The international community must step up
Where do we go from here? After a summer of bloodshed and fear in Israel and Gaza, what can the left do to keep alive hopes for long-term peace and stability?
It is vital to recognise that Israel was forced into this conflict by Hamas, which has indiscriminately launched rockets and mortars, around 4,000 since 8 July alone, with the intent of killing as many civilians as possible. No country could ignore such attacks on its people, and the idea that Israel can disregard the infiltration of terrorists into its southern cities from deeply dug tunnels is simply naive.
It is also important to acknowledge – something largely missing from debate around the current conflict – that the international community totally failed to discharge the responsibility it undertook at the end of the last Israel-Hamas war, in 2008-9, to prevent weapons reaching terrorist groups in Gaza. Israel has thus had to shoulder this burden alone.
This is not a war between Israel and the Palestinian people, but between Israel and Hamas terrorists. Too many on the left are silent on the abuses of human rights perpetrated on the civilian population of Gaza by Hamas, like the recent execution of at least 25 people accused of ‘collaborating’ with Israel. Moreover, those who call for the end of the blockade are similarly silent when presented with the fact that concrete sent to Gaza to build schools and hospitals was used instead to build terror tunnels.
The only sustainable solution to the conflict involves disarming Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza, together with a programme of comprehensive reconstruction, probably overseen by the Palestinian Authority with support from Egypt and others. A ceasefire which weakens Hamas and restores the Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip with Israeli support could be a stronger basis for advancing the peace process.
No government or state should be immune from criticism. But, sadly, by adopting a one-sided language of condemnation and ignoring the causes and context of the current conflict, some on the left appear more interested in demonising Israel than helping achieve a lasting peace. It is unfortunate that some of those voices include people in elected roles. What is needed instead is grown-up, credible policymaking which seeks solutions, not to apportion blame.
Progressives should also seek to strengthen the position of our Israeli Labor comrades and others on the Israeli left. As the secretary general of the Israeli Labor party, Hilik Bar, has argued, Israel needs to feel that the international community understands its security needs, and that it is willing to recognise in word and deed the country’s need to protect itself. Without believing that it has the backing of its western allies in defending itself from terrorist attacks, even the Israeli ‘peace camp’ will not be able to make the case for territorial concessions in the West Bank.
The international community failed Israel and the Palestinians after the previous rounds of fighting. Now, in the months ahead, it is important that we maintain an environment on the left which supports the emergence of a two-state solution: one that fulfils the legitimate aspirations of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to live alongside one another in safety, security and peace.
Jennifer Gerber is director of Labour Friends of Israel