“To grasp the logic of the painful events befalling the Palestinian Territories, namely Gaza, we need to examine the multi-level and extremely divided regional environment, especially between Arab official institutions and popular movements and the different Arab regimes that look at the current events based on tactical considerations and unilateral interests, while the people are asking for strategic options, “Resistance” for instance,” stressed Dr Amr Hamzawy at a seminar entitled “the Gaza War: Effects and Repercussions”, hosted by the Carnegie Middle East Center at the Rotana-Gefinor hotel. The panel included Dr. Fateh Azzam, UNOHCHR Regional Representative; Dr. Sari Hanafi, AUB professor and Mr. Hilmi Moussa, analyst at Assafir daily.
“I am not here to provide answers, but I do have many things to say about Gaza,” said Azzam opening the discussion, “we need to break the vicious cycle of violence, martyrs, and violation of human rights. There must be an insistence for human rights, and a promotion of International Law, in order to break the cycle of retaliation”, stressed Fateh Azzam, focusing mainly on the legal and humanitarian aspects of the Gaza War.
Azzam explained that Gaza is the result of illegal invasions, war crimes, and continuous breechings of international law. There needs to be an individual responsibility from leaders, countries, and civilians, to stop the use of excessive force and initiate concern. The excessive use of force launched by Israel in civilian areas cannot be considered as an appropriate use of proportionate force. “Despite Israeli claims, they are not properly distinguishing between intended targets and civilians, which is indefinitely a war crime.” Israel has been previously accused of war crimes, but the U.N. Security Council has failed to find a solution for crimes committed by Israel. Tribunals are the most obvious way to prosecute war crimes, but the main importance is to create an awareness of the crimes that are being committed. The more important action is to gather the needed documentation as evidence for any future legal action. The documents should be accurate and comprehensive.
Azzam rejected the Israeli claims asserting that the civilian casualties were accidental and unpremeditated due to the large number of civilians and children, in addition to the nature of the injuries. The traces of bullets on the bodies are proof that the civilians were direct targets. One conclusion can be drawn: the Israeli army was over-reacting and using an excess of force, according to the International Law. Accountability should involve the political and military Israeli institutions and officials. Azzam underlined the need for a UN resolution to protect the civilians, noting that the UN is the best forum and tool, although with a limited scope and capabilities, to fend off any violation. Azzam called upon the civil community and human rights institutions to help in the global campaign to help Gaza, to avoid future revolution and more violent intifadas that could stem form injustice and oppression.
Azzam noted that the U.N. Security Council members: the United States, France, etc., all want to reach an agreement to implement an official ceasefire. However, ceasefires usually contain political strategies, and not incentives to protect the violation of human rights, which is severe in Gaza. The U.N. has many declarations, charters, and resolutions, which all give ways to protect human rights, but ultimately the U.N., cannot guarantee protection. The U.N. will be the main body responsible to help the case of Gaza, but it is important to remember that the U.N. is made up of many different states, and the member states of the Security Council and the General Assembly have different strategies and opinions related to their own political interests. There is an international need to take responsibility for the atrocious situation, in order to stop violations of international law, and to help the people of Gaza. Azzam concluded that, “the main issue is for Gaza is to reach viable solutions, and not to wait for political decisions to be made.”
Mr. Hilmi Moussa, a Palestinian born in Gaza who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp is an analyst for As-Safir newspaper. As expert on Palestinian and Israeli issues, he explained that Israel puts deep misery on the Palestinians by increasing the force used against them, which ultimately makes the Palestinian people feel de-humanized. He related the historical causes of the current situation: occupation, miserable living conditions, blockade…all these constrains lead to a general frustration among Palestinians and would generate further violence for years to come. Disappointment is also directed toward the UN body as it failed to stop the Israeli violations against civilians and unarmed population. The atrocity of the aggression is an additional incentive for Palestinians to uphold the Right of Return and the comprehensive and final solution. “Refugees and civilians in Gaza are always targeted; the people just want to be protected and have rights like everyone else. It is important to raise awareness on this issue”. Moussa pessimistically believes that the international community is passed the point of constructing an effective and peaceful international solution to the Palestinian situation. “The real tragedy is that Gaza is a prison, and it is now difficult to find a starting point towards providing a peaceful solution.” Moussa concluded that a real solution will have to deal with the primary causes and not the details of a temporary situation, noting that Israel adopted the use of violence to break the will of the Palestinian, thus, drove both sides into a vicious cycle of violence and atrocity.
For his part, Dr Sari Hanafi said: “People want to know how the Gaza situation reached this point; the Gaza situation is volatile, hence it is being used to exploit the consequences of the war on terror and the fight for democracy.” Dr. Hanafi, former Director of the Palestinian Refugee and Diaspora Center, explained that unfortunately, Gaza presently has no humanitarian essence, and in order for this to change Israel and Gaza must first reach a ceasefire.
Agreeing with both Azzam and Moussa, he also believes that there is a responsibility for the international community to intervene and act, criticizing the lenient discourse of the UN that put on a par the killer and the victim. He wondered how the same rhetoric is used to address the excess of violence exerted by Israel and the relatively modest response of Hamas. He condemned the de-humanization process Israel is undertaking to further oppress the Palestinians and the silence of some Arab regimes.
“There needs to be a common popular movement in the Arab world, in order to pressure the Arab governments to react to the Gaza situation, as well as the need for Fatah and Hamas to come to terms of solidarity”, concluded Hanafi. He put forth the possibility of joining the secular and the religion discourse to reach an agreement between Hams and Fateh at this critical juncture, considering that the Gaza War is a war against democracy since Israel is punishing the Palestinians with blockade and aggression for handing the reins to Hamas in the last elections.
Dr. Hamzawy concluded the panel by explaining that,” to grasp the logic of the painful events befalling the Palestinian Territories, namely Gaza, we need to examine the multi-level and extremely divided regional environment, especially between Arab official institutions and popular movements and the different Arab regimes that look at the current events based on tactical considerations and unilateral interests, while the people are asking for strategic options, “Resistance” for instance.”
Hamzawy added, “The official Arab position for a ceasefire is only wanted in a superficial way, for example, Egypt and Jordan both have a great interest in protecting the security of their borders over protecting the Human Rights issues.” In addition, Egypt is only concerned about keeping its control on Rafah, keeping Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood away from its territories and backing the Egyptian-backed Palestinian team for the negotiations, as well as bolstering Egypt’s atnce as an international and regional player.
The division of interests in the Arab community is also beginning to affect the civilians in the region, such as the case of Egypt as we have seen recently in the media. The most important issue now id to reach a final settlement in the region. Both sides are ready to reach an agreement, but the divided opinions for the conditions of the settlement are putting hurdles before reaching an official agreement, noted Hamzawy. He concluded that the two-state solution is not an option anymore. “The violence and the crimes committed against civilians, has left no more room for a viable peaceful solution for both Israelis and the Palestinians.”
A Q&A session followed the presentations and focused on human rights issues, the Right of Return, the deadlock of the political settlement and the need to maintain solidarity with Gaza in order to find a humanitarian exit first and second to reach a political solution guaranteeing a sustainable peace to avoid another military campaign.