Israel-Gaza Conflict: Here We Are Again

To begin, I want to make my view clear that the attacks by both Israel and Hamas must be strongly condemned. Both sides have been displaying utter disregard for the right to life and a clear lack of interest in holding those responsible (including senior political and military leaders) accountable for grave human rights violations and violations of international law. This lack of accountability may have been a key factor in the resumption of hostilities and in the loss of hope for a peaceful and durable solution to the conflict that has existed for long between Israelis and Palestinians.

The ongoing indiscriminate targeting of civilians in conflict is illegal under international law and also morally reprehensible, even when one claims their right to self-defense. According to estimates by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), thousands (several of which were children) have been killed and injured since the fighting began on 7 July when Israel launched a military operation with the objective of halting rocket fire into its territory. Over 70% of those targeted have been civilians, and attacks have been launched onto hospitals, clinics and refugee camps, among other densely populated areas, such as residential homes. Meanwhile, Israel claims that Hamas militants have been using their own population as human shields by hiding them in these places.

On 23 July 2014, the UN Human Rights Council took a vote in Geneva to set up an independent investigative commission into what has been occurring in Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian territories. The commission would be an international one and would specifically investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. A seemingly well-intended first step was supported by 29 out of the 47 Council member states (with the exception of the US and 10 European countries) but has received criticism from Israel, which has already stated that it will not cooperate with the commission given that it views the Human Rights Council as anti-Israel. To refresh our minds, there is a precedent of lack of cooperation by Israel with a similar body. A UN Fact-finding Mission report on the Gaza Conflict dated 2009 (known as the 'Goldstone Report' due to the last name of the former judge and prosecutor who led the investigation) concluded that, in the context of Operation Cast Lead offensive of 2008-09, both sides had committed war crimes. On that occasion, once again, Israel rejected the findings of the document.

Beyond any legal analysis and moral speeches, the reality is that what is taking place right now is a massacre. Without entering into the debate surrounding the principle of proportionality, each side has a share of the blame in this situation and each side has undermined their own causes by showing a lack of restraint in their responses, making inflammatory statements that contain zero respect for victims, and just simply showing a lack of humanity. A cease-fire is needed immediately to allow for humanitarian relief efforts but a short-term halt will not, by any means, constitute a real solution that will withstand the passing of time. For that to happen, a lot will have to change, starting with discussing the fundamental issues, including the role of the Palestinian Authority in its control of Gaza and the existence of a two-state solution.