I was shocked to read of it. Another massacre. How many more massacres can Palestinians stand? How many can onlookers tolerate? Surely, now it’s time to face reality: military means and violence will never put an end to this conflict. The notion of occupied and occupier must finish.
The Palestinians and Israelis can succeed when they take courageous steps to move forward towards a healthy and sustainable future in which we all share. And the international community can never, any more, turn away.
The Israelis cannot claim self-defence. It is invasion, using all means from all directions – from air, ground and sea. Israel’s cabinet authorised the mobilisation of up to 75,000 reservists late last Friday, preparing the ground for a possible Gaza invasion. Rather than self-defence, it is escaping responsibility. By contrast, is it not the right of the occupied to fight and free themselves from occupation and the continuous invasion and humiliations?
What allows evil to flourish is good people doing nothing. It’s time for political leaders to be courageous. What are they going to say to their children when they watch other children killed. Where’s an international system built on justice and human values?
History repeats itself, it’s said. But this time history has not been allowed to repeat itself, since there has been no let up in the suffering and killing of the Palestinians, which continues on a daily basis. And we tend to keep appointments – at the time of elections, there are invasions, Palestinian blood used to win political campaigns.
But this action endangers the life and future not only of Palestinians but also of Israelis. For this act is suicidal as well as destructive. The ultimate enemies are ignorance, arrogance, fear and greed. And the real courage would be to implement the peace treaties and plans. As I write, 39 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed and more than 300 people severely wounded. The killed include eight children, three women, including one pregnant, and four elderly. Of the severely wounded there are 102 children. It is, again, a human tragedy.
The political and military leadership – including all Israeli generals – know that military means will never put an end to this violence. We also know that occupations end and this one will eventually finish too. So, let’s call a halt now to this craziness. Instead of using force against civilians, why not invest energy in moving forward in the peace treaties? The wound cannot heal while all the time there is a great commitment to deepening it and to add salt to it. My family in Gaza are not safe; and the same can be said for all those innocent people in Israel.
“No government would tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people live under a constant barrage of rockets and missile fire,” argues the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces an election in January. What about the Palestinian people who have suffered for decades?
The military was ordered to conduct “surgical strikes” in Gaza, said Netanyahu, but Israel would take “whatever action is necessary to defend our people.” There were also reports of rocket fire on Gaza overnight.
It’s news to me that Netanyahu is a surgeon. We do not know who taught him surgery and what kind of surgery he was taught. We, as doctors, practise constructive and curative surgery, not the destructive and traumatising sort. That is the kind of surgery he needs to learn and practise, a surgery that would heal and close the wounds of the Palestinians and the Israelis.
What’s more, who is showing any courage in this situation?
In the midst of the escalation in violence, to be courageous would be to create, to build and construct; and to save lives. There’s no courage in using power against innocent, unarmed civilians – or civilians armed just with their faith and their will to live independent lives. Nor is there courage – on either side – in manipulating the situation for limited political and individual interest.
As for peace – to slip again into the language of a doctor – if a cell is suffering, the whole body will suffer and complain. It is the individual’s peace of mind that leads to the peace of a community. It needs to become a way of life, a natural way of thinking – a huge task in a place where the opposite of endemic violence is routine. Hence the need to fundamentally change the context, and, on both sides, we need to be inclusive.
The Palestinian people are in pain and anguish. We’ve had enough of hearing the mother cry of anguish, witnessing death. The woman who is screaming from labour pain waiting for the happy moment to have her newborn baby, that is the cry of the mother for life and freedom.
The doctor’s role is to help, to minimise the suffering and to deliver safely the children of the future. It’s time for the international community to help and support Palestinians in this beautiful project. The world is plagued by violence and conflict. We need to move forward and emphasise the respect and dignity that each human being deserves regardless of gender or race. The freedom should not stop at Palestine borders, and we can endure through truth and justice.
Peace will be a consequence of truth. Maria Montessori said: “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.” Let us hope this is a turning point, and a way towards Palestinian freedom.
Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish is a Palestinian doctor and infertility specialist. In 2009, three of his daughters were killed in the family home in Gaza by Israeli shells. He now campaigns for peace in the Middle East and teaches at the University of Toronto.