The Guardian • Issue #1963

“How long will it last?”: Ceasefire in Palestine

A ceasefire was declared between Israel and Hamas on the morning of 21st May, bringing a temporary halt to an eleven-day conflict on the Gaza Strip. However, the peace – if it can be called that – is tenuous, with each side expressing their willingness to retaliate if the other breaks the ceasefire agreement. 230 Palestinian civilians were killed during the latest conflict, including sixty-five children, while 1,710 were wounded. This has been one of the most intense periods of conflict in years.

The tensions were precipitated by the latest round of Israeli land-grabs in East Jerusalem, and quickly spread to Gaza via Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for rockets launched by Hamas. The airstrikes were indiscriminate, destroying lives, homes and infrastructure across the Gaza Strip. For more on the recent history of the conflict, see Guardian #1961 “Israel kills dozens in Gaza airstrikes, escalates land theft and Palestinian expulsions” and Guardian #1962 “Israel’s genocide of Palestinians continues.”

Qatar and Egypt brokered the ceasefire deal, which was met with resounding celebrations from Palestinians as thousands flocked into the streets to celebrate. Given the length of the conflict, however, these celebrations will likely be short-lived. Saudi Arabia, France, Iran, Sudan, the European Union, and many others welcomed the ceasefire.

China pledged $1mil in emergency aid and a further $1mil for the United Nations relief fund. China’ foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said:

“The international community should promote the resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel, and achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Palestine issue on the basis of the two-state solution …”

Turkey also welcomed the ceasefire but said that Israel should be held accountable for its crimes during the conflict. Russia also stated that the ceasefire on its own is insufficient, with Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova saying, “in order to avoid a resumption of violence, we must double international and regional efforts on relaunching direct political negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated:

“I stress that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have a responsibility beyond the restoration of calm to start a serious dialogue to address the root causes of the conflict … Gaza is an integral part of the future Palestinian state and no effort should be spared to bring about real national reconciliation that ends the division.”

Those “root causes of the conflict” seem to be at odds with the general aims of “national reconciliation,” seeing as the conflict is over land possession, with Israel steadily taking more and more land from Palestinians. Israeli land grabs precipitated this latest conflict in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem which saw the forced eviction of Palestinians from their homes by the Israeli government.

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has extensively tweeted about the method it uses to determine whether or not there is a Hamas “threat” in a location and insists upon the precision of its airstrikes. However, the number of civilians killed and wounded leads one to question how accurate these strikes really are. One such example is the bombing of the eleven-story building that housed the local offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press (AP) news agencies in Gaza. The IDF claimed in a tweet the following day that they believed the building to be housing Hamas intelligence assets.

They justified the strike as follows:

“After providing advance warning to civilians & time to evacuate, IDF fighter jets struck a multi-story building containing Hamas military intelligence assets. The building contained civilian media offices, which Hamas hides behind and deliberately uses as human shields.”

Levelling entire buildings does not seem like a particularly accurate way of neutralising Hamas military assets. This is compounded by the claim that the AP’s top editor, Sally Buzbee, has yet to see any actual evidence behind the justification for the strike, either from Israeli officials or from the IDF. The AP has requested an independent investigation into the strike.

This conflict is at least partly a result of-long term United States interests in the region. Joe Biden has continued this long tradition. Biden has already been on the phone with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, about efforts to rebuild destroyed Palestinian infrasturcture following the eleven-day conflict. While this seems like a humanitarian gesture, this particularly bankrupt form of diplomacy comes after Biden recently approved a $735 mil weapons deal with Israel. In talks with el-Sisi, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged $75mil to help in the rebuilding efforts in Palestine, only $660mil less than the weapons deal Biden made. The hypocrisy becomes so much more glaring after Biden’s comments that:

“I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy […]. My administration will continue our quiet, relentless diplomacy toward that end. I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress and I am committed to working for it.”

One would think promoting a ceasefire and a peaceful resolution would not involve selling more weapons to one side of the conflict.

The actions of the Israeli state are reprehensible, and, for a concrete analysis of what is occurring, we need to be clear with our terms. “Israeli,” “Jewish,” and “Zionist” do not all mean the same thing. Israelis, Zionists, and Jewish people can each have strong – and very different – positions on what is, and has been happening, for a very long time in Israel. Judaism is a religious orientation, Israelis are citizens of the State of Israel, and Zionists are Jewish nationalists, though even amongst proponents of Zionism there is internal disagreement about where a Jewish state should be, dating back to the beginnings of the movement – see Nathan Birnbaum, or to understand the other side of the argument, see Theodor Herzl. Criticising the Israeli state is no excuse to smuggle in antisemitism against Jewish people and it only serves to create a hostile environment for Jewish people globally.

Australia is also founded on the displacement of indigenous people, but it is no hypocrisy to criticise the actions of the Israeli state in Palestine. We ought to openly criticise not only our own state but also the people who uphold it. The current situation is the result of the colonial ambitions of England during Israel’s establishment, along with US geopolitical interests in the Middle East. There is no quick and easy fix to deal with settler states, but the fundamental basis of any analysis is a clear understanding of who supports and upholds those states, and who opposes them with class solidarity and organisation.

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