an immediate ceasefire and respect for international law
The eyes of world public opinion have been drawn once more to the Middle East and the plight of the long-suffering Palestinian people, as an already fragile and tense situation deteriorates, with an escalation in violence and the threat of another disastrous war looming large – the brunt of which will be borne, as always, by an innocent and already beleaguered civilian population.
The upsurge in violence over this past week – which has worsened hour by hour, day by day – now threatens to engulf the densely-populated besieged Gaza Strip and is the worst since the Israeli military’s atrocious relentless bombardment of the territory, with the world watching on, in summer 2014, and the huge civilian death toll it exacted – a horrific trauma from which the Palestinian population had barely even begun to recover.
One cannot fail to note that, amidst the fighting and drive towards war, the fallout from a domestic political crisis which was poised just over a week ago to bring an end to the tenure of Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister – with his trial on serious corruption charges already underway – has conveniently abated for the time being… The clamour for his resignation has fallen silent.
Tensions had begun to escalate to boiling point when, in an unnecessary and blatantly provocative move, Israeli security forces cleared Palestinians from the Bab al-Amoud (Damascus Gate) in Jerusalem’s Old City and placed restrictions on them gathering there as many Palestinian families traditionally do upon visiting the al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.
Israeli police had also moved in on Palestinians demonstrating against a court-ordered eviction of several families from the Sheikh Jarrar neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, where they had been resident for several decades, to make way for Israeli settlers. This court ruling is part of a wider ongoing policy by the Israeli government to alter the demographics of Palestinian-populated East Jerusalem, of which Sheikh Jarrar is a vital hub and link-point, in their favour. This policy, tantamount to one of ethnic cleansing, is designed to ultimately cancel out the Palestinian people’s legitimate and UN-recognised claim for East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state and thus undermine the UN-endorsed two-state solution. Faced with a vociferous backlash from the neighbourhood’s long-time residents, the judgement’s enforcement was suspended – though calm could not be restored owing to the continued intimidation and provocation of the residents by Israeli settlers, with the security forces looking on.
Then, on Monday (10 May 2021), in another cynical action, Israeli security forces fired stun grenades and tear gas in and around the al-Aqsa Mosque to clear Ramadan worshippers from the site and make way for a procession by right-wing Israelis through the area to mark “Jerusalem Day”, the Israeli celebration of the capture and occupation of Jerusalem in the 1967 war. Wave after wave of wanton violence was unleashed upon unarmed, peaceful, and mostly young Palestinians in and around the compound throughout the day.
Reacting to the unrest, from their base in the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Islamic Jihad began firing a barrage of rockets deep into Israeli territory. While the majority of rockets have been intercepted and neutralised by Israel’s “Iron Dome” air defence system, some have found their way through owing to the sheer volume fired – leading to the deaths of seven Israelis and damage to buildings, where direct hits occurred, by Friday.
Meanwhile, since Monday, Israel have launched a series of increasingly ferocious aerial bombardments of the Gaza Strip – killing a number of senior Hamas officials, among 126 Palestinians, including 31 children and 20 women, as well as causing extensive damage to an infrastructure already bearing the deep scars of past onslaughts. We now witness the heartbreaking scenes of Palestinian families with their children, with only the new clothes bought for them to mark Eid and the end of Ramadan on their back, making their way from the “apocalyptic nightmare” that is the situation on the northern periphery of the strip further into the interior of Gaza… A civilian population penned-in and with nowhere to turn… The Israeli bombardment makes no distinction between the militant Islamists engaged in the battle and ordinary Palestinians going about their daily lives.
And – with neither a ceasefire nor restraint upon the vastly more powerful Israeli forces within sight, despite the abounding talk – the situation is only set to become worse, amidst rumours of an imminent ground assault on Gaza with Israeli forces massed upon its edge. There is also emerging the very real threat of the spread of the conflict to other fronts, over the borders with Lebanon and Syria, a scenario that the Netanyahu administration would see as beneficial to its strategic designs. A regional war would no doubt bring the US and EU to fall in more comprehensively behind Israel.
The past week’s escalations bear further ominous signs with the eruption of communal mob violence, between Arab and Jew, on successive days in towns and cities across Israel, leading to warnings to those involved to step back from the brink lest such occurrences bring closer the spectre of civil war. The boiling over of these hitherto simmering tensions is testament to the course taken by Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu’s administrations and their continual shift to the political right over the years – fuelling the utter despair of the Israeli-Arab/Palestinian population at the increasingly racist structures in the country; their treatment as second-class citizens at best under an apartheid-like system; and the plight of their brethren in the Occupied Territories.
The Palestinian National Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has cut an increasingly forlorn figure of late, his administration largely prevented from being able to exercise its mandate by the Israeli occupation and confined to condemning the Israeli onslaught and appealing to world opinion. This recent conflagration may also prove to be the first blot on the Biden administration’s copy-book regarding international policy, particularly pertaining to the Middle East, having so far omitted to use its undoubted authority to rein in Israel’s latest campaign of aggression.
However, Liberation believes that pressure must be brought to bear upon Israel to immediately halt its bombardment of Gaza and its disproportionate response to unrest amongst the Palestinian population. The injustices perpetrated against the Palestinian people cannot be allowed to continue for the sake of appeasing Israel as the West’s regional ally. Furthermore, Liberation reiterates that full effect must be given to international laws and the relevant UN resolutions on Palestine… Namely, an end to Israel’s occupation; the establishment of an independent state of Palestine within the internationally-recognised borders as they stood on June 4th 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital; and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees. To this end, there must be a unified international resolve. The cause of world peace and stability demands it. The alternative is the slide towards another catastrophic war in a region that is already a tinderbox waiting to ignite.
Photo: Destruction in Gaza, cc-by-sa-2.0
Register for the Liberation public meeting on Ending the Colonial Occupation of Palestine June 8, with Jeremy Corbyn MP, Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU., and speakers from Palestine and Israel