Mixed messages undermine western solidarity with Gaza


Palestine solidarity flag waving

The week gone has seen massive rallies calling for an end to the Israeli invasion of Gaza. From Sydney to Paris people have come together in a sign of solidarity with those Palestinians who are trapped in Gaza and whose lives remain threatened with every day that passes. But with all the goodwill that seems to resonate in the forms of solidarity rallies the world over, one has to ask, is it enough?

The solidarity rallies, no matter their size and frequency cannot mask the reality on the ground. Living in Ramallah, I see it daily. It’s in the papers that come out in West Bank cities. As every day passes, the story changes little; more homes are destroyed, people maimed and lives lost. People remain frightened, insecure and vulnerable. This is not to say that the actions of the Israeli government have not garnered the attention of the international community. The United Nations Security Council has met to discuss the matter as has the United Nations Secretary General issued statements calling for an end to the conflict. 

However for Palestinians, no matter how strong the wording of the forthcoming statements is, they cannot mask the impunity with which Israel acts. For every ‘condemnation’ that is directed at Israel by the President of the United States, the same speech will undoubtedly make reference to the ‘inherent right of Israel to defend itself’.  However well intentioned the sentiments of the President are, they are effectively being used by Israel as a carte blanche to justify all and every action in Gaza. At the same time the sincerity of such sentiments are constantly brought into question as the United States continues to renew Israel’s weaponry stockpile as the conflict continues. As American talk show host Jon Stewart aptly noted, the United States ‘can’t be Israel’s rehab sponsor and its drug dealer’ at the same time

Even when the conflict in Gaza does finally come to an end, if the past is anything to go by, it is not expected that Israel will be confronted by any more than a slap on the wrist for its actions. It is the historical inconsistency between action and word from leaders in the international community that leaves Palestinians bewildered. 

Palestinians are not seeking an internationally sanctioned counter invasion into Israel to bring the current conflict and the occupation to an end. However what they want is an international community that is willing to move beyond inconsistent statements and actions. They want an international community that is willing to act in response to unjustifiable widespread destruction, injury and death and the overt flouting of international law (Israel’s continual failure to abide by United Nations Security Council resolutions). Palestinians know that the international community is capable of bringing substance to it values through action. They saw such action in the form of the boycott that brought down apartheid in South Africa.  

This is not to say that the international community as a whole has remained unwilling to act. Bolivia recently announced that it would end the visa exemption agreement that it had with Israel in protest to the current conflict in Gaza. The agreement had been in place since 1972 and exempted Israeli citizens from requiring a visa to travel to Bolivia.

Diplomacy still has its place. However statements should remain clear and consistent. People should not be left trying to decipher what is meant every time a statement released or action is taken. For example Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay made it known that they ‘energetically condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, which in the majority affects civilians, including children and women.’ However unlike other members of the international community this message was not later undermined by another inconsistent statement or action. Instead these countries maintained their stance; all three have recalled their ambassadors from Israel. Chile, Peru, Ecuador and El Salvador have similarly recalled their ambassadors from Israel.

The continuing destruction and death in Gaza unfortunately makes it obvious that the combined actions of those willing to act thus far are simply not enough. The actions of the few nations and the solidarity rallies that continue to be held across the globe remain overshadowed by the inconsistency between word and action of the United States, the European Union and the international community (through the United Nations). Should anyone of these major players go about bringing their words and actions into concert we can expect the reality on the ground to change. But until that happens, Palestinians will just be left bewildered as to the inconsistency and seemingly indifference the international community takes to their plight.

Raff PiccoloRaff Piccolo is an Australian living in Ramallah, Palestine, and working in Beit Hanina (East Jerusalem).

