Justice for Palestine is the key to Gaza peace

Justice for Palestine is the key to Gaza peace

The Israeli seizure and occupation of Palestinian land, and the denial of a Palestinian state, is the root cause of the on-going conflict and the current flare up in Gaza.

There can be no peace without first securing justice for the people of Palestine. Palestinians have a right to their own homeland – just like Jews. It is time for peace, justice, equality and security for all - Palestinians and Israelis - with two co-existing states based on the 1967 borders.

It is important that we urge world leaders to press for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. One way to do this is to sign the Avaaz petition: http://goo.gl/htVZ2

While rocket attacks on Jewish civilians are wrong, Israel’s escalation in Gaza risks sparking a major regional conflict, possibly involving Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah. This is not in the interest of the people of Israel, Palestine or the wider region.

Palestinians are justified to non-violently resist Israel’s seizure of land, demolition of houses, destruction of crops and the killing of civilians. The divisive, sectarian ‘apartheid wall’ and the building of illegal Jewish settlements on the West Bank undermines the prospects for peace and plays into the hands of Islamist extremists.

Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians does not justify Islamists firing rockets into Jewish civilian areas. Nor do rocket attacks justify Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and the consequent civilian deaths. Israeli actions are tantamount to the terrorisation and collective punishment of the Gaza population, which is illegal under international law.

Killing civilians is a war crime – whoever does it, for whatever reason. The human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians must be protected.

The cycle of attack and counter-attack, revenge and pay-back, is immoral and futile. Neither side gains. Insecurity is compounded and the seeds of further conflict are sown.

An-eye-for-an-eye leaves everyone blind.

The Hamas regime in Gaza is guilty of serious human rights abuses against its own Palestinian citizens, including unfair trials, torture and executions. See, as one example, the Human Rights Watch report ‘Abusive System: Failures of Criminal Justice in Gaza’, from October 2012: http://goo.gl/ND9hy

Hamas has also sanctioned rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. It is truly shocking the way some western pro-Palestinian, anti-war and left-wing groups variously defend or excuse Hamas. As well as being anti-Semitic, Hamas is an authoritarian, reactionary movement.

While people are right to be critical of Israel's stance towards the Palestinians, it is also important to defend the Jewish people against Islamists and other anti-Semites.

As to the way forward for peace in the Middle East: The long-term interests and security of the Jewish people would be best served if Israel seized the moral high ground by unilaterally withdrawing from its illegal occupation of the West Bank (illegal according to the UN and international law), ending the siege of Gaza and dismantling the separation wall (which unjustly divides Palestinian communities from each other and often from their farmland).

Israel should simultaneously recognise an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and join with the international community, including Western nations, to fund Palestinian schools, houses, roads, libraries and hospitals, to reassure the Palestinian people and win their hearts and minds.

Such an initiative would have a huge positive impact. It would win worldwide praise for Israel and do more than anything else to counter the de-legitimation that it fears.

This grand gesture of justice and reconciliation would seriously weaken Hamas and the jihadists. They would lose the raison d'etre for their hardline stance. They would become marginalised. Many (possibly most) ordinary grassroots Palestinians would begin to change their attitudes to Israel and be won for peace - healing wounds and building new bonds between Jew, Arab, Christian and Muslim.

A just peace where Jews and Arabs live together in equality and harmony sounds hard to believe right now, but it can happen with political will on both sides, supported by the international community.

In northern Ireland, the idea of arch enemies, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, sharing political power in a joint government administration was, only a few years ago, deemed fanciful. Now it has happened. If peace can come to northern Ireland, why not to Israel and Palestine? It is time to give peace a chance.

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© Peter Tatchell is director of the London-based human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation. www.PeterTatchellFoundation.org

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