Mediation must be impartial
By MARIANNE HERON
An Israeli father spoke bitterly of his five- year- old child, slain in the attack by Hamas when 1,400 were murdered. He was glad that she was dead rather than among the 200 people taken hostage and facing possible torture by Hamas.
”How could anyone do that to a child?” a friend asked me. ”How can the Israelis bomb innocent civilians in Gaza and cut off food,water and power?”
The terrible outrages of the Israeli / Palestinian conflict leave that ‘how’ unanswerable, except for motivation fuelled by a deadly cocktail of mutual hatred, revenge and fear. Asking ‘why?’ instead brings answers coloured by the long shadow of history and failure by the international community to facilitate peace and justice in one land with two peoples.
Israel/Palestine is small, about a third the size of Ireland, with a population nearing 10 million. It is a beautiful and varied land, comprising fertile plain, highlands and desert. It could be Paradise: home to a shared dream: the realisation of a Jewish homeland with Biblical roots in the highlands of Judea and Samaria and the people of the country known as Palestine since the time of the Crusades.
Instead, it is a place of tragedy and inhuman outrage.
Over a century ago, as Zionism and the demand for an Eretz Israel homeland grew, the first wave of Jewish settlers bought land in Palestine, calling them themselves colonists. Palestine became a British protectorate in 1923 after Middle Eastern borders were redrawn following WW1, later the British handed the partition – rather than creating a federal state – of Palestine over to the UN in 1947. The following year, 44% of the territory was given to the Yishuv (Jewish settlers) who then were only one third of the population. More than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled or fled.
Today Palestinians have just 22% of the country divided between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, three quarters of the total population are Jewish.
Uprisings, war and terror have haunted the country down through subsequent decades culminating in the unspeakable horror of the Hamas attack and the Israeli retaliation as bombs are rained on the civilian population trapped in the densely populated Gaza strip, over 3,000 have lost their lives.
In so doing Israeli forces are committing war crimes, just as Putin’s armies have been doing in Ukraine. This has been followed by the Israelis by the threat of ground invasion of Gaza and the impossible demand that one million Palestinians move out of the northern Gaza to the south where there is neither shelter nor food.
In a grim future lie fearful possibilities: will the fleeing Palestinians be ethnically cleansed never to return to their homes in Gaza, will the war spread to the Palestinian West Bank, or spread to neighbouring Lebanon, and will the tinder box of the Middle East ignite if Iran , which supports and funds Hamas, becomes involved?
In the face of such terrible uncertainty and despair over what has already happened it is easy to fall back on the comfort of aphorisms like the Biblical quote from Galatians “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” Given the unchecked erosion of Palestinian human rights under Israeli control where 80% on Gaza depend on foreign aid and over a million on food aid, you need only look at other examples: the Troubles in the North and the overthrow of Apartheid in South Africa to see the explosive consequences of oppression.
Another saying by Edmund Burke comes to mind, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is when good men do nothing.” Here it is a case not only of doing nothing effective to curb either war crimes, territorial incursions, human right erosion to the point of reducing Palestinians to a state of Apartheid, but also showing one-sided support rather than being impartial in finding a lasting solution to Israeli and Palestinian conflict.
So far there is no hope of resolution to the atrocity of war, nor effective facilitation by world powers towards peace and justice. Rather the Western powers have been pouring oil on the flames as the US President Joe Biden arrives in Israel guaranteeing financial, military and political support, UK’s Rishi Sunak has declared unequivocal support for Israel and Ursala Von Der Leyen expressed support for Israel by the EU and faced criticism for failing to call on Israel to respect international law.
There is no acknowledgement that killing innocent people and children cannot be justified as defence of the Israeli nation.