Whataboutism in Gaza

Last Updated on Thursday, 9 November, 2023 at 10:03 am by Andre Camilleri

The humanitarian tragedy developing in Gaza is running out of time. We need an urgent ceasefire before the warfare turns into a genocide. The United Nations is asking for restraint and proportionality, as well as a ceasefire. However, Israel is rejecting a deal for a ceasefire, at least, before Hamas releases the hostages. The United Nations is appealing for a ceasefire to allow the necessary humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.

Prior to the war, it was already difficult for the Gazan people to keep up with basic utilities. Indeed, the lack of potable water that Gazan people experienced, as well as the deprivation endured over the years, is certainly outrageous. I remember the European Commission along with the European External Action Service organising donor conferences to collect funds for The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, better known by its acronym UNRWA, as well as additional pledging of funds to build a desalination plant in Gaza. Essentially, an additional desalination plant would have lessened the problem of potable water shortages in Gaza. Mathematically, the supply of potable water in Gaza does not match the population numbers. It never did. And it never will. The population numbers pushed over the years into the Gaza strip are astronomically high. Geographically, these numbers, along with the additional refugees hosted in Lebanon, Jordan and other parts within the region, must be living in a bigger territory.

Sadly, media is reporting that children are drinking salt water. And severally injured civilians are being treated without anaesthetics. It is appalling to learn that in 2023, we are fighting multiple wars, and in tandem humanitarian aid is not being allowed to enter unhindered in Gaza. Surely, injured civilians require medications. Gaza is being bombed indiscriminately, while humanitarian aid is not being allowed to enter with the excuse of security, which technically goes against international law. When the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken landed in Israel, once again, I thought that there might be an appeal for a ceasefire. Personally, I agree with Blinken that we must do more to protect Palestinian civilians and I totally agree that civilians in Gaza should not suffer the consequences of the attacks launched by Hamas. Unquestionably, Hamas must stop the brutal weaponisation of hostages and civilians and civilians must not be used as human shields.

On the other hand, the US Secretary of State appealed for a pause in fighting and not a ceasefire. Apparently, the pause is to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. It is appalling to listen to such a political stance. Notwithstanding that the US reiterated its position, that of assisting Israel in defending its territory, the call of Secretary State Blinken about humanitarian assistance for Palestinians, lacked a compelling political narrative. Blinken believes that humanitarian pauses would allow enough time for humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Gaza. The appeal for humanitarian pauses is just political and not legal under international law. Certainly, I cannot understand what humanitarian pauses mean in the current dire context. Considering the level of damage, the years of deprivation, as well as the death toll in Gaza after a month of intense fighting, only a ceasefire can offer time and security required to match the basic civilian needs, necessary to properly treat civilians.

Plainly, calling for a humanitarian pause, in such complex and dire conditions is just a travesty of justice under international law. The absence of a ceasefire is the equivalent of the annihilation of Palestinian people in Gaza. Excuse my bluntness. However, someone had to break it to media. The call for humanitarian pauses was either made because of the lack of military knowledge within the region or else diplomacy degenerated to a point of absurdity. Frankly, humanitarian pauses won’t work because it takes a pretty long time to assist civilians. Only a ceasefire works. Surely, innocent people in Gaza must not bear the irresponsible acts of Hamas. Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed that a ceasefire is also not negotiable because Israel would not surrender to Hamas. True, all hostages held by Hamas must be released. Also, reading what Hamas did to Israelis is akin to what other radical groups did in Syria. However, the system failed, and diplomacy also failed. And the world is paralysed watching a genocide happening under its eyes in Gaza. On Monday, the UN Secretary General said that the Gaza Strip became a graveyard for children. Undoubtedly, two wrongs do not make a right.

Surely, the failure of Hamas to release hostages must not be the equivalent of a collective punishment on innocent civilians in Gaza. It is absurd and cruel to elevate defence to a level where civilians are bombed and killed without anyone bearing responsibility. What is happening in Gaza constitutes to war crimes under international law. Women and children are desperately trying to find shelter in a different place. However, anywhere they are fleeing within the entire Gaza Strip perimeter, is extremely unsafe. It is being indiscriminately and irresponsibly bombed. The war in Gaza is an urban warfare affecting numerous civilians. Thousands are internally displaced. To make matters worse, a civilian shelter was bombed and ambulances were also blown-up. Apparently, about 70 personnel assisting UNRWA were killed, which means that now those assisting the injured in Gaza, even under the auspices of the United Nations, are being slaughtered.

Absurdly, while this humanitarian tragedy is advancing in the Middle East, President von der Leyen travelled to Kyiv to reiterate the EU’s unwavering position towards Ukraine’s accession. My interpretation is that the President of the European Commission will now be availing herself of a loophole to circumvent the system. Henceforth, any official visits to discuss foreign affairs will be disguised under the enlargement portfolio. Unlike other occurrences, President von der Leyen was quite circumspect in her narrative in Kyiv, primarily hiding behind the enlargement portfolio to avoid criticism. However, we have a Hungarian commissioner for enlargement. Besides, enlargement requires the European Council direction. First it goes to the General Affairs Council, which is the body that prepares for the European Council, and then a direction is given to the European Commission. Obviously, I spent uncounted hours in Council meetings, so I know the modus operandi and the preparatory bodies. Hopefully, President von der Leyen is keeping close contact with President Charles Michel. Meanwhile, the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola, addressed the Ambassadors’ Conference along with the Secretary General of the EEAS, Stefano Sannino. The Ambassadors’ Conference is an annual event bringing together EU Ambassadors from over 140 EU delegations and offices around the world. It is an opportunity for diplomacy. Hopefully, the political address was not about “whataboutism” in Gaza and the careful actions required in diplomacy and international politics to avoid taking rushed decisions.

Finally, I truly hope that this nightmare comes to an end. The nightmare unfolding in the Middle East is bigger, much bigger than anyone is expecting. And please do not mistake Israel with Ukraine. The region, its political alliances and the underlying forces, are entirely different.

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