If we are honest then it must be admitted that there are people who want to wipe out the state of Israel. There have been some horrible attempts to justify the killing of Jewish people as legitimate retaliation for the willingness of the Israeli state to foster the expulsion of Palestinians from its land and the murder of those who resist.
The Trotskyist group Socialist Worker, for example, asked readers to rejoice at the Hamas attacks on 7 October. It is utterly wrong to do so. When you start trying to justify murders of whole families on the grounds that ‘they started it’ then you have lost your humanity.
If we are equally honest then it must be admitted that there are people withinIsrael, including some in the government, who want to wipe out the existence of any Palestinian presence in Gaza as a step towards doing the same in the whole of the West Bank and in the State of Israel. There have been some horrible attempts to justify collective punishment of Palestinian people as legitimate retaliation for the actions of Hamas.
Anyone who fails to condemn their actions every bit as clearly has lost their humanity.
To anyone who retains a modicum of independent thought in the constant fog of misinformation, there is only one obvious difference between the actions of the extremists on both sides. One has significant military force which it recently used to kill a lot of innocent people. The other has all the military resources of a powerful nation state and is using them to kill a lot more.
Night after night we hear claims that it is necessary to bomb Gaza in order to destroy Hamas tunnels and that hospitals cannot be allowed fuel, water, or painkillers to treat injured people because there is intelligence information that Hamas is using the buildings to cover up its activities.
If the intelligence is so very precise then why wasn’t it good enough to know what Hamas was planning and why weren’t the tunnels found and destroyed long ago? If the bombing is so very precise why do the TV pictures show entire communities flattened?
The Israeli government has issued warnings to everyone in Gaza to move out of the north of the strip and to go south for safety. Yet the south is also being bombed, and many elderly and disabled people, as well as hospital patients, are unable to move. Hamas does not control the West Bank and the attacks that killed so many innocent Jewish people weren’t launched from there. Yet since 7 October, hundreds of Palestinian people living in villages in the West Bank have been forced out of their homes at gun point to make way for new Jewish settlements since the Hamas attacks.
Ceasefire and a two-state solution
The United Nations continues to argue for a two-state solution and for the rights of people from both communities to be respected. It has passed resolution after resolution calling for the settlement land grabs to be stopped and for internationally recognised borders to be respected. A compromise solution along these lines is thought by the overwhelming majority of UN representatives to be the only way to enable people from both communities to live in peace and security.
Right now, such a solution looks to be a long way off. Any pause in the fighting will be welcome but not if it is just a short opportunity to bring in some much-needed supplies before the killings start again. Brief pauses could be exploited as a means to encourage even more Palestinian people to leave the north of Gaza for the south and then to push them over the border into Egypt.
The reaction that attempts at that kind of ethnic cleansing could trigger is even more scary. There are governments with some very powerful weaponry that want to wipe out the existence of Israel and some very angry populations who would demand retaliation. To state the obvious, that is not something that anyone should support or encourage but is something that we all ought to worry about.
Should we still be supplying arms?
It is not so very long since the Muslim brotherhood came to power in Egypt on the back of a huge popular revolution and won an election with a huge majority.The military force that would be available to an Egyptian government that came to power after a repeat of the events of Tahrir Square would be formidable.
Escalating a war and trying for outright victory is rarely a good idea. It tends to lead to escalation from the other side. The forces within Israel that want to see the Palestinian people expelled from the whole of ‘their’ homeland risk empowering the forces within the Arab world that want the state of Israel wiped off the map.
The only route forward that offers any hope is for those who want a peaceful solution to get tough with both sides that don’t want one. Calling for brief humanitarian pauses is unlikely to shift thinking radically enough and may simply pave the way for the next phase of the fighting.
There is, however, one real lever that Britain could use to send a very powerful message that it wants a peaceful and reasonable long-term solution that respects the rights of both sides. We are a very large supplier of arms and significant amounts of the weaponry that is being used in Gaza was made in Britain. If our government refused to supply arms until there was a ceasefire and a long-term agreed solution it would have a real influence on thinking.
If the US did the same this war could soon be over.