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Opinion | War in Gaza: what can be done to restore humanity and make Israel accountable

Opinion | War in Gaza: what can be done to restore humanity and make Israel accountable
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Chandran Nair is the founder of the Global Institute for Tomorrow and member of the Club of Rome. He is also the author of Dismantling Global White Privilege: Equity for a Post-Western World and The Sustainable State: The Future of Government, Economy and Society. In a separate essay below, he spells out steps to untangle the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

In Gaza, the echoes of violence have reverberated every single day for months. We are witnessing the erasure of an entire society in real time, television cameras rolling, live-streamed, into living rooms across the planet, as children watch other children being killed.

Innocent Palestinians continue to be slaughtered daily while the very foundations of society – hospitals, schools, power stations, factories, water supply infrastructure – are systematically destroyed by the most powerful military alliance in the world. This is a military alliance led by Israel and the United States, and supported by other Europeans. It is a modern military empire that has written itself into the history books with its moral vacuum. But it will have nowhere to hide when the truth is fully revealed, supported by thousands of pictures and videos documenting the destruction in Gaza.

The repeated global calls for peace and a ceasefire have been ignored by the agents of this assault, committing war crimes in the process. So how can a lasting peace be secured amid such a fraught situation?

Palestinians carry the body of a person killed in an Israeli strike on a house, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, on May 20. Photo: Reuters

It begins with a recognition of what so many have knowingly shied away from doing: classifying the premeditated slaughter of tens of thousands for what it really is – a genocide.

International institutions which have prided themselves on calling out inconvenient truths of grave magnitude must seize this opportunity to put this on the record. To turn a blind eye is unconscionable and will result in them being on the wrong side of history. Too many institutions and public figures remain eerily silent for fear of being seen as anti-Semitic for standing up against a government oppressing Palestinians under the pretext of self-defence. The pursuit of an enemy in a war does not under international law permit a scorched earth policy.

It is time to fight back on behalf of the thousands of innocent children killed and make sure we mean, “never again”.

Amid the humanitarian disaster, a disquieting disparity has become apparent: while the Palestinians’ suffering pierces the global consciousness, the response of Western governments remains woefully inadequate and often downright inhumane. There seems to be no Western-backed coalition willing to stop the war in Gaza.

However, indignation in isolation cannot chart the course towards an enduring peace. The pressing question is this: how can the world cultivate a lasting resolution to this conflict in the Middle East and who should lead it going forward, given the complicity of the West in the catastrophe? There are three aspects to consider.

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Humanitarian aid workers delivering food killed in Gaza in ‘unintentional’ air strike

Humanitarian aid workers delivering food killed in Gaza in ‘unintentional’ air strike

International recognition of genocide

The first step towards a sustainable and lasting resolution necessitates a unified stance from the international community.

This begins with an honest acknowledgement, shared by all nations, that the situation in Gaza is nothing short of a genocide, perpetrated by the state of Israel.

The UN Special Rapporteur report provides a crucial foundation for such recognition. It concludes, based on the Israeli government’s intention to inflict collective punishment, the high civilian death toll, targeting of densely populated areas, and restrictions on humanitarian aid as well as forced starvation, that “reasonable grounds exist to believe the threshold indicating Israel’s commission of genocide is met”. The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) recent decision to seek arrest warrants for the Israeli prime minister is further proof that legal experts and the world at large will no longer tolerate Israel’s actions.

The statistics paint a chilling picture: Israel has unleashed 25,000 tons of explosives on Gaza, equivalent to the destructive power of two nuclear bombs. Over 30,000 Palestinians have died, including more than 13,000 children. An additional 12,000 are presumed dead, and 71,000 individuals have been wounded, many left with life-altering injuries. The assault has set records for the number of children, women, doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists and aid workers killed in a short period.

The conflict has uprooted 80 per cent of the population and 70 per cent of residential areas lie in ruins.

Te International Court of Justice logo in The Hague. The court issued a directive for Israel to take measures to prevent genocide in Gaza and ensure delivery of humanitarian aid. Photo: AFP

South Africa did the global community a service by bringing Israel before the International Court of Justice, accusing it of genocide. The court ruled that Israel must take measures to prevent genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, ensure the delivery of basic services and humanitarian aid, and deter and penalise any incitement to commit genocide. Would the court have issued such a directive if there wasn’t substantial evidence of genocide to begin with?

Therefore, the assertion that Israel is committing genocide is now broadly accepted and no longer dismissed as an unfounded allegation. The constant flood of painfully visual evidence has offered a burden of proof that will be hard to argue against in a court of international law, and the denial by the US and its Western allies only deepens the global resentment and loss of respect towards them.

Facing punitive action

Second, it is imperative that those within the Israeli government who have perpetrated this crime, along with their Western accomplices, must be held accountable for their actions. Gaza would become the precedent that makes it very clear the West does not hold itself accountable to international law and dictates what is right and wrong, driven by its self-interests to maintain its global hegemony. This form of privilege in international rules-setting and enforcement must be buried in the ashes of Gaza once and for all.

This process will trigger a sequence of actions aimed at conclusively ending Israel’s illegal occupation and oppression of Palestinians. It will crucially curtail the economic and military support it has received from its Western allies over the years, which has perverted its sense of its own painful history and stymied appreciation to coexist with Palestinians and its Arab neighbours.

