What is necessary in Gaza? Ceasefire or Peace Keeping, or both?

The ceasefire discussions held in Cairo recently failed as the Israeli delegation adamantly left the discussions without listening to the other side or the mediators. ‘War, War and War’ seems to be their slogan.  

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People check the rubble of a building destroyed in an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on Feb. 16, 2024. (Photo by Khaled Omar/Xinhua)

It is extremely distressing to hear news from Gaza and about Palestinians. Within the last four months, over 28, 000 Palestinians have been killed, and over 50,000 people have been terribly injured. Earlier the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered the Palestinians to go South. Now he is asking them to leave the South! To where? There is no answer.

The ceasefire discussions held in Cairo recently failed as the Israeli delegation adamantly left the discussions without listening to the other side or the mediators. ‘War, War and War’ seems to be their slogan.  

Of course, Hamas triggered the present crisis after attacking around 20 Israeli communities on 7 October 2023, just surrounding the Gaza Strip, which have been controversial for a long time. Palestinians call these areas as a product of Israeli ‘expansionism.’ It is not only the attacks that became controversial, but the taken of 230 Israeli hostages even with women and children. Some are already dead/killed, and some others are already swopped. According to the Amnesty International (AI),

“Since 7 October, Israeli forces have detained more than 2,200 Palestinian men and women, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club. According to Israeli human rights organization HaMoked between 1 October and 1 November, the total number of Palestinians held in administrative detention, without charge or trial, rose from 1,319 to 2,070.”   

The taking of Israeli hostages by Hamas definitely appears a desperate attempt to counter Israel taking Palestinian ‘hostages’ from Gaza and West Bank. The above AI figures show that these attempts are extremely unproportionate. Hamas or Hezbollah undoubtedly cannot match Israel in war crimes. In Israeli jails torture and cruelty are rampant.

The situation is extremely puzzling because the Jews or Israelis had to face similar or more atrocities under Hitler’s Naziism in Germany and greater Europe. Can’t humans learn positive lessons from their negative experiences? This is a predicament in many places not limited to Israel, but at present Israel or its leadership is the most inhumane in this respect. I have seen the development of these conflicts during the working/research visits to these areas in late 1980s and early 1990s.

The fault might not be limited to Israel alone. The exact creation of Israel was also questionable without properly delimiting the respective areas and other rules for two states. Both the USA and the Soviet Union were responsible for this situation. The Soviet Union is now gone, only remnants like Putin remain, the USA undoubtedly should take the main responsibility. The USA is also behind Israel’s militarization since 1948 and particularly during the recent years and months.

Since the present war, Israel has received $15 billion military aid from the USA. As the Wall Street Journal has revealed (3 December 2023), this adds up to exceeding 125 billion altogether since 1948. Israel is the top country receiving military aid from USA. The following is a part of Wikipedia reference on this matter.   

“The WSJ report stated that US arms shipments to Israel since the start of the war included 15,000 bombs and 57,000 155mm artillery shells, mostly carried on C-17 military cargo planes. U.S. has also sent more than 5,000 unguided Mk82 bombs, more than 5,400 Mk84 bombs, about 1,000 small diameter GBU-39 bombs, and almost 3,000 JDAMs. The Wall Street Journal says that some of the bloodiest Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have involved the use of big US-made bombs, such as the one that destroyed an apartment complex in the Jabalia refugee camp and killed over a hundred people.”

Under the circumstances, can anyone believe the visits of Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, to various countries particularly in the Middle East, seeking a ‘ceasefire’ in the Gaza war?

The role of the United Nations is also ambiguous although the Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and some others are trying their best to do the most appropriate. There are many genuine and appropriate guidelines that he has given to UN members, UN councils, and the international community in general since the beginning of the war in Gaza. These are not heeded. The UN Under-Secretary General, Sigrid Kaag, is now also working as Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza. Perhaps there is more to be done more concretely.

In December, the UN Security Council attempted to address the war issue in Gaza through a resolution but after several delays what came out was a diluted statement recommending only more ‘aid to Gaza.’ It was woefully insufficient and nearly meaningless. The main country behind this dilution was also the US. However, in January South Africa managed to receive a decision from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) instructing Israel to prevent genocide and ensure Israel soldiers don’t commit atrocities. It also informed that any attempt to commit genocide would be punished. Israel is supposed to submit a report on the question of genocide on the 26th of this month and it is possible that they would evade this responsibility. 

At present, Israeli bombardments are on Rafah and the greater southern Gaza. Before the war started, the population in the area was limited to two hundred thousand. However, at present the population exceeds 1.5 million, with people who have come from Northern Gaza and when Israel attacked and forced them to go south. Many of these people who have come from Northern Gaza are wounded, have lost their loved ones, and mainly women and children. They don’t have proper shelter, food, or clothing. There is famine in these areas at present. Of course, Hamas fighters are undoubtedly hiding behind these innocent people both in hospitals and outside. Most of them are, however, not military personnel, but sons and relatives of ordinary people.

Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have taken steps (15 February) to warn Israel not to continue its war against Rafah given the obvious and increased genocide. Some European countries also follow the same policies. This is quite admirable. However, the neutral and democratic countries should take more steps to prevent further genocide and escalation of war in Gaza without delay through the UN and by themselves.

Pressing for immediate ceasefire undoubtedly is a primary need. In a context that Israel is not heeding this request, another step would be to send a strong and large Peace Keeping Force not only to Gaza but also to West Bank. Palestinians in the West Bank are also under siege at present. Israel has criticized and denigrated UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) saying that some of the workers are Hamas. There can be some truth, but that is not a reason to destroy or discredit UNRWA.

Therefore, sending a strong Peace Keeping Force is quite necessary. The UN can ask peace loving people to come forward voluntarily. If the UN and the governments are not willing to do so, the international civil society itself should create a strong international Peace Keeping Force, not on a political basis, but on humanitarian and moral basis. I also can join. This type of unarmed but strong Peace Keeping Force is necessary not only in Gaza but many other war areas internationally.   

Laksiri Fernando

Laksiri Fernando, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, is a specialist on human rights having completed his PhD on the subject at the University of Sydney. His major books include, Human Rights, Politics and States in Burma, Cambodia and Sri Lanka; A Political Science Approach to Human Rights; Academic Freedom 1990; Police Civil Relations for Good Governance; Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Conflict in the Global Context among others. Having served as Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS Colombo), he is a promoter of post graduate studies.

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