INTERNATIONAL efforts to effect a ceasefire in Gaza had not succeeded when these lines were being written, but eight days of Israeli rocket fire on the Mediterranean enclave’s crammed population centres has led to over 100 deaths. More menacingly, as reported by a Western wire agency, Israel has “signalled a readiness to expand” the war. That was hardly a reportable “readiness”. Delegates from the two sides have met in Cairo to stop the killings, but the United Nations has done nothing to put an end to them. Instead all that the diplomats at the Security Council have done is to draft a statement which they have sent to their respective foreign offices, while the international media continues to convey graphic scenes of the death and devastation inflicted on the Palestinian people.
A ceasefire will sooner or later come into effect, but the pertinent question to ask is: when will Israel launch its next blitz? Are peacemakers — from the secretary general of the United Nations to the re-elected president of the sole superpower — really making an effort to solve the problem for good and seeking a solution that will last? In other words, do they really think they can put out the fire by tackling the flames instead of going to the source of the blaze? The issue is the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination; the issue is the continued occupation of the Palestinian people’s ancestral land by settlers; the issue is how to end the occupation of the Arab lands and give to the people of Palestine a state of their own, with Jerusalem, now under Israeli occupation, as its capital.
Not that the world doesn’t know of this historic injustice. It does, but only in theory. The UN has passed at least two landmark resolutions — 242 and 338 — calling for Israel’s withdrawal from Palestinian territories, and at least two American presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, had the wisdom and courage to make Israel accept reality and give up what was not its own. The 1978-79 Camp David agreement made Israel withdraw from the Sinai while the 1993 Declaration of Principles laid down a timetable for the Israeli withdrawal. But, after the man who signed it for Israel, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, was murdered, successive Israeli governments have reneged on it. Since then, there has been a stalemate, and Israel continues to build new settlements on the West Bank to alter the occupied territory’s demographic character. As experience shows, a ceasefire serves to end a slaughter only temporarily; it doesn’t root out the cause of the conflict that has continued for decades.