Editorial: More than words required

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Tuesday 5 Mar 2024

Top US officials, starting with President Joe Biden, have been stating for weeks that “too many Palestinians have been killed” in Gaza since Israel launched its revenge genocidal war for the Hamas-led attacks on 7 October.

 

They say that far more aid should be allowed to reach the Palestinians suffering famine all over Gaza, but particularly in the northern reaches which have long been under full Israeli control.

Nevertheless, the horrific daily killing of innocent civilians, with numbers surpassing 30,000 now, has not stopped, and fewer aid trucks have been reaching Gaza than at any other time in the past two months. This, in disregard of the appeals of the Biden administrations as well as the orders of the International Court of Justice in its significant provisional ruling in late January in the case filed by South Africa accusing Israel of committing acts of genocide.

Heartbreaking images of Palestinians running away from Israeli gunfire while trying to reach aid trucks that arrived in the north a week ago might be a turning point — even if it is a long delayed one, considering that the Israeli occupation army has committed several similar savage massacres against Palestinians over the past five months. The incident involved the killing of 120 people while they were trying to obtain a sack of flour after being forced to eat animal feed for weeks.

The entire world must tell Israel that it can longer violate every kind of convention while claiming to be practising self-defence in response to the humiliating Hamas attack on 7 October. Worse, the fate and the lives of nearly 2.5 million Palestinians in Gaza cannot be held hostage to internal Israeli calculations and the priority Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist government are giving to their own political survival.

Netanyahu continues to insist that force and more force was the only means to achieve his goals of destroying Hamas and freeing nearly 100 Israeli hostages who are believed to remain alive in Gaza. While he argues that it is only a matter of time before he achieves this goal, the reality is that his refusal to stop this insane war for five months has only bolstered Hamas’ popularity all over Palestine, and nearly 30 Israeli hostages have been killed by their own army since the war started.  

Israel’s insistence that the release of the hostages held by Hamas must be the only item on the agenda of negotiations mediated by Egypt, Qatar, and the United States over the past weeks will definitely not be accepted by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority or the vast majority of the parties closely involved in mediating a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. Any upcoming truce, whether reached before the holy month of Ramadan or not, cannot be a gateway for Israel to reoccupy Gaza or establish a permanent presence there through so-called “security zones.”

Palestinians are also entitled to a permanent end of the war, not just a short truce after which Israel can resume its bloody massacres and indiscriminate destruction. Nearly two million displaced Palestinians must be allowed to return to their homes all over Gaza, along with a serious increase in the flow of food aid, medical supplies, and fuel. Meeting those demands would not be a compromise on the part of the Israeli side, but a response to the legitimate rights and needs of Palestinians in Gaza who have suffered an unprecedented war of aggression, unseen in decades.

On Sunday, US Vice President Kamala Harris issued what observers described as the sharpest rebuke of Israel for what she called a “humanitarian catastrophe” Gaza, saying that Israel must do more to allow the flow of aid into the Strip by opening new border crossings and refrain from imposing unnecessary restrictions on aid deliveries. “What we are seeing every day in Gaza is devastating,” Harris said, speaking at a bridge in Selma, Alabama where Black Americans were beaten by white law enforcement officers in 1965 while marching for their right to vote. There could have been no better place for Harris to make those statements, considering that the key demand by Palestinians is self-determination and to enjoy their rights as equal human beings. The US vice president reiterated earlier statements made by Biden that there were “no excuses” for the Israeli government to continue to delay the flow of aid.

While such statements are definitely an improvement in the discourse of an administration that has provided Israel with generous military support and diplomatic cover at the UN Security Council over the past five months, vehemently refusing to so much as say the word “ceasefire,” the sad reality is that the current Israeli government does not even listen to its greatest — and by now only — ally.

One US Senator even went so far as to state that the Netanyahu government has been “humiliating” the US president on a daily basis, stalling even simple demands such as providing shipments of wheat to Palestinians in Gaza through an Israeli port. Resorting to air dropping aid by the US air force on Gaza this week, while acknowledging the shortcomings of such a move, which could never replace aid trucks, was seen as a sign that even Washington cannot push the Israeli government to allow aid in.

Yet along with its committed partners in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, Egypt remains keen to reach a permanent peace in the region and maintain strategic ties with the United States, and it will never stop exerting efforts to bring this Israeli war of aggression to an end, protect the lives and rights of the Palestinian people and reach a permanent settlement to make sure that we do not see another Israeli genocide committed against the Palestinian people.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 7 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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