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Justice for Palestine is the key to Gaza peace

By Peter Tatchell

My heart goes out to Israeli and Palestinian civilians caught in the current cross-fire. The Gaza conflict is affecting too many innocents on both sides.

Those traumatised include not only civilians who’ve lost loved ones or been injured but also everyone (millions of Palestinians and Israelis) who live in daily fear of attack. The psychological and emotional strain is immense. No one should have to endure this unrelenting fear and trauma – which they’ve been subjected to for decades.

This is why it is so important to find a lasting peaceful solution that can ensure security for both Jews and Arabs.

The Israeli seizure and occupation of Palestinian land, and the denial of a Palestinian state, is the root cause of the on-going conflict and the current flare up in Gaza. That’s a fact. There will be no enduring peace without first securing justice for the people of Palestine.

A genuine injustice is what gives the Islamist fanatics influence. While the injustice exists, they will continue to exploit it.

This is a viewpoint shared by many Israelis and by many in the Jewish Diaspora. They reject the hardline stance of the current Israeli government. They, too, recognise that justice is a precondition for peace.

Palestinians have a right to their own homeland – just like Jews. It is time to secure peace, justice, equality and security for all – Palestinians and Israelis – with two co-existing states based on the 1967 borders.

I am joining with more than 1.5 million other people to urge world leaders to press for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and to recognise an independent Palestinian state, as the most effective way to break the log jam in the stalled peace process. I’ve signed the Avaaz petition.

While rocket attacks on Jewish civilians are absolutely wrong, Israel’s escalation in Gaza risks sparking a major regional conflict, possibly involving Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah. This is not in the interest of the people of Israel, Palestine or the wider region.

Palestinians are justified to non-violently resist Israel’s seizure of land, demolition of houses, destruction of crops and the killing of civilians. The divisive, sectarian ‘apartheid wall’ and the building of illegal Jewish settlements on the West Bank undermines the prospects for peace and plays into the hands of Islamist extremists.

Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians does not justify Islamists firing rockets into Jewish civilian areas. Nor do rocket attacks justify Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and the consequent civilian deaths.

Israeli actions are tantamount to the terrorisation and collective punishment of the Gaza population, which is illegal under international law. The same is true of attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Islamist groups.

Killing civilians is a war crime – whoever does it, for whatever reason. The human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians must be protected.

The cycle of attack and counter-attack, revenge and pay-back, is immoral and futile. Neither side gains. Insecurity is compounded and the seeds of further conflict are sown.

An-eye-for-an-eye leaves everyone blind.

The Hamas regime in Gaza is guilty of serious human rights abuses against its own Palestinian citizens, including unfair trials, torture and executions.

See, as one example, the Human Rights Watch report: Abusive System: Failures of Criminal Justice in Gaza, October 2012,

Hamas has also sanctioned rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

It is truly shocking the way some western pro-Palestinian, anti-war and left-wing groups variously defend or excuse Hamas. As well as being anti-Semitic, Hamas is an authoritarian, reactionary movement.

While people are right to be critical of Israel’s stance towards the Palestinians, it is also important to defend the Jewish people against Islamists and other anti-Semites.

As to the way forward for peace in the Middle East:

The long-term interests and security of the Jewish people would be best served if Israel seized the moral high ground by unilaterally withdrawing from its illegal occupation of the West Bank (illegal according to the UN and international law), ending the siege of Gaza and dismantling the separation wall (which unjustly divides Palestinian communities from each other and often from their farmland).

Israel should simultaneously recognise an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and join with the international community, including Western nations, to fund Palestinian schools, houses, roads, libraries and hospitals, to reassure the Palestinian people and win their hearts and minds.

Such an initiative would have a huge positive impact. It would win worldwide praise for Israel and do more than anything else to counter the de-legitimation that it fears.

This grand gesture of justice and reconciliation would seriously weaken Hamas and the jihadists. They would lose the raison d’etre for their hardline stance. They would become marginalised within Palestinian society. Many (possibly most) ordinary Palestinians would begin to change their attitudes to Israel and be won for peace – healing wounds and building new bonds between Jew, Arab, Christian and Muslim.

A just peace where Jews and Arabs live together in equality and harmony sounds hard to believe right now, but it can happen – with political will on both sides, supported by the international community.

In northern Ireland, the idea of arch enemies, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, sharing political power in a joint government administration was, only a decade ago, inconceivable. Now it has happened. If peace and equality can come to northern Ireland, why not to Israel and Palestine?

Give peace a chance.