On Saturday, the world was shocked by the violence in Israel. Since then, hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian civilians have been killed. PAX condemns any violence against civilians. We are also deeply concerned that the harsh war language and escalation now being expressed will lead to many more civilian deaths.
It is painful to see that these fears for civilian deaths have proven justified. In response to Hamas’s attack, Israel launched a military assault on Gaza that has left many dead and wounded in recent days, The material damage now inflicted will have a negative impact on Gaza civilians for years to come. Densely populated areas have been targeted by Israeli airstrikes, causing widespread destruction, killing and injuring civilians. General Director of PAX, Rolien Sasse: “We also condemn this violence. Israel is using this as an opportunity to take revenge on the civilian population of Gaza and that is not the pathway to a safer Israel. Revenge upon revenge does not help. The international community must call for de-escalation, not throw oil on the fire.”
Also extremely worrying is that yesterday, on top of the blockade that has been going on for 16 years, Israel had stopped the entry of water and food into the coastal strip. It is the citizens of Gaza – not Hamas – who are paying the heaviest price for this. It is collective punishment against a population that has lived under occupation and blockade for years. Palestinian resistance and calls for freedom and justice fall on deaf ears. PAX has called on the Netherlands and the European Union to take action against the aforementioned systemic violations.
It is to be feared that the violence is escalating further. Radical war rhetoric by Israeli ministers, dehumanizing the enemy, paves the way for this. Hundreds of thousands of military personnel have been mobilized by Israel and an invasion of the Gaza Strip is imminent. There is also the risk of escalating violence on other fronts, along the borders with Lebanon and Syria. It is also dangerous because the past has repeatedly shown that Israel does not shy away from large-scale, disproportionate violence against Gaza and violations of international law.
Therefore, we repeat: the spiral of violence must be broken; de-escalation is desperately needed right now. Unfortunately, we do not see such calls from European leaders. For example, outgoing Prime Minister Rutte expresses unconditional support for Israel without calling for respect for international law. This is dangerous, because disproportionate violence and violations of international law should never be accepted. Moreover, Israel’s duties as an occupying power and the background of years of occupation and inequality cannot be ignored. Countries should instead hold each other accountable for these, always, but especially a government that hosts the “capital of international law”. Outgoing Prime Minister Rutte, do not give Israel carte blanche.