Almost drowned out by those in the West baying for more Palestinian blood, Secretary-General Antono Guterres called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza on 19th October. This followed two failed UN Security Council resolutions. The first tabled by Russia called for a ceasefire. This was rejected by the USA, the UK, France and Japan. The second, more watered down version calling for “humanitarian pauses” to deliver lifesaving aid to the millions of innocent people, including children, who are dying in their thousands, was accepted by twelve of the fifteen members of the Council. The US voted against this, whilst the UK found commonality with Russia in abstaining. A ‘no’ vote from any one of the five permanent members of the Council stops action on any measure put before it.
Like so much that emerges from the United Nations, the resolution attempted to support both the oppressed and the oppressors. If adopted, the resolution would have condemned all violence and hostilities against civilians and all acts of terrorism and would have unequivocally rejected and condemned the attacks by Hamas. It would also have called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and for the protection of all medical personnel and humanitarian personnel, consistent with international law. Biden’s representative said that the veto was partly due to the fact that there was no reference to Israel’s right to self-defence.
Biden, Sunak and Macron have beaten a path to the door of right wing PM, Israeli Netanyahu, to reassure him of their countries’ continued support, and Biden reiterated this week that he would not consider backing a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war until all hostages kidnapped by Hamas are released.
“We should have those hostages released and then we can talk,” Biden told reporters when asked about the potential for a ceasefire in exchange for Hamas releasing approximately 200 hostages, including Americans, believed to be in the Gaza Strip.
This statement is disingenuous on so many levels. First of all it presupposes that it is a conflict between two equal sides. As War on Want pointed out in its statement, rather ‘it is an occupation by a powerful military state, armed and supported by the West, against an impoverished, stateless and displaced people.” The prisoners being held by Hamas are the only buffer they have against the cruel and relentless attack by Israel on the captive civilian population in Gaza. Secondly, Biden appears to believe that he has a great deal of influence over the vengeful Netanyahu. This is doubtful. What is of real concern is that there is no discussion over what it is they are looking to achieve, other than the elimination of Hamas. The two million people trapped in Gaza appear to be no more than collateral damage.
Even Obama, hardly known for his sensitivity in foreign affairs, has issued a note of caution by pointing out that any Israeli military strategy that “ignores the human cost of the war” could ultimately backfire.
Hamas has now released four of the Israeli captives on humanitarian grounds. It has received nothing in return, other than an escalation in the bombing ahead of the expected ground invasion. The release of the Israelis has not received the media coverage one would have expected either. Netanyahu clearly needs to keep the internal levels of hate and thirst for revenge high in order to justify the ongoing attacks. He couldn’t have been pleased to have seen the 85 year old released Yocheved Lifshitz shaking hands with one of her Hamas captors and saying “shalom”, a Hebrew greeting meaning “peace”. Asked why she had done that she said that “although she had been through hell during the capture, they had treated her gently during the captivity and had met all her needs.” Her daughter, who is an artist and academic in London, told reporters that her parents were peace activists.
The fact that the United Nations has been unable to even temporarily stop the brutality against the people in Gaza and also in the West Bank is deeply troubling. What is happening is even more serious than war crimes. It appears to meet the definition of genocide contained in Article 11 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, (1948), i.e. “an intent to destroy a national, ethnic or religious group, in whole or in part.” This Convention was developed after the atrocities of the Second World War to signify the international community’s commitment to ‘never again’. It is, perhaps, no surprise that Israel and her allies are keen to ensure that the destruction of Gaza continues to be described as “self-defence”.
Our leaders are not only failing to protect the vulnerable, including the lives of children, but in supporting such a dangerous path there is the real risk of a broader regional conflict. It is therefore up to ordinary people to make their voices heard, as they have done in cities throughout the world since the bombing started.
Last Saturday saw the biggest march for Palestine in UK history. Stop the War is calling for an even bigger demonstration this Saturday, with demands for a ceasefire now and an end to Israeli apartheid. We cannot rely on our leaders, so people of conscience everywhere must stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We must do everything we can to compel the world to act to uphold human rights and international law. Unless Israel is stopped, the situation for the Palestinian people imprisoned in Gaza, and for the whole region, is too awful to contemplate.