So many initiatives are taking place in cities across Italy and the world to say “stop” to yet another war, to prevent the terror wrought by Hamas from resulting in Israel’s revenge on the civilian population of Gaza, where 2.3 million people are imprisoned with no more food, health services, housing, water – a humanitarian disaster that no one seems to be able to stop.
It must be said, again and again, that we are all responsible for such a failure. No one can be exempt from responsibility for letting a war crime be consummated in the sight of the whole world, as we wait for war bulletins informing us of more deaths, destruction, emergencies and unheeded calls for help.
The destruction of Gaza and the onslaught against its people will not bring Israel security. The seed of revenge planted by Hamas and its allies is a poisoned seed that must not be allowed to bear fruit, unless we want to see war without any limits and beyond all bounds.
The signs are everywhere of the spread of guerrilla warfare, of the actions of “lone wolves,” of the most unthinkable alliances aimed at generating international chaos and disorder. And once again, it is regular people and democracies, rights and freedoms that have to pay the price. In just two weeks, the number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has doubled. In Jerusalem and the West Bank, one can’t even count the number of clashes and the number of dead anymore. The border between Israel and Lebanon is once again a war zone. In Europe and the United States, alerts warning about attacks are multiplying, at airports, subway stations, synagogues and mosques. UN Secretary General Guterres, powerless, has condemned with great emotion the humanitarian disaster at the Rafah crossing. A senior U.S. State Department official has resigned in desperation. Eight hundred fifty EU officials have disassociated themselves from the positions expressed by President Ursula von del Leyen, which supported Israeli military action in Gaza with no limits whatsoever and made no mention of the need to work for peace. Five hundred American Jews have been arrested for calling for an immediate ceasefire. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations are banned in France and violators are punished with arrest. Biden spoke to the nation and announced a $105 billion investment to both continue the war in Ukraine and support Israel’s defense.
These are some of the many signs that lead us to say, “We must stop.” Stop. Let us put the focus back on the need to respect international law, which is not an abstract thing, but is the codified transcription of what our society has to say on the principles and values that allow for peaceful coexistence. Making decisions that violate this framework, or tolerating such a violation, is like wanting to bulldoze into an apartment to clean the floor. It would destroy both that apartment and the whole building.
All of us must hold firm to peace once again, and the first step is to stop the violence, protect civilians, quell the thirst for revenge, refuse to be driven by hatred. Right now, it is an urgent matter for national and international institutions to speak out clearly and with great urgency against the ongoing military action in the Gaza Strip, because it is their obligation to say so and to do so. Not only because it’s a moral issue, but on account of respect for the rules we have given ourselves as an international community: democratically elected institutions cannot be the ones to violate the rules or use double standards.
Demanding, by all means that diplomacy and politics makes available, that Israel lift the siege on the people of Gaza and respect international humanitarian law in its defensive actions would not be an action taken against Israel; on the contrary, it is the best action that can be taken to save Israel from walking into the trap that has been set for it. And the same goes for the Palestinians, who must not fall into the same trap by tying their right of self-determination to the logic of violence and terror.
Only by restoring order can we rebuild the path of peaceful coexistence: we must commit ourselves all together to a ceasefire, and speak with one voice in demanding the release of hostages and the protection of the civilian population. We must be united in demanding that the UN Security Council take charge of the peace process and convene an international peace conference for the recognition of the State of Palestine, which must end the occupation and allow the parties involved to come to agreement on all the aspects and points required to put an end to 75 years of conflict.
On October 27, we will once again go out into the squares across Italy to advocate for our call to “Stop the war, hold firm to peace,” sharing the invitation of Pope Francis and the initiative of Amnesty International and the Association of Italian Cooperation and Solidarity NGOs. We need to be as many as possible, engaged on this path of restoring and rebuilding coexistence, rights and democracy – one that is difficult and painful for all, but which must unite us all under the banner of peace.
Sergio Bassoli is director of CGIL International Development Project.
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