It’s time to stop the bloodshed
The ‘International Day for Tolerance’ being marked today all over the world provides an opportunity for a decisive intervention that would make for the withdrawal of Israeli military troops from Gaza, to end the human suffering. While we deplore the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas and commiserate with the people, the current siege on Gaza, the humanitarian crisis that has followed and the death of thousands of innocent people, including women and children, cannot be justified under any guise. Whatever Israel may be trying to achieve in Gaza, the aftermath will be deeper hate, greater violence and a further deferment of the much-needed peace in the region.
Contrary to what some Nigerians have been conditioned to believe, the crisis in the Middle East is not about Christianity and Islam. In fact, it is one of the most complicated land disputes in history, which the world powers have failed abysmally to resolve because of apparent insincerity of purpose. The Question of Palestine is fundamentally about justice and tolerance which, as the United Nations reminds us in adopting 16th November every year as a day to promote the virtue, “is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.” That the Palestinians are being denied basic humanity is why the crisis persists and it is not likely to be resolved by the force of arms. Indeed, the main challenge in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis that has over the years led to a cycle of revenge killings, including the latest one, is the inability of stakeholders within the two societies to imbibe tolerance.
The UN mandate to partition Palestine “into two independent States, one Palestinian Arab and the other Jewish, with Jerusalem internationalised,” has failed because Israel believes that might is right. The situation is not helped by the United States and other Western powers. “One of the two envisaged States proclaimed its independence as Israel and in the 1948 war involving neighbouring Arab States expanded to 77 per cent of the territory of mandate Palestine, including the larger part of Jerusalem,” according to the UN. “Over half of the Palestinian Arab population fled or were expelled. Jordan and Egypt controlled the rest of the territory assigned by resolution 181 to the Arab State. In the 1967 war, Israel occupied these territories (Gaza Strip and the West Bank) including East Jerusalem, which was subsequently annexed by Israel. The war brought about a second exodus of Palestinians, estimated at half a million.”
The current Israeli military operation in Gaza has exceeded proportionality of response. The justifiable right to self-defence by Israel has tipped over into the territory of reckless invasion and wanton abuse of human rights. We are now witnessing a wanton display of superior fire power and the arrogance of might without due regard for the rights of others, notably ordinary Palestinians. Incidentally, the only path to Israel’s peace and security is through facilitating an independent Palestinian state next door. The extremities of the current operation make that end even more distant, hence an urgent global call for an immediate ceasefire followed by an honest quest for enduring peace.
Tolerance is indeed a moral resource direly needed by mankind today. Moral issues have been raised about the response of the world powers to the conflict. The humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza and West Bank should prick the conscience of our collective humanity. The United States and its European allies have the historical responsibility to demonstrate commitment to justice and fairness by treating the two-state solution with the needed sense of urgency. We join critical stakeholders all over the world in calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.