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Reflections on Palestine and Israel

A member blog post by

Frances Guy

Scotland's International Development Alliance

Since the issuance of the Balfour declaration in 1917[i] the history of the Palestinians and the Israelis has been one of pain and injustice. The last few weeks have increased that pain to new levels. There are no excuses for the inhumane actions being carried out by all sides to this conflict, in contravention of the laws of international conflict redrafted after the second world war with the specific aim to seek to protect civilians (It is worth remembering when invidious attempts are made to draw comparisons with WWII: the Geneva conventions are designed to stop a repetition of that horror.)

The recognition of the humanity of all civilians is in danger of being lost in the increased bombardment, bombastic language and vile rhetoric on all sides as well as the cruelty of a siege restricting access to basic human necessities.

For our members who have colleagues seeking to provide succour to those most in need despite their own deprivation, we can only express our total solidarity and hope that the small amount of aid trickling through Rafah offers some solace of sorts.

Railing against injustices committed on all sides does not take us forward, except perhaps to remind our politicians to seek to uphold international humanitarian law.

The least we can all do is support some key demands that Amnesty International and others have drawn up:  

  1. The importance of all parties adhering to international law – this includes an obligation to distinguish between combatants and civilians at all times, not to use collective punishment, and not to attack medical facilities and personnel. 
  2. Demand an urgent ceasefire leading to a long-term political solution that leads to peace, security and dignity for both Palestinians and Israelis
  3. Keep insisting on urgent humanitarian access into Gaza – the situation has reached catastrophic proportions 
  4. Call for an end to the ‘total siege’ that Israel imposed on 9 October
  5. Call for a release of all Israeli hostages
  6. Support an ICC investigation into possible war crimes with the guarantee of accountability 

The risks of expansion of the conflict are real; Hezbollah has sought to pin down the Israeli military by hitting key targets in the north and Israel has retaliated. There have been deaths on both sides, mostly so far of belligerents to the conflict. One error and this delicate balance can quickly end. It is no one’s interest that the war expands, it is certainly not in the Palestinians interest that it continues.

As humanitarian and development actors we can also be ready to provide succour when opportunities arise and keep pressing our governments to push for access. Beyond the horrors of the moment the psychological aftermath will require enduring support and understanding making it all the more tragic when teachers and artists providing relief to children are named amongst the dead in Gaza.

A further complication is the danger of misinformation and heightened rhetoric which has led to increased anti-semitic acts throughout Europe combined with an anti-muslim backlash. This world of disinformation is difficult for all of us to navigate even those of us who have spent time in the Middle East. I dare to share a few pieces of relevance:

[1] Balfour Declaration: The divisive legacy of 67 words – BBC News

For those interested in the history of British involvement in mandate Palestine this short video is worth watching

For a recent considered update see

In this fast moving situation we have to hope that the increasing calls for a ceasefire will be listened to.

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