Topic tags: Raff Piccolo, Israel, Gaza, Palestinians, President Obama



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Existing comments

This entrenched conflict is distressing to watch from afar. Is it simply a matter of Israel = bad, Palestine = good? It's important to know the mindset of those in this conflict that has been ongoing since 1948. Israel is both an old country and a new one. UN Resolution 181 in November 1947 had offered the partition of British Palestine and a two-state solution. The Zionist Jews accepted this but the Palestinian Arabs did not. That's history. That doesn't excuse Israel's aggressive tactics - and I don't doubt there are many people in Israel who want the war to end. Both sides need to 'see' each other, the international community needs to be much more forceful in attempting to negotiate and maintain a ceasefire and lasting peace, and 'taking sides' doesn't help.
Pam | 05 August 2014

I agree with Pam. Israel's current engagement is disappointing from a humanitarian perspective, and I do think that they should continue to work to withdraw further from the West Bank, but the 1947 resolution was rejected by Arabs (in addition to earlier British attempt to have dual representation in a parliament, which Arabs also rejected), and the West Bank came under Israeli occupation following the 6 days war (which is a long subject in and of itself involving). Israel cannot rapidly withdraw from the West Bank due to security risks (which underlie the current conflict). And lets not forget that ~ last month Egypt attempted to negotiate an unconditional ceasefire, which Israel accepted and Hamas rejected. Hamas has to accept a portion of responsibility for these deaths. No real discussion can happen until Palestinians accept Israel as a permanent presence, the international community increase its commitment to facilitate this process and hold both sides accountable in each step.
Dan | 06 August 2014

Is it true that Hamas are firing rockets into Israel? Is it true that Hamas base themselves within residential neighborhoods ? If Hamas are firing rockets but stopped doing so would Israel then stop their bombing of Gaza?
Jack Bowen | 06 August 2014

Today is Hiroshima Day. It was preceded some years before by the wholesale, systematic slaughter of Chinese citizens - mangled in the overweening territorial ambitions of Japan's militarist elite. Pray that this particular history won't repeat itself. In both ways.
Fred Green | 06 August 2014

Normally I would support the Palestinians when Israel does one of its frequent and vastly excessive military overreactions. I find the massive overkill of the use of its military force as well as its draconian occupation and continued illegal settlement of Palestinian land abhorrent. Of all peoples, those who experienced the Holocaust should know better. This time, however, I would ask how it is that Hamas, that is supposed to be governing and taking care of its citizens and improving their lives, has instead been spending its money on buying and secreting THOUSANDS of rockets specifically to fire at Israel? And how it has been wasting the money and manpower not spent on rockets apparently digging attack tunnels everywhere into Israel? And how it is deliberately sacrificing its citizens by conducting its military operations close to or within schools, hospitals and UN safe havens, deliberately endangering its citizens lives? And how it keeps breaking every arranged ceasefire almost before any even gets started? Stop firing rockets and sending raiding parties through your tunnels, act like a responsible government, stop acting like a two-year old in tantrum, and someone might take your "poor wronged us" cries seriously again!
Paul | 06 August 2014

I dont want to be Shot down in flames but do you think countries pussyfoot around Israel because of the holocaust. Yes the hamas Shot all those rockets but they did not actually kill anyone meanwhile more innocent palestinians were killed than the actual enemy. May be it is also time for the moderate Palestinians to rise up against hamas and other terrorists Who maim Their own people by Their actions
Irena | 06 August 2014

In article seven of the Hamas Charter the following is written. "The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim)." This hadith, regarded as reliable by all Muslim scholars I have ever seen or heard, makes no mention of stopping fighting the Jews once they have left Palestine. It is a call to wipe out Jews all over the world. Hamas explicitly believes in an apocalyptic war between Muslims and Jews. The end of time cannot come until this war has been fought and the Jews eradicated. Therefore, anyone who believes Hamas truly wants peace with its Jewish neighbours is gullible in the extreme.
John Ryan | 06 August 2014

The USA immediately ceasing to replenish Israel's arsenal would bring this conflict to an immediate cessation, as you point out. As you also point out, this is not going to happen. Palestinians are certainly entitled to ask why someone doesn't do something tangible to stop the slaughter.
Edward Fido | 06 August 2014

For a scholarly appraisal of the zionist ideology and other socio-political complexities which deny justice and freedom to so many in this chronically tragic country, may I suggest jewish author Mark Braverman's fine work 'Fatal Embrace'.
Caroline Ryan RSM | 06 August 2014

I think the term "British Palestine" says it all. By what right did the Brits "own" Palestine or decide how it should be parcelled out.
Cath Wallace | 06 August 2014

