International opinion is crucial to Gaza’s salvation

Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal aera in Gaza City on October 9, 2023. Israel continued to battle Hamas fighters on October 10 and massed tens of thousands of troops and heavy armour around the Gaza Strip after vowing a massive blow over the Palestinian militants’ surprise attack. Photo by Naaman Omar\ apaimages

Protest that could convince world leaders to act in line with world opinion and force peace on Israel is now a matter of life or death for us, writes the Palestinian People’s Party Dr Aqel Taqaz

AFTER 36 days of Israeli aggression and genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza, more than 11,000 people have been killed, at least 70 per cent of whom were women and children.

The Israeli occupation forces have bombed civilian homes, hospitals, mosques, churches, schools, and entire neighbourhoods with white phosphorus, which is illegal under international law.

Even the UN installations and premises have been targeted and destroyed, with scores of UN employees killed in the process — not to mention tens of health workers and journalists.

The reported death toll omits those who are missing under the vast swathes of rubble that characterise the landscape in Gaza now — rubble made up of broken buildings, broken families, broken lives, and broken dreams.

The people of Gaza are now having to resort to storing the dead in chest freezers and ice cream trucks before they are hastily laid to rest in mass graves. So many of them will never be formally identified — whole families erased from the records.

Of course, nowhere in Gaza is safe. Israel ordered Palestinians living in the north of Gaza to evacuate to the south, before targeting and bombing those unfortunate souls who made the desperate attempt to relocate en route. It is also worth noting for the record that 50 per cent of the victims of the Israeli bombardment have been in the south of Gaza.

The forced relocation, the relentless murder of civilians, and the targeting of hospitals, schools, and UN facilities is just the latest instance in Israel’s long record of colonial brutality — one which has been tolerated by Western governments, the supposed arbiters of freedom and democracy, for decades and perpetrated in flagrant violation of international law and disregard for the bare notion of an international rules-based order, with total impunity.

Western governments, including Britain, have seemingly granted their permission to Israel to escalate to an active genocide campaign. Their silence amid the persecution and murder of Palestinian civilians is deafening.

As we watch US weapons be used to decimate Gaza, Western leaders fall over each other to travel to Israel and lend their support to this murderous campaign predicated on Israel’s “right to self-defence.”

As many governments, particularly in the West, watch on seemingly unmoved and seemingly unconvinced by the humanity of the Palestinian people, civilians continue to suffer untold violence — an innocent people who have already endured 16 years of siege, occupation, and daily humiliation at the hands of the Israeli authorities as well as decades of violence prior to that.

These same duplicitous actors support Israel’s aggression while talking about their support for the two-state solution, under which Israel and a future Palestinian state would co-exist in peace and security with internationally recognised borders.

However, the ruse is well and truly up, and the Palestinian people are painfully aware that it is mere lip service being paid in this regard with no real action taken for decades now.

On the contrary, these actors have supported all Israeli moves to comprehensively kill off this solution by attempting to create new facts on the ground with the uninterrupted annexation of Palestinian territory and its illegal settlement policy.

However, nobody should be under any illusion now as to the reality faced by the Palestinian people: the state of Israel is perpetrating a collective punishment against innocent civilians in Gaza, half of whom are children. These are crimes against humanity.

Just as ominously, it seems that respect for, and the upholding of, international law, human rights, and UN resolutions has been fatally undermined if not already long extinct.

The murderous collective punishment of the people of Gaza, as well as the enforced relocation of a population already under besiegement and occupation, tantamount to ethnic cleansing, is a clear and plain violation of international and humanitarian law.

And people should make no mistake — Western governments, in their seeming blindness to these atrocities, as well as their rank double standards and hypocrisy in supporting and propping up an apartheid system that has presided over the murder and dispossession of the indigenous people of Palestine over 75 years and counting, are deeply complicit in them.

Over this past month alone, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank by the Israeli army, or by armed illegal settlers operating under their protection. Over 2,500 Palestinians have been arrested since October 7 — adding to the estimated 5,000 already held in Israeli detention and prisons supposedly on “security grounds” — including hundreds of minors.

While Western leaders have opposed all efforts geared towards bringing about a ceasefire in Gaza, thus giving Israel the green light to pursue its genocidal campaign, the huge outpouring of popular support in solidarity with the Palestinian people and for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire has forced some leaders to adopt a change of tack and to row back from their original belligerent positions.

However, thus far, all efforts to bring about even a temporary cessation of the violence, to allow for a window in which much-needed humanitarian aid can be delivered to Gaza in more than nominal amounts, have abjectly failed.

The international community, under the auspices of the UN security council, must bear a significant part of the responsibility for these atrocious crimes which have been allowed to talk place unrestrained and unopposed on its watch, in continuance of the 75 years of suffering and injustice endured by the Palestinian people.

And the questions now logically posed towards its authority and credibility are numerous and vexing.

One thing is clear: without real measures being taken to comprehensively resolve the Palestinian problem, to realise the legitimate and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and to bring about a fully sovereign and secure statehood, there is no hope for peace and stability to prevail in the region.

The international campaigns of solidarity with the Palestinian people have never been as important and invaluable as they are right now in bringing pressure to bear upon world leaders to rein in Israel’s brazen abuses and crimes and allow for humanitarian aid in the short term and a comprehensive political settlement of the Palestinian issue in the longer term.

For these are the dictates and necessities of the situation we face today. The Palestinian people, particularly the young, as well as the decent and honourable side of international public opinion are watching.

Dr Aqel Taqaz is co-ordinator for international relations of the Palestinian People’s Party and a member of the secretariat of the World Peace Council.

First published in the Morning Star newspaper

Image: Gaza, October 2023 / Creative Commons / Naaman Omar / apaimages

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