Opinion

How many more lives must be lost in Gaza before the world comes to its senses? – Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Tom Collins is an Irish News columnist and former editor of the newspaper.

Palestinians wounded in the ongoing Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip arrive at a hospital in Rafah
Palestinians wounded in the ongoing Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip arrive at a hospital in Rafah Palestinians wounded in the ongoing Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip arrive at a hospital in Rafah

THE sheer scale of the loss of life in Gaza is incomprehensible. Some 18,000 people have died and countless more have been injured at the hands of the Israel Defence Forces.

Israelis too have suffered, not just in the shocking Hamas attack in early October which claimed so many innocent lives, but in the war of attrition which has followed.

Ireland’s response has been compassionate and nuanced. But elsewhere, what has been happening in Gaza has become a proxy for geo-political manoeuvring between the west and Russia.

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The United States’ default position is, and likely always will be, to side with Israel. It’s not just about the size of the Jewish vote in the US. Israel is of enormous strategic, political and military importance. It is seen as a democratic bulwark in the Middle East, and a counterbalance to Soviet interests in the region.

But the Biden administration has lost a significant amount of political capital – particularly among younger voters – over its championing of the Netanyahu regime. Yet even in the face of a forthcoming election, that opposition does not seem to have tempered the US response. America continues to arm Israel with weapons that are about attack, rather than defence.

Mourners carry the body of Mahmoud Abu Haniyeh (17) during his funeral at the town of Azzun in the West Bank. The Palestinian Health Ministry said Abu Haniyeh was killed during clashes with the Israeli army on Saturday
Mourners carry the body of Mahmoud Abu Haniyeh (17) during his funeral at the town of Azzun in the West Bank. The Palestinian Health Ministry said Abu Haniyeh was killed during clashes with the Israeli army on Saturday Mourners carry the body of Mahmoud Abu Haniyeh (17) during his funeral at the town of Azzun in the West Bank. The Palestinian Health Ministry said Abu Haniyeh was killed during clashes with the Israeli army on Saturday

The refusal of the US to push for a ceasefire in the face of such carnage is shocking. The UK’s support for a US veto on calls for a ceasefire is no less shocking, if unsurprising. It is another client state.

Meanwhile, the United Nations – which has lost more than 100 aid workers since the conflict began – is impotent; its voice blunted by vetos wielded in the Security Council.

It is abundantly clear that Netanyahu has embarked on a scorched earth policy. This is not about the pursuit of Hamas – every bomb and bullet makes Hamas stronger – it is about the subjugation of the Palestinian people, and the expansion of Israel’s borders.

It is also about the Israeli prime minister doing all he can to deflect attention from his personal and political problems. Like too many populists on the right, the whiff of corruption surrounds him. His trial on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust, paused after the Hamas attack, is underway again.

The greater charge against him in the eyes of many Israelis is his culpability for the intelligence failures which opened the door for Hamas into southern Israel.

Friends and relatives of Israeli still hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas attend a rally calling for their release
Friends and relatives of Israeli still hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas attend a rally calling for their release Friends and relatives of Israeli still hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas attend a rally calling for their release

It is the job of Israelis to call his government to account for that.

It is the job of the global community to call him to account for the humanitarian disaster he has unleashed on one of the world’s most vulnerable people. The civilian population has felt the full force of Israeli power. The majority of those killed are women and children. The number of ‘combatants’ killed is minuscule.

The Israel Defence Forces are so named to make a point. But it is a misnomer to use the word ‘defence’ in its title. What is happening in Gaza proves that.

Closer to home, there has been a concerted attempt to brand any criticism of the Israeli offensive as ‘antisemitic’. It’s an accusation that is being deliberately deployed to silence people. But there is nothing antisemitic about those in Israel itself who argue that Netanyahu has become Hamas’s main recruiting sergeant.

Israel has a right to exist, within agreed borders, and at peace with its neighbours. But so too do the Palestinian people.

The focus of the global community – and because of its ‘special relationship’ with Israel, the focus of the US – must be an end to the current campaign in Gaza, a massive injection of humanitarian aid and a programme of reconstruction, and talks designed to bring about long-term stability to the region.

And that will necessitate an end to Israeli expansionism – state sponsored as well as illegal annexations of land by fundamentalists – and a fully-fledged sovereign state of Palestine.

How many more lives must be lost before the world comes to its senses?