No where in his article does Raff Piccolo mention Hamas nor their responsibility for the appalling slaughter in Gaza. Certainly, Israel can be condemned for its humiliatingly treatment of Palestinians over the decades, for arrogantly extending Jewish West Bank settlements and for poorly targeted missile attacks that have boosted Gazean deaths. But Hamas has created this awful situation by constantly firing missiles into Israel, knowing that Israel will respond with devastating force that will kill many Gazeans. Hamas has also stored missiles in or next to UN facilities and hospitals making them targets for Israeli attacks, further maximizing civilian deaths (while Hamas fighters safely hide in the tunnels during such attacks). Clearly, Hamas cares little that nearly 1900 Gazeans who have so far been killed. Hamas figures that the more Gazean deaths the more Israel’s name is blackened globally. When will Gazeans finally realize this and rebel against Hamas and see them for the cynical ruthless opportunists they are? Israel left Gaza in 2005 in the hope that the Gazeans and Hamas would peacefully develop Gaza. Instead Hamas has used Gaza to launch attacks on Israel ever since – except when rival Hamas militias have been fighting each other for political control in Gaza. What a mess.
dennis | 07 August 2014

Thank you Raff. At last a Catholic response to the deaths and destruction in Palestine. You reassure me, we can be called "Children of God".
Roy Fanthome | 07 August 2014

I am appalled by the antisemitism of the Christian left. Israel need not apologise for effectively defending itself against those of a genocidal mindset
Adrian | 08 August 2014

As long as Hamas intends to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, Israel will resort to overwhelming force to prevent that happening to its people. History is a great teacher . It is very sad to see ordinary people in Gaza being sacrificed in this altest conflict so an extremist group can carry out its ideology . I certainly do not condone to killing of civilians nor do I support the siting of military infrastructure in an densely populated area as Hamas is seen to be doing. Sadly the conduct of warfare today is incredibly ghastly in its impact on ordinary people. I just hope that ordinary people on both sides will prevail over the politicians and ideologues in a rising up of "people power".
Gavin | 08 August 2014

The Hamas Charter is used again and again as an excuse to kill Palestinians. Yes they chose the wrong leaders who are anti-semitic. But it is not realistic to say that Hamas has much power at all to carry out those goals. Israel on the other hand has the overwhelming power. The Israelis also chose the wrong leaders: leaders who justify war crimes, who advocate the elimination of Palestinians, the destruction of water sources, extra-judicial executions, putting Gazans on a calorie controlled 'diet' through the blockade. Such rhetoric is more dangerous since Israel has the fire power. The tiny amount of negotiating power Hamas has is surprisingly being used for humanitarian ends- to end the 7 year blockade -which is killing Palestinians and Israel refuses to budge on it. Gaza is now a horrific prison full of overflowing morgues and dead bodies that can't even be stored in working refrigerators since the power plants have been bombed. It is a public health disaster with bombed hospitals, not enough medical supplies and undrinkable water.
Anne | 08 August 2014

Israel was created in 1947 by the UN like many other countries in Europe and the Middle East. The IDF has fought six wars for over seventy years to be free. Hamas still fight on like a punch-drunk lightweight fighting a heavy weight aiming to exterminate all Jews in Israel. Hamas is explicit. They are engaged in an apocalyptic war between Muslim vs Christian and Jew. Hamas cannot contain any idea of peace with Israel. No where does Raff Piccolo mention the Hamas and their responsibility for the appalling slaughter in Gaza. Israel has learned, sadly and the hard way, that Radical Islam only understands the use of absolute force. Hamas constantly fires missiles into Israel from or next to UN facilities and hospitals. They know this makes Palestinians targets for Israeli attacks but Hamas uses civilian deaths as part of their propaganda war and each death is a martyrdom. Hamas seized political control in Gaza and the Palestinians accepted their governance in a so-called 'democratic' vote. The Israelis offered peace at a price - i.e. the cessation of missiles into Israel - a country the equivalent of Gawler to Victor Harbour and Brighton to Woodside - That's all!
Dr Karl H Cameron-Jackson | 10 August 2014


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