Such a process will divest Israel of its much-abused privileges and the impunity that has facilitated its acts of violence. A carefully designed and targeted sanctions package must be part of this process, focused on military assistance, preventing Israel from gaining access to arms and exporting its own military technology and equipment to others.

People protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and call for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas, outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem on May 20. Photo: AP

In terms of safeguarding Israel, an international security umbrella led by the United Nations must be established to uphold the country’s security as long-term peace is built. The sanctions package should also impose restrictions on Israel’s ability to engage with the wider world. This would include banning Israel from participating in international sports and cultural events including the Olympics and football World Cup, reinforcing its growing status as a pariah state for its crimes against humanity.

However, it will be important to remember that the sanctions should not be imposed indiscriminately on the Israeli public.

The sanctions should not target citizens’ welfare and should not escalate to extreme levels. The primary objective of these sanctions is to encourage massive reforms in Israel, make it commit to a long-term peace pact with the Palestinians as brokered by the UN, prevent its allies from emboldening it to further its destructive path, and prevent Israel from destabilising the entire region as it has begun to.

This is neither a novel nor a severe approach. In periods when humanity has witnessed the ravages of war, the pursuit of justice has led to the prosecution of those responsible. This was evident in the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials following World War II, the ICC trials in Cambodia and Kosovo, and in South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

A man holds a placard reading “Supply weapons? No!” during the Ostermarsch (“Easter March”) in Berlin, Germany, in April 2022. Photo: EPA-EFE

Indeed, there are positive outcomes to be found in this. In the aftermath of World War II, Germany emerged as a beacon of how to acknowledge and respond appropriately after committing crimes against humanity. It became a symbol of how a nation should take responsibility for committing genocide against a group of people, the Jews.

Successive German governments took it upon themselves to educate future generations about their past wrongdoings to prevent history from repeating itself.

Demilitarisation was also part of the international consensus for both Germany and Japan.

Likewise, future generations of Israelis must come to terms with a similar reality. The acknowledgement of genocide must lead to sincere repentance and reform. Once this is accomplished, the international community can devise a plan for peaceful coexistence and hold all parties accountable in the construction of a new framework for peace and prosperity.

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Israeli forces open fire on crowd of Palestinians seeking aid,, as Gaza death toll surpasses 30,000

Israeli forces open fire on crowd of Palestinians seeking aid,, as Gaza death toll surpasses 30,000

Leading the peace process

This leads to the third and critically important point about who leads the process. The responsibility of establishing a framework for peace and prosperity is a collective global effort.

The US, through its historical support of the Israeli regime, including supplying weapons and funding this massacre, has forfeited its ability to participate in this process as it is technically complicit in this act of genocide.

It is crucial the world does not allow the West to disregard international law and works together to uphold it. Justice must be visibly served, as enduring peace can only be established once the current genocidal leadership in Israel is disarmed. The blueprint for lasting peace must include all necessary guarantees for both Israel and the Palestinians, overseen by the UN or a specially established body.

A main reason why the US cannot adjudicate this process is the blood on its hands thanks to the proliferation of the military-industrial complex (MIC) and its role in exacerbating the Gaza conflict. The MIC is a significant component of the US political economy, which stokes geopolitical tensions and enables nations and private entities to instigate and profit from conflict.

The MIC blatantly finds the war in Gaza highly profitable. Executives from weapons companies and leaders from the private sector have also publicly expressed their enthusiasm for the profitable opportunities that war presents.

Israeli tanks near a border crossing to the southern Gaza strip, Israel, on May 5. Photo: Bloomberg

Remarkably, the interest in the US in safeguarding Israeli military interests is apolitical in nature. Despite being a deeply divided nation, the US unites in its defence of Israel, a stance agreed upon by both Republicans and Democrats. The root of this support is the powerful “evangelical lobby”, which exists on both sides of the political divide. The MIC requires an ideological base to politically support proxy wars, and that base is provided by Christian evangelicals.

Because they exist on both sides, and all administrations and politicians must cater to this base, the support of Israel is unconditional.

It is untenable that global stability is so unduly influenced by a nation where internal political divisions and the quest for power, driven by among other things religious fanaticism, are allowed to exacerbate religious conflicts elsewhere, threatening world peace.

Another reason why the West cannot oversee the peace-building process is because there is a considerable likelihood the US and its allies may also be implicated alongside Israel. More than 600 legal professionals, academics and retired senior judges have cautioned that the British government is violating international law by persisting in its arms supply to Israel.

The UN Security Council holds a meeting on the situation in Gaza at the UN headquarters in New York on May 20. Photo: Handout via Xinhua

As such, those who have fuelled the tensions in the past are precluded from presiding over the matter. The decision must be rendered by an impartial entity composed of the international community led by the UN.

In essence, the genocide must be halted, Israel must be held accountable on a global scale, and it must bear the consequences of this crime while at the same time having its security guaranteed. Subsequently, peace must be constructed by the collective international community, allowing both Israel and Palestinians to thrive together. A key step towards this is for Palestine to be admitted as a full UN member and one can only hope the US does not continue to veto its application.

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