Palestinian civil society organizations are shocked at the irresponsible public reactions of major international aid agencies working in the oPt toward Israel’s latest military assault on Gaza.
In recent weeks, numerous international bodies and organizations have come out in condemnation of the senseless loss of Palestinian lives in Gaza that has now surpassed 900 casualties. In doing so, however, many of these entities have insisted on condemning “both sides” and calling for an unconditional ceasefire and return to negotiations:
• In a joint statement published by the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) on July 14, 34 major international organizations argued, “Military actions by all parties must stop,” explaining that, “military operations have failed to bring peace and security for people in Gaza and in Israel.” The appeal continued on to say that, “With civilians in Gaza killed by Israeli airstrikes and homes, schools, and water facilities damaged and destroyed and as rockets continue to be fired from Gaza towards Israel, we now call again for a ceasefire.”
• In a separate release on July 22, Christian Aid echoed similar remarks, explaining that the INGO “is explicit in its concern for the security of Israeli and Palestinians alike and publicly condemns the escalating violence by all sides.”
• On July 24, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon likewise issued a statement in response to news of a UN school in Gaza coming under fire, stating that he “condemned Hamas rocket fire and called on Israel to exercise particular care.” UNICEF issued a comparable announcement the following day, adding simply that “much more needs to be done to protect innocent children” without any reference to the Israeli rocket fire that hit the school.
The language in each of these positions reinforces the misconception that the current happenings in Gaza constitute a war being fought by two sides of equal capacity and legitimacy. In reality, Israel is executing a military campaign aimed at amassing as many Palestinian deaths as possible. Armed resistance from within the Gaza strip, however, is lead in struggle against an illegal blockade and broader occupation of Palestinian land.
Moreover, citing the consequences endured in Gaza in the same breath as those sustained in Israel once again perpetuates the erroneous notion that the two areas are facing conditions of relative likeness.
As supposed allies in the effort to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation and defend international law, we expect our partner INGOs and supporting UN bodies to do everything within their capacities to hold Israel accountable for its rights violations. This includes public recognition of the imbalance of power – politically, economically and
militarily – that Israel wields.
We therefore reject any statements that seek to portray Israel and Palestine as two equal sides and call on all condemnations of the current situation to recognize the following:
– Israel is executing a military assault on Gaza and explicitly targeting civilian populations in hospitals and designated safe zones. This assault is merely one component of the state’s systemic occupation of Palestinian land that has been continuous since 1948.
– As an area under military occupation, Palestinians have the legal right to defend themselves – including through armed struggle
– in accordance with United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/33/24 of 29 November 1978.
– Israel’s claim of “self-defense” is in contradiction of international humanitarian law, which does not identify such a pretext as a legitimate justification of force by an occupying power in the midst of ongoing armed conflict.
– The united Palestinian leadership has presented clear conditions, in accordance with international law, to which it will agree to a 10-year ceasefire with Israel.
These terms include an end to the suffocating blockade on Gaza since 2006, the release of hundreds of political prisoners illegally detained by Israel since June 12th 2014, the right to fishing in Gaza waters for up to 12 miles, access to and utilization of the buffer zones, free movement of goods in and out of Gaza and the opening of the Rafah border with Egypt. This proposal, which merely promotes the provision of basic human rights, has been effectively ignored by the international community and elicited zero response from Israel.
Aid agencies and UN bodies play a critical role in pressuring Israel to adhere to its international obligations as well as in shaping public perceptions of the Palestinian struggle.
As members of Palestinian civil society, we therefore call on all relevant groups to fulfill their stated purposes for being present in the oPt: That is, to accurately represent conditions on the ground and work in harmony with their Palestinian partners to protect their fundamental human rights. Aid alone is not sufficient to achieve this aim and ought not to be used merely to respond to the damages caused by Israel’s crimes.
Rather, we call on all of our allies to utilize their resources instead to address the root cause of this violence and advocate for an end to the Israeli occupation.
The Coalition for Jerusalem
Jerusalem, 28th July 2014