Gaza Ceasefire Now!

Amidst the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, Susan Pashkoff's article, written on November 12. provides context for the current crisis while unequivocally condemning all attacks on civilians as war crimes that violate international law. Pashkoff argues that an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian relief for Gazans are urgently needed to prevent further loss of life. Main Image Steve Eason.

 

“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”

(Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Lous Bonaparte, 1852).

We are witnessing a humanitarian disaster and war crimes unfolding in Gaza as the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Israeli government continue to bomb Gaza while conducting a ground offensive. Because communication is unavailable, the following figures relating to deaths and injuries have not been updated since November 11, so expect the numbers to increase.

On November 10, the death toll from October 7 stood at around 1200 Israelis and foreign nationals and 240 hostages taken by Hamas fighters. In Gaza, we know that the death toll of Palestinians has passed 11,100. According to Reliefweb, there are more than 2,200 people reported missing in Gaza, including 1,270 children, most of whom are trapped under the rubble. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than 70% of fatalities are children, women, and the elderly.

London Protest: Ceasefire Now!

The Current Situation

Graphic from Aljazeera showing damage in Gaza.
  • Since the start of the latest hostilities on October 7, 258 school buildings have sustained damage, representing more than 51% of all schools in the Gaza Strip.
  • According to Euromed Human Rights Monitor, as of November 9, 66 mosques have been totally destroyed, 146 have been partially damaged, and 3 historic churches have been damaged, including Gaza’s Saint Porphyrius Church, which was built between 1150 and 1160, and a rocket landed nearby, leading to its partial collapse on October 20.
  • The Committee for the Protection of Journalists reports:
  • “As of November 11:

40 journalists and media workers were confirmed dead: 35 Palestinian, 4 Israeli, and 1 Lebanese.

Eight journalists were reported injured.

Three journalists were reported missing.

13 journalists were reported to have been arrested.

Multiple assaults, threats, cyberattacks, censorship, and killings of family members.

CPJ is also investigating numerous unconfirmed reports of other journalists being killed, missing, detained, hurt, or threatened, and of damage to media offices and journalists’ homes.”

  • According to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), posted on November 11 , Al Shifa Hospital, where MSF personnel are working, released the following information:

“Over the past 24 hours, hospitals in Gaza have been under relentless bombardment. Al-Shifa hospital complex, the biggest health facility where MSF staff are still working, has been hit several times, including the maternity and outpatient departments, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. The hostilities around the hospital have not stopped. MSF teams and hundreds of patients are still inside Al-Shifa Hospital. MSF urgently reiterates its calls to stop the attacks against hospitals, for an immediate ceasefire, and for the protection of medical facilities, medical staff, and patients.”

Medecins Sans Frontieres
  • Al Quds Hospital, the second-biggest hospital in Gaza, is no longer functioning due to a fuel shortage.
  • According to the Director General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a report given to the Security Council of the UN on November 10th 2023:

“Since the 7th of October, WHO has verified more than 250 attacks on health care in Gaza and the West Bank, in addition to 25 attacks on health care in Israel—hospitals, clinics, patients, ambulances.

Last week, WHO documented five attacks on five hospitals in one day.

In the past 48 hours alone, four hospitals have been put out of action, representing some 430 beds.

[…] Half of the Gaza Strip’s 36 hospitals and two-thirds of its primary health care centres are not functioning at all. Those that are functioning are operating way beyond their capacities. The health system is on its knees, and yet somehow is continuing to deliver some lifesaving care.

The best way to support those health workers and the people they serve is by giving them the tools they need to deliver that care – medicines, medical equipment, and fuel for hospital generators.

Field hospitals and emergency medical teams can complement and support existing hospitals and health workers in Gaza, but they cannot replace them.”

Director General of the World Health Organisation
The Jewish Voice for Peace Protest at the Statue of Liberty
The Jewish Voice for Peace Protest at the Statue of Liberty

  • The UN reports the deaths of 101 employees working for UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency). In a report released on November 9, UNRWA reported the following:
     
  • “In the last 24 hours, UNRWA received confirmation that seven additional colleagues were killed. 99 UNRWA colleagues have been killed and at least 26 injured since the start of hostilities. This is the highest number of United Nations aid workers killed in a conflict in the history of the United Nations.
  • Since 4 November, Israel has opened a humanitarian “corridor” along the main North–South Road in the Gaza Strip from 10 am to 2 pm. As a result, at least 70,000 people – mostly walking – have traveled from north to south. The UN and NGOs are supporting through monitoring and providing water and some food just south of Wadi Gaza.
  • Almost 1.6 million people have been displaced across the Gaza Strip since 7 October. Two additional shelters were opened in the Middle area. Nearly 742,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are now sheltering in 151 UNRWA installations across all five governorates of the Gaza Strip, including in the north.
  • Over 582,000 IDPs are sheltering in 94 facilities in the Middle, Khan Younis and Rafah areas. Nearly 160,000 IDPs were sheltering in 57 UNRWA schools in the northern and Gaza areas as of 12 October 2023, before the evacuation order was issued by the Israeli Authorities. UNRWA is not able to access these shelters to assist or protect the IDPs and does not have information on their needs and conditions.”

