Gaza… For How Long ?

31 mai 2024
Day after day, the news that reaches us from Gaza can only arouse dismay, sadness and also anger. How can we bear the horror that unfolds daily before our eyes? How far will the ongoing massacre have to go before concrete, tangible, effective measures are finally taken to put an end to it? The Palestinian question has been on the international agenda since 1948… 76 years… but never before have we witnessed such a thirst for eradicating vengeance. How did it come to this?

The main reason lies in the sense of impunity that Israeli leaders have enjoyed for decades. They have never considered that the UN resolutions on this issue – and there are many of them – were binding and should be respected. Similarly, the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993, were condemned by Benyamin Netanyahu as soon as they were signed, before being reduced to rubble as soon as he came to power in 1996. Israel is certainly not the only country to fail to comply with international law, but the difference is that it has never been punished for doing so. This is why it allows itself to implement a policy that is contrary to the content of these resolutions. For example, the colonisation of Palestinian land condemned by Security Council Resolution 242 voted in November 1967 – 57 years ago – has been methodically trampled underfoot by successive Tel Aviv governments. The result: 10,000 Jewish settlers in 1972, 280,000 in 1993 and probably between 750,000 and 800,000 today in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

We could, of course, multiply the examples that have fuelled this feeling of permanent impunity over the years. Let’s just look at the sequence of the last few days, which perfectly reflects the strategy of the Israeli leaders. On 20 May 2024, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, submitted applications to the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber for the issue of five arrest warrants relating to the situation in Palestine. Two Israeli ministers and three Hamas leaders are concerned. The decision is historic because it is the first time that Israeli leaders, at the head of a state that claims to be democratic, have risked being nominally brought before international justice. The charges against the five individuals are also very serious: Benyamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The same charges have been brought against Yahia Sinwar, Mohammed Diaf and Ismaïl Haniyeh, even though the facts of the case are different.

The ICC Prosecutor’s request comes at a time when a legal process to examine the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been underway since 7 October, with several cases also being heard by another international court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ). And finally, other UN bodies regularly produce reports incriminating the Israeli leaders, such as the one on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, presented by Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories.

Finally, on Friday 24 May, the ICJ confirmed its previous orders and ordered Israel to immediately cease its military operations at Rafah and throughout the Gaza Strip.

As usual, the Israeli government not only ignored these opinions and demands, but on 26 May ordered the bombing of a camp for displaced persons, supposedly ‘secure’, where it had forced 100,000 Gazans to pile up. The carnage was terrible, with dozens of people visibly burnt alive. This outrageous show of contempt for international courts once again confirms the Israeli government’s propensity to believe it can do anything, even the unspeakable.

For all that, this contempt for repeated international demands is blinding Israeli officials who do not understand that the accumulation of breaches of international law is amplifying criticism of them and will leave indelible marks. For the moment, they are locked in a deadly headlong rush, without realising that the consequences will be harmful to their own future. Their claim to be trying to eradicate Hamas, which is still considered to be one of the main objectives of the war being waged, is a decoy designed to mask their thirst for revenge and their annexationist intentions. Hamas is weakened but it cannot be eradicated. On the contrary, this policy will fuel a spirit of revenge among those who have been atrociously wounded by the military operations under way, and who see no end in sight. However, political reason does mean, as a section of Israeli society is demanding, that negotiations can be opened as soon as possible with the aim of achieving a ceasefire that will first allow the release of the hostages in the hands of Hamas and the Palestinian political prisoners.

There is now a real risk that international law and the institutions that embody it will be torn to shreds and that Gaza will be their tomb. As long as no firm sanctions are taken, the feeling of impunity will remain predominant within the Israeli government, which will feel free to pursue its policy.

However, the balance of power is changing, albeit too slowly given the urgency of the situation, as demonstrated by the recognition of the State of Palestine by three additional European states – Spain, Ireland and Norway – on 28 May 2024.

From this point of view, France’s policy does not live up to its responsibilities. Emmanuel Macron expressed his indignation at the massacre on 26 May. That’s all very well, but he is still stubbornly refusing to recognise the State of Palestine on the fallacious pretext that, in his view, we should not give in to emotion. The now famous ‘at the same time’… But what will it take for clarity to finally prevail? Wait until half the population of Gaza succumbs to bombardment, famine and disease? President Macron believes that this recognition should come at a ‘useful moment’, as part of a process in which the states of the region and Israel have engaged in genuine negotiations. So, in plain English, recognition has been put off indefinitely because Israel refuses to negotiate… Yet France, as a member of the UN Security Council, would be going back to basics in terms of foreign policy and would be doing itself credit by taking such a decision. Of course, this would probably not bring the war to an end with a wave of a magic wand, but it would send out a strong political signal both to Western states and to those in the South. The latter are outraged by the double standards that, in their view, characterise the policies of Western capitals, and are quick to bitterly condemn the differences in treatment of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

Similarly, Emmanuel Macron has been demanding a ceasefire in Gaza for several weeks now, which is progress, but what concrete means is he proposing to achieve it?

Whichever way you look at the tragedy that is unfolding, there is now an urgent need to change the way the Palestinian question is dealt with. It is imperative to put an end to the impunity that has lasted for too long. Benyamin Netanyahu’s government knows only the balance of power, and it is necessary to draw the consequences. It is partly the future of the regulation of relations between states and of international law that is now at stake.


Translated by Deepl.
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