A Ceasefire in Gaza

~ 23 February 2024 ~

The United States has vetoed another UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. It is the third time the US has blocked such a resolution. The reason behind the block was that a ceasefire would jeopardize talks to free the hostages and end the war.

Thirteen delegates of the body of 15 voted in favor of the resolution. The UK abstained, and the United States vetoed the Arab-backed resolution. US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said it was not the “right time” to call for a ceasefire.

With all due respect, Madame Ambassador… when IS the right time to call for a ceasefire? A glance at the present reality in the enclave shows some 1.9 million Palestinians have been forcibly internally displaced – that’s 83 percent of the total population of Gaza. Most of the displaced are living in makeshift shelters or tents in squalid conditions, and many are exposed to the elements. And all of them have very limited to zero access to safe drinking water or food. It truly is a man-made catastrophe.

At least 29,000 civilians have been killed; 74 percent of the deceased are women and children – so we know for certain Israel is not targeting only Hamas. Humanitarian aid into Gaza has all but come to a complete halt – and even when Israel approves aid to enter, and the route by which it takes, IDF still bombs the aid trucks. So… when will it be a good time to call for a ceasefire? How much more do the people of Gaza have to endure before it is a good time for you?

Self Defense or Absolute Destruction?

At this moment, we are way past the rationale of the war being about Israel’s self-defense. Gazan civilians are defenseless. Openly exposed to the fighting, they are without resources. Attacking aid trucks, indiscriminate bombing of civilian communities, starvation as a means to destroy the civilian population, and forced migration across country borders; all of which are war crimes. Taking into account that the acts are directed toward the Palestine population as a whole, the acts could be considered ethnic cleansing. And by the standard to which it is measured – genocide.

And these actions are being carried out by one of our close allies. Looking the other way, a time like this should keep the decision-makers awake at night. However, the relationship between the US and Israel has not splintered, despite the mass atrocities being committed by Israeli forces in Gaza.

There is a lesson here. Former President Bill Clinton has said many times that one of his biggest regrets as president was the failure to intervene in Rwanda. He said he feels a “lifetime responsibility.” Gaza is President Biden’s “Rwanda”. He has the power to intervene for the sake of humanity, to stop the suffering being poured out upon Palestinians, and to stop Israel from committing genocide.

There have been calls for the General Assembly to call a vote for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, and it would certainly pass. However, resolutions passed in the General Assembly are not legally binding. And herein lies the importance of a ceasefire resolution passed by the Security Council. Israel would be bound to follow any Security Council resolution as these are legally binding.

While it blocked the Arab-backed resolution, the US countered with its proposal. The US resolution calls for a temporary ceasefire on the condition that all the hostages are released. It requires that all of the barriers for aid to Gaza, be lifted, and it condemns Israel’s call for the resettlement of Gaza and rejects any attempt at demographic change that would violate international law.

However, it is not clear when the US intends to put its resolution up for a Security Council vote. It is also noteworthy that the US said that it would be “as soon as practicable”. The word “practicable” means when it is “useful”. Certainly, civilians in Gaza would find an immediate ceasefire pretty useful. And on the call for a “temporary” ceasefire… what happens after the hostages are released and all the other conditions are met? Would Israel return to its annihilation of Hamas and Gaza?

Threat to Rafah

There are 1.6 million displaced people, crammed into Rafah after being forced to seek shelter there from north Gaza. To put this in perspective, before the war about 250,000 Palestinians lived in Rafah. Now there are more than six times the number of people, with no resources, no humanitarian aid entering the area, no access to safe drinking water, no food, and extremely limited medical access. The UN issued a warning that an assault on the city of Rafah would result in the slaughter of unprotected civilians.

A ground offense in Rafah will have serious implications for regional peace and security. Having spent much of the war emphasizing its ally’s right to self-defense, the White House has come under vast international pressure to use its leverage to restrain Israel. Also, Washington issued an advisory for Israel to shelve the plan to attack Rafah.

But Netanyahu has consistently ignored the Biden administration’s calls to be more humane; to allow for humanitarian assistance, to reduce civilian casualties, and to taper its military push… to move for a peaceful resolution… a two-state solution. As the IDF launched air attacks on Rafah, killing internally displaced people sheltering in the city, Netanyahu continued his assault “…committed to continuing the war until we achieve our goals. There is no pressure, none, that can change this.” However, that is not true. A UN Security Council vote for a ceasefire would legally obligate him to stand down.

The Power to Bring About Peace

Whether you call it genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, crimes against humanity, or all of the above – we are all witnessing atrocities being committed in Gaza. The deaths of 29,000 civilians, at least 74% of whom are women and children, are not the collateral damage of war. It is deliberate and calculated. It is collective punishment. It is meant to eradicate the Palestinian people from Gaza.

The White House has the power to use its influence to bring about a ceasefire. The same measures it uses to bend other countries to do the right thing could do the same in this case with Israel. It has the power to open access to humanitarian aid, and it has the power to bring about lasting peace. Now is the time to use that power for good.

With gratitude… Lara

Photo credit: Gaza War Damage 2023 by Tasnim News Agency. Licensed under CC by SA 4.0

#thinkingoutloud #larakajs #ceasefireinGaza #Gaza #UNSC #Israel

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