Editorial: Tangible action necessary

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Tuesday 20 Feb 2024

In recent weeks, Israel’s closest allies have finally started to make relatively reasonable statements in light of the undeniable horror of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza.


 Indeed the situation has gone beyond all imaginable levels, surpassing every war the region has witnessed in decades. After the death of over 30,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, in a matter of four months, US President Joe Biden recognised that Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” has “gone over the top.” He also uttered the taboo word, “ceasefire,” even if he qualified it as “temporary,” instead of just calling for a “humanitarian pause.”

However, no such good intentions have thwarted Israel’s current, extremist government. War crimes, including deliberate starvation and denial of basic rights to medical care to over 2.3 million Palestinians squeezed into Gaza, have continued unabated. Indulging in self-deception, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to cry out “complete victory” while even Israeli intelligence agencies, not to mention American ones, have concluded that this goal is elusive, and will simply never happen.

Instead, Netanyahu has continued to challenge the whole world, including his closest allies, insisting that he will carry out his threats to invade Rafah, which has become the most densely populated spot in the entire world since hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes in north and middle Gaza, moving south by the border with Egypt. Many of those forced to live in tents in the streets in inhumane conditions with little food and drinking water have been repeatedly displaced after the Israeli occupation army moved from one town and neighbourhood to the other, inflicting massive destruction while claiming that those were vital spots to terminate the presence of Hamas fighters or battalions.

Israel had already wiped out north and middle Gaza, making those areas look as if they were hit by an earthquake, along with key cities such as Khan Younis in the south. In none of these areas have Hamas attacks stopped inflicting heavy losses on Israeli army officers and soldiers. Yet an Israeli army advance in Rafah is expected to be like no other in terms of human losses, considering the huge numbers of residents. As many involved parties describe it, it will simply be a massacre in which most of the victims will be women and children, just as the entire operation has been since the beginning of this war.

Netanyahu and his partners in the so-called war cabinet claim they will not carry out that attack on Rafah before providing escape routes for residents, consulting with Egypt and the United States. However, no one so far, not even US officials who are closely coordinating the war with their Israeli counterparts daily, believe that such an operation would be possible without huge human losses, mainly because residents of Rafah have nowhere to go in the narrow strip after Israel’s arbitrary bombing destroyed nearly all Gaza’s buildings and infrastructure.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell spoke the truth last week when he said that world leaders cannot keep going to Israel, begging its extremist ministers to stop killing Palestinians without taking action to stop this ongoing tragedy. He urged Israel’s allies, primarily the United States, to stop sending it weapons if Biden believes that his favourite ally has “gone over the top.”

“Well, if you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide fewer arms in order to prevent so many people from being killed,” Borrell said. “Is it not logical?” He added, “How many times have you heard the most prominent leaders and foreign ministers around the world saying too many people are being killed?”

On Rafah, the EU senior official recognised the truth everyone knows so far: “Netanyahu doesn’t listen to anyone. [He says] they are going to evacuate [the people in Rfah]. Where? To the moon? Where are they going to evacuate these people to?” He noted that his request for practical action, particularly in terms of stopping to provide much-needed American weapons to Israel, is not unprecedented. In 2006, it was the United States that decided to halt the supply of arms to Israel when it refused to stop its war of aggression against Lebanon at that time.  “The same thing happens today. Everybody goes to Tel Aviv begging, ‘Please, don’t do that, protect civilians; don’t kill so many.’ How many is too many?”

Several observers hope that repeated Israeli threats to invade Rafah and evacuate its residents is one pressure tactic Netanyahu is using to force Hamas to offer concessions in ongoing talks, led by the United States, Qatar and Egypt, to reach a new deal to exchange hostages. Yet, if it had taken Israel’s occupation army four months to be able to free two elderly Israeli hostages by force, while at the same time killing 30,000 Palestinians and wounding 70,000, the world cannot stand by and allow Israel to kill double or triple that number if they truly do invade Rafah.

One way to place real pressure on Israel is for the United States to allow the adoption of the draft Security Council resolution presented by Algeria, the Arab non-permanent member, on Tuesday. Yet so far, Washington said it would veto that resolution, claiming it would complicate negotiations to reach a truce allowing the exchange of hostages. That is straightforward complicity in the daily killing of Palestinians. After more than four months, it is clear that there is no other way to bring the extremist Israeli government to stop slaughtering Palestinians except by no longer providing its army with weapons, along with unilateral diplomatic cover at the Security Council.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 22 February 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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