The crisis in Gaza

 

Sir, – It is not enough to express horror at so many innocent lives having been lost during the latest round of violence in Gaza and Israel. We must instead ask how we can break the cycle that leads to this slaughter.

The people of Gaza live in what is often referred to as “the world’s largest open air prison”. Almost two million people live in an area 40km long and 10km wide, 80 per cent of whom are classified by the United Nations as refugees. Eight out of every 10 residents of Gaza are reliant on the international community for support.

In the West Bank, the Israeli military is in control of 60 per cent of the land. There are now more than 500,000 Israeli settlers living in over 200 settlements. In order to facilitate these settlements, land is confiscated from Palestinians. According to the UN, in 2013 alone, 1,513 Palestinians, including 731 children, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were affected by the demolition of homes and other structures.

The occupation of the West Bank has created a discriminatory regime with two populations living separately in the same territory under two different systems of law. While settlers enjoy all the rights of Israeli citizens, Palestinians are subject to military law.

Despite these flagrant breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law, the Israeli government refuses to comprehend Palestinian grievances. Prime minister Netanyahu speaks of “quiet for quiet”. We support his desire for peace and security for Israeli citizens, but we also recognise that it is neither realistic nor acceptable to plan a future based on peace for Israelis and the daily reality of blockades, military law and occupation for Palestinians.

We are witnessing the third major Israeli military offensive in Gaza in six years. The current unjust status quo has sadly led to rocket attacks into Israel and cyclical military action on Gaza. Both sides claim to be responding to the other’s aggression. Without a structural change to the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, it is inevitable that this cycle will continue.

The Irish Government, along with its European partners, must play an active role in breaking this cycle. Until we are prepared to do more than issue empty words of condemnation, the cycle of violence will continue.

We call on the Government to affirm its commitment to a long-term political solution based on a full adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law by both Palestinians and Israelis.

In recently issued advice to Irish citizens and businesses, the Government noted: “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible.”

Recognising this, we call on the Government to ban all trade with illegal Israeli settlements, thus reducing the economic incentive for Israel to continue to confiscate land from Palestinians in the West Bank.

Working towards a long-term political solution based on peace and justice is the only way to ensure the security of Palestinians and Israelis.

It is a fallacy to think that cyclical military invasions of Gaza will bring security to Israel. This policy will only lead to more violence and death on both sides. Yours, etc,

ÉAMONN MEEHAN,

executive director, Trócaire,

ROSAMOND BENNETT,

chief executive officer,

Christian Aid Ireland,

DR SEÁN HEALY,

director,

Social Justice Ireland,

DAVID BEGG,

general secretary,

Irish Council of

Trade Unions,

JACK O’CONNOR,

general president, SIPTU,

DR MAUREEN O’CONNOR,

School of English,

University College Cork,

PROF KATHLEEN LYNCH,

School of Social Justice,

University College Dublin,

PROF LUKE GIBBONS,

Department of English,

NUI Maynooth,

DR EITHNE O’CONNELL,

School of Applied Language

and Intercultural Studies,

Dublin City University,

DR DES McGUINNESS,

School of

Communications,DCU,

DR ANNE MULHALL,

School of English,

Drama & Film,

University College Dublin,

DR IAIN ATACK,

International Peace Studies,

Trinity College Dublin,

DR BILL McSWEENEY,

International Peace

Studies Programme,

Trinity College Dublin,

PROF DAVID LANDY,

Department of Sociology,

Trinity College Dublin,

DIARMUID O’BRIEN,

deputy principal.

Ballyfermot College

of Further Education,

DR PETER COLLINS,

Department of History,

St Mary’s University College,

Belfast

DR MARTIN J POWER,

Department of Sociology,

University of Limerick,

DR BILL DORRIS,

School of Communications,

Dublin City University,

DR EMER Ní­ BHRÁDAIGH,

Faculty of Humanities

and Social Sciences,

Dublin City University

MARIE CRAWLEY,

chairperson, Sadaka –

The Ireland Palestine

Alliance

Sir, – If truth is the first casualty of war, the second is surely realism. B Devlin (Letters, July 26th) calls for the deployment of a UN force in Gaza charged with the elimination of rocket fire and other forms of aggression that originate there.

Leaving aside the implied apportioning of blame, a number of questions should be answered before the idea of a UN force is abandoned.

For example, would both sides accept such a force? Could the UN Security Council agree to create it? Would the entire Gaza Strip have to be occupied to enforce the mandate? How many troops would be needed? Who would pay for them? Which UN members have the military capability to provided suitably trained and equipped personnel? Which of these countries would be acceptable to the belligerents? How long would the force have to remain in place?

If this renders the idea of a UN force doubtful, we can at least be sure of two things. First, the UN is not fit for its primary purpose of maintaining world peace. And second, no Irish troops would be part of any Gaza peace-keeping force – it is much easier to volunteer other nations’ soldiers for dangerous missions. Yours, etc,

KEVIN BUTLER,

Philipsburgh Avenue,

Dublin 3

Sir, – References in your Letters pages in recent days have compared body counts in Israel and in Gaza, as if there were some league table of death that would justify certain actions. This is an odious and morally bankrupt position. The deliberate taking of human life is, and always will be, an affront to humanity. It is incumbent on all parties to make peace, not war. Partisan screaming from the secure bunker of our own country is of no help in this regard. – Yours, etc,

JG LACEY,

Lough Atalia Grove,

Galway

Sir, – Might I suggest a possible solution to the crisis in Gaza? Israel should declare that it will withdraw to its pre-1967 borders over a 15- to 20-year period in stages every two to three years, a process that will be stalled, or reversed, if any missiles or other terrorist actions are directed at it.

All concerned nations should guarantee the security of the original Israeli state. Hamas and the Palestinians, and other regional powers, should declare their acceptance of Israel as a free, independent state and commit to full support of the peace plan. The United Nations should then oversee and police the agreement until its final conclusion. – Yours, etc,

MITCHEL BARRY,

Las Dunas Park,

Estepona,

Spain