Nine days after Hamas’ attack, Israeli bombing of Gaza continues unabated and the siege takes on increasingly dramatic proportions. A ground offensive by Israel is about to begin. There are also still more than 100 Israeli hostages held by Hamas and other groups in the Gaza Strip. More than 4,000 Palestinians and Israelis have already been killed since 7 October. There have also been several casualties in Lebanon, including a journalist. This is an unprecedented tragedy where civilians are victims of leaders’ political goals. They need protection now!
PAX and the Palestinian and Israeli peace activists and human rights organisations we work with are appalled by this suffering and we worry about what is to come. PAX therefore continues to make unrelenting calls for de-escalation and an immediate ceasefire. Further civilian casualties must be prevented. International law and human rights must be the guiding principles within which we operate as an international community and we must hold each other to that. In this, no distinction can be made between Israelis and Palestinians. The Dutch government – which sees the promotion of the international legal order as a core objective in its foreign policy – has so far failed to play that role. On the contrary, with the statements of the prime minister and several other ministers, the Dutch government is effectively giving a carte blanche to Israel.
West Bank out of the picture
With the justifiably strong focus on developments in and around Gaza, the situation in the West Bank seems to be out of the picture. Wrongly so, as violence against Palestinian civilians there too is taking on alarming proportions. Settlers are actively armed by the Israeli government and even personally by the Minister of National Security. These settler groups have already carried out deadly attacks against Palestinians in various locations. Since 7 October, the death toll in the West Bank has reached 54.
Land seizures are also picking up speed. Several Palestinian communities have had to leave their land under intense pressure and threats from settlers. The Israeli army offers absolutely no protection to Palestinian civilians or even supports the settlers. Thus, the terrible attack by Hamas and the siege and blockade of Gaza is being used to further accelerate the seizure of land. A lasting solution is therefore becoming increasingly difficult. The international community should not turn a blind eye to this either. After all, it has already done so too often when it comes to systematic human rights violations in Israel and Palestine, the apartheid regime and illegal occupation.
Especially at this time, it is hugely important to push for de-escalation, an immediate ceasefire and the protection of international law and human rights. The lives of many civilians and hostages are at risk and the international rule of law is coming under increasing pressure. We are concerned that the bombing and thereby necessary evacuation of Gaza and the violence of settlers in the West Bank will eventually lead to ethnic cleansing and further annexation of Palestinian territory as well as have far-reaching regional consequences. We therefore repeat our appeal to the caretaker cabinet and the European Commission: do not give Israel carte blanche.