Conflict in Gaza

Amid the blaze of publicity around the conflict in Gaza it is worth examining the context in which this is taking place

A surprise attack by Hamas on 7 October 2023 left Israelis feeling outraged.  Hundreds of dead have been reported on both sides of the conflict and the numbers are continuing to rise as Israel pounds Gaza with fiercest air strikes ever.

The Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza, Hamas, has rightly been proscribed as a terrorist organisation.  Its rocket attacks on Israel over several years are intended to terrorise the Israeli population.  “Under its charter, it is committed to the destruction of Israel.”

Western leaders have issued a Joint Statement on Israel:

“Today, we — President Macron of France, Chancellor Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Meloni of Italy, Prime Minister Sunak of the United Kingdom, and President Biden of the United States — express our steadfast and united support to the State of Israel, and our unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and its appalling acts of terrorism.”

Israel has the right under International Law to defend itself.  Israel’s Netanyahu vows ‘mighty vengeance’ against Hamas, and the MirYam Institute has written that Only the elimination of Hamas will do; Israel can accept no less.  It is an understandable aim, but one that will be difficult for Israel to achieve without harming civilians.

Nothing can justify the mass slaughter of civilians by Hamas.  Although it was a surprise attack, the conflict in Gaza was nonetheless known to be probable.  It was not a massive, unprovoked attack on Israel, as the Jerusalem Post described it.  Some Israeli settlers are as uncompromising as Hamas, and want to claim the whole of the West Bank of the Jordan and Gaza as an exclusively Jewish state.  They have been systematically provoking the Palestinians:

●  The UN Security Council passed a resolution urging an end to illegal Israeli settlements in December 2016, but new settlements continued to be built under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governments.

●  The provocations continued, as it was reported in August 2023 that Palestinian fears grow amid rising Israeli settler attacks.

●  The ultimate provocation, on 4 October 2023, was when Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa Mosque complex on fifth day of Sukkot: “Israeli settlers have stormed the complex in groups and attempted to perform ‘Talmudic rituals’, according to a Waqf official”.

Neither Hamas nor those Israeli settlers want peace.  The Hamas charter makes it impossible for any compromise to be reached for a peaceful settlement.  Each group wants to totally eliminate the other.  The problems date back to the UN’s establishment of the State of Israel in 1947, to provide a place of safety for displaced Jews, in land that had belonged to the Palestinians for generations.  Violence erupted  immediately (and unsurprisingly).  It will be very difficult to establish a peaceful segmentation of power (, unless Jewish and Arab extremists can be more effectively curbed.  Yet peace is what most Israelis and Palestinians want.


  • Michael Radcliffe

    An interesting article appeared in the Guardian today by an Israeli journalist, Orly Noy, in which she says..

    “It is important not to minimise or condone the heinous crimes committed by Hamas. But it is also important to remind ourselves that everything it is inflicting on us now, we have been inflicting on the Palestinians for years. Indiscriminate firing, including at children and older people; intrusion into their homes; burning down their houses; taking hostages – not just fighters but civilians, children and older people. I keep reminding myself that ignoring this context is giving up a piece of my own humanity. Because violence devoid of any context leads to only one possible response: revenge. And I don’t want revenge from anyone. Because revenge is the opposite of security, it is the opposite of peace, it is also the opposite of justice. It is nothing but more violence.
    I maintain that there are crimes of abundance and there are crimes of hunger, and we have not only brought Gaza to the brink of starvation, we have brought it to a state of collapse. Always in the name of security. How much security did we get? Where will another round of revenge take us?”

    We have a friend who has just returned from 3 months in the West Bank, confirming exactly what Noy describes. It is all so heart breaking. I remember so well the 6 day war in 1967, the year I started at graduate school in Pittsburgh 56 years ago. The Palestinian dilemma will not go away until it is solved with a just settlement. It is like a pressure cooker with no release of the safety valve until something like this blows up. Either Israel takes over all the Palestinian territory and removes all the concrete walls and allows all Palestinians equal rights with Israelis, or a two state solution is put in place with absolute sovereignty for Palestinians without any restrictions and freedom of travel and the return of ‘stolen’ land. The increasing encroachment of new Israeli settlements makes this more and more difficult to achieve. There can be no normalization of Israel’s relations with its neighbours (Saudi Arabia) while the Palestinian two state solution remains unresolved. Apartheid in South Africa lasted about 40 years. Apartheid in Israel with a Bantustan Palestine has gone on far too long. It is all such a tragedy.
    Michael Radcliffe

    • jscalway

      I agree that Israel has oppressed the Palestinians – but this has partly been in response to Hamas provocations: rockets repeatedly fired into Israel over a period of years. Hamas does not want peace, and its latest assault has intentionally set back peace negotiations. And Israel’s response of violent revenge will further increase the hatred felt by Palestinians against the Jewish state. As Thomas L. Friedman wrote in the New York Times,, Israel Has Never Needed to Be Smarter Than in This Moment. He is critical of both Hamas and Netanyahu, and he concludes his article with these words:
      “America cannot protect Israel in the long run from the very real threats it faces unless Israel has a government that reflects the best, not the worst, of its society, and unless that government is ready to try to forge compromises with the best, not the worst, of Palestinian society.”


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