The violence against Palestinians is not confined to Gaza; there have been increasing levels of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, especially in Jenin.

Report from The West Bank, including East Jerusalem:

  • A demolition by the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) took place in Shufat refugee camp, in the early morning of 8 November, which lasted five hours. The demolition, using explosives, targeted the home of a 13-year-old, who stabbed an ISF officer at the checkpoint in February.
  • Several ISF personnel forced their way into an UNRWA installation during the operation, under protest by Agency staff. All UNRWA operations in the camp were suspended, including education services, affecting over 630 students.
  • The ISF launched a large-scale operation in Qalqiliya city (north of the West Bank) in the morning of 8 November, which included exchanges of fire with armed Palestinians. Multiple arrests and live ammunition injuries were reported. UNRWA schools suspended in-person classes, and transitioned to online learning, impacting over 1,400 students.
  • An ISF operation took place in Bethlehem in the afternoon and evening. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 61 injuries, including seven from live ammunition.”
  • According to B’tselem, 16 small and isolated communities on the West Bank have been forcibly transferred. According to ReliefWeb (Associated with OCHA) The death toll of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has now reached 165. In the city of Jenin alone, 30 people have been killed by Israeli Security Forces and Settlers and 162 have been injured according to Medecins Sans Frontieres. According to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, some 2,150 Palestinians have been detained by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the start of the conflict. If they are political prisoners, they also must be released.

International law is descending into farce

Hamas committed a war crime by attacking civilians in Israel and taking hostages back to Gaza. Recognising the grief of the victims and their families is the correct human and humanitarian response to the loss of innocent lives. But all human life is equally precious, and I hear the cries of grief of Palestinians equally. 

If it is not clear to people, there is no military solution to the situation; the only possible solution requires a democratic and diplomatic response.

Recognising that there is context for what happened does not justify what happened. However, in the absence of context, there is no way forward to try to propose changes that end the situation. Contrary to what the Israeli government and military are saying, this war does not begin on October 7. Moreover, this war has nothing to do with religion; lots of people try to hide their actions behind religion. This is not a war between Jews, Muslims, and Christians. This war has its roots in the actions of a colonial settler state that has set up an apartheid regime against Palestinians in Gaza, the occupied territories, and those living within the 1948 boundaries of Israel, as identified by B’tselem and Amnesty International.

This atrocity has not happened out of context, but the context is not a justification; it is simply stating what has led to this situation but does not justify the actions of an attack on civilians. Brutality does not justify brutality in response. The Palestinian people have lived with decades of oppression, living under Apartheid laws, a long-running blockade of the Gaza Strip formally instituted in 2007 following the election of Hamas, violations of human rights that have horrifically impacted the social and economic lives of people in the Gaza Strip, and the murder of innocent Palestinians by the Israeli military, successive Israeli governments, and settlers against Palestinians. It provides context for the attack but cannot justify what happened on October 7. This is a man-made situation that is in violation of International Humanitarian Law and only threatens to get worse due to relentless bombing, civilian deaths, and the destruction of homes, hospitals, religious buildings, and schools where people are sheltering from the bombing because they cannot flee the area. Those fleeing to South Gaza have no guarantee of shelter, safety, food, or water.

What the Israeli government and military are doing to Gaza is also a war crime. Collective punishment of those who have not committed a crime is a war crime.

Collective punishment is prohibited by Article 33 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. addresses this point which relates to Individual responsibility, collective penalties, pillage, reprisals:

“No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”

We are witnessing war crimes of collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza, along with violations of International Humanitarian Law against protected individuals (the civilian population, humanitarian relief workers, medical personnel, and journalists) and protected buildings (hospitals, schools, religious buildings (mosques and churches), and humanitarian relief agencies). Sieges are a violation of International Humanitarian Law, as is anything that threatens the survival of civilians in any war. Civilians caught in a war zone still have rights, among which are the right to food, electricity, and running water. Their survival must not be threatened.

