In the middle of the rapid building up of a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, several important voices have spoken for de-escalation and peace. In the USA as many as 50 democrat legislators have written to Present Biden that the mass evacuation in Gaza and other related actions should not result in serious violation of international humanitarian law. This communication, apart from making a strong statement on its own, has also reminded the President and the Secretary of State of the USA that both the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and the UN High Commission on Human Rights have said that imposing a complete seize on Gaza and depriving 2.3 million Palestinian civilians who have nowhere else to go—half of whom are children—of food, water and electricity would be a violation of international humanitarian law. The legislators have stated that these people should not be deprived of basic necessities like food, water, fuel and electricity.
Jewish Voice for Peace, a US based human rights organization, released an important statement on October 11, giving a call for ending the air strikes in Gaza. This statement further said, “The US must work to immediately de-escalate to prevent the further loss of life, and not fuel and exacerbate the violence by sending more weapons to Israel. That is the only way to end violence: to address its root cause, 75 years of Israeli military occupation and apartheid. We must end US complicity in this systemic oppression.”
Human Rights Watch, USA, warned on October 12 against the use of very dangerous weapons, after its investigations revealed that white phosphorus had already been used by Israel in border area rural settlements of Lebanon and in densely inhabited parts of Gaza. As this organization has explained, “upon contact, white phosphorus can burn people thermally and chemically, down to the bone as it is highly soluble in fat and therefore in human flesh.’ These burns can result in multi-organ failure and in death.
Prominent US legislator Bernie Sanders said on October 11 that Israel’s total siege of Gaza is a breach of international law and called upon the US government to mobilize the support of the global community to de-escalate violence.
UNICEF has highlighted the dangers of escalation as already the present situation can put the lives of children in Gaza at risk.
Karan Attiah, wrote in her October 13 column in the Washington Post that the USA “cannot stand by as Israeli officials engage in genocidal language and convey genocidal intent against Palestinians.” Referring to the description by her Post colleagues of the narrow Gaza strip under military attack becoming a ‘death trap’, this columnist warns that “the only winners in this cycle of violence will be the weapon-dealers, while the rest of us will lose our common, shared humanity.”
Nathan Thrall, former director of International Crisis Group and a Jerusalem-based journalist, has drawn attention in an interview (see The Times of India or Sunday Times dated October 15) that the injustice inherent in “a system in which there are seven million Palestinians and seven million Israeli Jews all living under Israeli control, where the vast majority of Palestinians don’t have basic civil rights.” Further he says, “Israel has set a policy goal of minimizing the number of Palestinians and maximizing the number of Jews and with that in mind, a 26 feet tall wall has been erected and those on the other side live in gross neglect.”
In this interview Nathan Thrall also speaks about the dehumanization several people on both sides experience in this oppressive situation. He ends by saying that while the present violence is terrible, “we are doomed to continue to see this horrible bloodshed if we do not turn our attention toward the moral catastrophe of the status quo.”
All these are very important voices of peace all of which have also condemned the very violent attack by the Hamas on October 7. One can only hope that in the middle of a very dangerous situation, these important voices of peace will get the due attention.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save the Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Man over Machine and A Day in 2071.