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Israel caught in the Hamas trap

On 7 October 2023, the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas killed around 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped 240 hostages. According to Hamas, the Israeli government killed around 16,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 children, in a campaign of revenge over the following four weeks and largely reduced northern Gaza to rubble.

The UN considers the figures to be credible. And now the south of the Gaza Strip is also being bombed. 75 years after the adoption of human rights, we have more violent conflicts in the world than ever before: climate change, the Ukraine war, the Middle East conflict, 55 global wars and the constant threat of nuclear war. This violence must come to an end.

On the course of the war in Gaza so far: 100 hostages were released in four days of ceasefire. In 50 days of war, one hostage was freed by military force – at the cost of thousands of dead civilians (Standing Together is a grassroots movement of Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel for peace, equality and social and climate justice).

Immediately after October 7, US President Biden warned the Israeli government not to repeat the mistakes of the George W. Bush administration after September 11, 2001 and to seek revenge. The Bush “war on terror” had led to there being at least ten times more terrorists today than before. The result of a war against Hamas is unlikely to be any different.

A Palestinian peace activist has just suggested on “Markus Lanz” that “for every terrorist killed, ten new terrorists will follow”. The more Palestinians are killed, the stronger Hamas becomes. But the Natanyahu government is currently walking blindly into the Hamas trap.

UN Secretary-General Guterres is now also warning of this in an urgent and dramatic appeal, calling for an immediate “humanitarian ceasefire”. Guterres predicts: “Terrible human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma throughout Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory” and predicts an apocalypse. “Public order is likely to collapse soon.” The Israeli government indignantly rejected the UN general’s call for a ceasefire.

Anyone with humanistic and ethical sensibilities who sees the images of destruction and the dead civilians both on the Palestinian side today and on the Israeli side on October 7 will agree with the UN Secretary-General. Also for the sake of Israel’s future security.

The Israeli government first called on Gaza residents to flee to the south of the country, but has since extended its attacks to the south as well. The residents there are now desperately asking where else they should flee to. They are not allowed to go to Egypt either. Their supplies of water, food, medicine and energy have collapsed. The flooding of the tunnel system with sea water, which is being discussed in Israel, could turn the entire Gaza Strip into an uninhabitable salt desert.

This war is destroying any conceivable prospect of a peaceful solution at some point, and with it Israel’s security. Never before have so many UN employees and so many journalists been killed in such a short time in a war as in the last few weeks in Gaza. The UN has so far mourned the deaths of 150 staff members in Gaza – after four weeks of war. The Israeli government is responding to Hamas’ language of destruction towards Israel with a very similar language of destruction towards Hamas. We must overcome this hatred and this violence. We need strength for change.

Guterres calls for “peace at any price”. It is not yet too late. It is now up to the UN Security Council, i.e. the world powers, to organize a ceasefire. The UN was founded 75 years ago for this purpose. When if not now?

In previous peace efforts in the Middle East, the role of religion in this conflict has mostly been suppressed or neglected. The Palestinian terrorists have shouted “God is great” during their massacres of Israeli civilians and parts of the Israeli government, together with the settlers in the West Bank, invoke the Old Testament. It doesn’t get any more blasphemous than that.

The “Christian” crusades were also not in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. All three Abrahamic religions are largely to blame for the now century-old mess, chaos and violence in the Middle East. Religious fundamentalists may be orthodox, but they are not human. Yet religions, with their basic message of peace, love, reconciliation and compassion, could make a significant contribution to reconciliation. Here too, when, if not now, would it be necessary to free ourselves from the Hamas trap?

A glimmer of hope even now: After the Yom Kippur War, there was the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. After the first Intifada there were the Oslo peace agreements and after the second Intifada there was the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. If peace between Germany and France was possible after 1945, then peace between Israel and the Palestinians is also possible. Perhaps with the help of the UN and courageous religious leaders right now. Otherwise Jerusalem could still be the best place to become an atheist.

The Dalai Lama puts it this way: “We are born without religion, but not without the basic need for compassion.” This also includes the basic ethos of all people of all religions and all wisdom teachings: “Thou shalt not kill.” With the help of pacifist religious leaders on both sides, perhaps the dynamics of hatred and revenge can be overcome. Where if not in the “Holy Land”?

Perhaps then, in the best case scenario, both sides could realize: There is enough land for both! What an opportunity for economic cooperation, for prosperity, for peace and for a Middle Eastern economic union modeled on the European Union. This was as unthinkable 80 years ago in Europe as it is today in the Middle East. But this vision has also become reality.

We Germans in particular could help to look at both sides of the conflict. We are connected to the trauma of violence in the Middle East. The trauma of violence caused by the Shoah and the Nakba (expulsion of the Palestinians after the founding of Israel) can only be stopped by a clear vote for non-violence from outside.

First of all, we need a political language that recognizes the right of both peoples to exist. Then perhaps one day it will also be possible for both parties to the conflict to learn to understand, empathize with and acknowledge the suffering of the other. A sustainable and honorable peace will be possible through a revolution of compassion. It is high time for this. Overcoming the spiral of violence is only possible with the help of the Arab states. The goal must be for the Israeli and Palestinian populations to live together as equals. Germany should advocate the establishment of a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Middle East (CSCMNO).

I keep hearing that this conflict is insoluble. I also heard this before the fall of the Berlin Wall and before German reunification. Nevertheless, the wall has fallen and Germany is united. The situation in the Middle East today is so unbearable that we must try to make the seemingly impossible possible. Only a political solution can overcome the war. The first step towards this: Israel abides by international law in Gaza. Anyone who does not believe in miracles in politics is not a realist.

Now, at the latest, in the nuclear age, we need to rethink politics: peace is necessary and possible. Nothing less than our humanity is now at stake. For many, peace is still a dream today. But without a dream of peace, there will be no peace tomorrow.


Franz Alt 2023 | Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

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