All governments (and that includes the one conducting the war) are responsible for ensuring that civilian life is protected and preserved. Instead of ensuring humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza, several governments are supporting Israeli attacks on Gaza. They bleat about humanitarian pauses in the conflict; that is nonsense. They are ignoring their responsibilities under treaties which they have signed, (including the US, UK, and several other countries -Israel and Palestine are signatories to the Geneva Conventions) by refusing to provide support to Palestinians under siege. One cannot abstract from treaties you have signed and pretend that they do not apply to your allies. This is normalising collective punishment and a siege against civilians without providing for their general welfare. It is unacceptable, and we must demand that our governments stop this and provide humanitarian aid and assistance to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The UN has failed and is unable to stop what is happening. While a condemnation has been passed at the General Assembly, some countries have opposed it, while others have abstained. The UN Security Council resolution calling for “humanitarian pauses” failed due to the US veto. We must ask the obvious question: What is the purpose of international law and international humanitarian law if they cannot stop what is happening? This is a farce; either international law holds for everyone or it holds for no one. It looks like it is holding no one these days.

The reality is that it is not only the Israeli military and government that have blood on their hands; it is also the governments of the US and UK that refuse to demand a ceasefire.

While the UK has been mostly defanged at the international level (essentially serving the role of poodles to the US), it has historically had a special responsibility for the situation in Israel and Palestine. The government and the opposition in the UK have descended into a farce. Let’s say it is a good thing that no one takes the UK seriously these days.

Despite the government passing a series of laws (see: The Public Order Actthe Police, Crime Sentencing, and Courts Bill) preventing people from protesting and giving ridiculous powers to the police, they are unable to stop protests in solidarity with Gaza, which have been occurring regularly on Saturdays. Both the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and Home Office Secretary, Suella Braverman1, tried to get the Ceasefire Now march held yesterday (at least 500,000 participants) cancelled, arguing it was a violation of Remembrance Weekend. The police declined because the circumstances did not call for the cancellation of the protest. Somehow calling for an armistice on Armistice Day is disrespectful to those killed in wars and that it would somehow disrupt a 2-minute silence at the Cenotaph (this is despite the march being held at least a mile away and starting after the 2-minute silence).

Braverman calls these peace marches hate marches, and when the Metropolitan Police refused to cancel yesterday’s march calling for a Ceasefire Now, she wrote to a right-wing newspaper that the police are favourably biassed to the left (you can stop laughing now). In response, fascist groups decided to “protect” the Cenotaph. Yes, as expected, the violence against the police around the Cenotaph by fascists and in two other areas, where the fascists tried to attack the march, led to their arrests. Braverman is still the head of the Home Office and is still calling for action against “Hate Marches.”

lest we forget never again means gaza graphic. Poppies on barbed wire.

In the Labour Party (LP), Keir Starmer’s refusal to call for a ceasefire has led to local councillors resigning and signing statements in support of an immediate ceasefire. Several Constituency Labour Parties have passed motions calling for an immediate ceasefire, and there’s lots of disagreement among LP members. The fact that Starmer, a human rights lawyer, said there was no problem with a siege where water, electricity, and food were withheld did not, shall we say, endear him to LP members and supporters. While the UK government will not call for a ceasefire, the Welsh Senedd (Assembly) has.

Despite protest after protest demanding a ceasefire in Gaza, the US government refuses to do so. The US is probably the only state that could force the Israeli government and military into declaring a ceasefire, yet it has refused to do so. So, think about it: when the US government talks about human rights and international law in the future, why should anyone take them seriously?

We must demand an immediate ceasefire, the release of hostages and political prisoners held by both Hamas and the Israeli military and government, and humanitarian aid and assistance (food, medicine, water, electricity, and temporary housing) to be unconditionally provided for all residents of Gaza, both internally displaced and those who have not fled. We must demand a ceasefire; humanitarian pauses are insufficient. Bringing in humanitarian relief just to let the bombings and military operations continue denies the reality of what is happening in Gaza against the civilian population and other protected people and buildings. The ceasefire is urgent as we must prevent genocide; the stakes are that high.

We will march graphic.

We march in solidarity with Palestinians! 
We march to demand a cease fire!
We march to demand international action! 
We march to stop war crimes!

Footnotes

  1. This article was written before the sacking of Suella Braverman on 13 November 2023 ↩︎

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Susan Pashkoff is a revolutionary Marxist, Economist, political activist and blogger. She writes on issues around US and British politics and economics, gender and women's oppression, and disability.

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