COMMENTARY: By Marilyn Garson, Fred Albert, Sue Berman and Justine Sachs of the Alternative Jewish Voices (NZ)
Hamas has responded to Israel’s escalating violence with an unprecedented attack. This is not a new tragedy; it is an extension of the same old cycle.
We grieve all the losses of this calamity, and we call on our government not to speak the same old words but to finally act.
To call today’s act “unprovoked” is wilful blindness. Choose your timeframe; choose your provocation.
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Israel is carrying out the longest, now-illegal, now-apartheid occupation in modern history. Gaza has been illegally blockaded for 17 years, confining more than two million mostly civilian human beings in deteriorating conditions, subjecting them to repeated bombardments and ceaseless deprivation.
More than 200 Palestinians have been killed in 2023 so far, including four the other day. The latest of Israel’s settler-state pogroms in the West Bank took place in Huwara one day before Hamas’s action.
Hamas’s attack is a response to longterm and escalating, immediate violence.
The blockade wall that was breached is an illegal structure. A million children have been born behind that wall; did you expect them to sit quietly?
Wall deserves to fall
That wall deserves to fall — but we, here in Aotearoa and throughout the world, should have brought it down with diplomatic and economic and legal sanctions long before it came to this.
Now Hamas’s violent resistance has broken through the wall.
Palestinians have a legal right to armed resistance, but no one has a right to unlimited violence. There is no honour in attacking civilians in their homes or bombing Gazan apartment buildings.
It is a core principle of international humanitarian law that the violations of one armed group do not release another armed group from its constant obligation to uphold the rights of civilians. Armed groups are responsible to the law, to the idea of minimising the harm done in this world.
We who demand the protection of Palestinian civilians can best do that by calling for the protection of all civilians: human rights are either everyone’s rights or they are nothing.
If we lose sight of that, the world becomes even more dangerous — and Palestinians have always borne the brunt of that danger.
No military solution
There is no military solution. Solutions call for political will here, outside Israel/Palestine.
The rage and despair accumulated through generations and decades of brutality will not reset. Do not call for the return to the status quo ante because it was intolerable, unjust and illegal.
We, here in Aotearoa New Zealand, need to act on the basis of law and the equal rights of human beings to protection, to justice, to self-determination.
We call on our government to initiate, to pick up the phone and lead in mustering international action.
For anyone to be safe, Palestinians must be free and civilians must be protected.