Gaza: when will the blood bath stop?



Our hearts go out to Emily Hand taken hostage by Hamas in the brutal October 7 attack, and her family as they wait for news of the eight-year-old Irish citizen initially assumed dead. Our thoughts go too to the more than 4,000 children in Gaza killed by Israeli bombing and their bereaved or slain families.

The atrocity of war weighs heavily, given the ongoing carnage in Palestine and Israel. Our concern is selective though – Russia’s war on Ukraine continues and currently there are 30 other wars going on around the world – as we listen to the news wonder when the ongoing inhumanity in Gaza will stop.

Albert Einstein once asked Sigmund Freud why humans, uniquely among other creatures kill their own kind systematically. Any hope that he had of a psychological cure were dashed by Freud, who replied that violence and inequality are natural to mankind.

It can be said that there are just wars, WWII being the most obvious example, where wars are waged to right wrongs and to restore peace although the execution of those wars may be unjust – think of Hiroshima. One of the casualties of war is often truth, where what people really think and the motivation of war remains unspoken or unspeakable.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke out about the Israelis being motivated by revenge against Palestinians in Gaza in the indiscriminate bombings which have resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000 people, nearly half of them children, following the October 7 terrorist massacre of 1,400 by Hamas. Declaring war on Hamas to protect the Israeli people is justified, but killing tens of thousands of civilians with nowhere safe to go and starving them, bombing hospitals and ambulances are war crimes.

At the same time there is a battle of words being raged in a propaganda war over justification or blame. Ambulances or hospitals were hit by Israeli bombs because Hamas were in them. Plus there are skirmishes of misinformation and counter-claims on social media as conspiracy theorists cross swords.

The term ethnic cleansing pinpoints another motive here; the desire by some to rid Israel of Palestinians. Let them go to the desert (Sinai) or to Ireland, remarked one Israeli politician, while another who proposed a nuclear option for Gaza was only temporarily suspended from office. Ethnic cleansing has happened since the State of Israel was declared in 1948. More than 15,000 Palestinians were killed, three quarters of a million became refugees between 1947 and 1949 and Israel now controls 85%of historic Palestine.

The 1967 Six Days war multiplied the amount of territory occupied by Israel and included the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Since then, Jewish settlements in occupied territory have expanded with the imposition of a crippling blockade on Gaza in defiance of UN resolutions. Between 2000 and 2014 alone 7,000 Palestinians and 1,100 Israelis have lost their lives in hostilities.

When the war being waged between Israel and Hamas ends there will be unanswerable questions. How many of the surviving Gazans will be able to return to the bombsites where their homes once stood? How many thousands will become refugees? In the meantime, what hope is there of stopping the carnage as Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel and Israel’s bombing reached new peaks this week clearing the way for their ground offensive as it got under way.

Surely it is counter intuitive that the Israelis will pay any attention to US calls for a ceasefire while the US continues to supply Israel with weapons and finance. It is useless to expect the UN to intervene while its Security Council is split and the litany of UN past failures to secure peace or prevent massacres like those in Rwanda and Srebrenica hardly inspires confidence.

Our own recent bitter experience during the Troubles suggests that, when the parties involved become sick of strife and bloodshed and realise that the war, whatever about apparent victory, is unwinnable, only then does the ‘Belfast Moment’ – the option of peace – come about.

Meantime, given the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the bombing, killing and deprivation of trapped civilians in Gaza, Israel has lost out on the immense sympathy generated by Hamas’s horrific October 7 terrorist attack in which 1,400 were killed and 240 taken hostage. How many of us wonder privately how descendants of forbearers who suffered centuries of persecution, culminating in the unimaginable horror of the Holocaust can visit persecution and mass killing – the definition of a holocaust – on another people.

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