Once again we face a leadership that knows one solution only: WAR. The Israeli government discussed for months the situation in Gaza, much like previous Israeli governments that debated numerous times, the situation in Lebanon, the first and second intifadas and in fact every single crisis Israel has faced. Yet, at the end of the day, these wise elected officials, women included, could only think of one solution, one vision: an offensive military operation. As if they haven’t tried this type of solution in the past. What else can be done? To occupy Gaza? We have done it. To impose a blockade? We have done it. To bomb? To kill? We have already tried these methods many times. No magic solution will appear as long as Israeli governments recycle aggressive military responses.
We heard our Defence Minister Ehud Barak, asserted that “there is no one to talk to on the other side” – an all too familiar justification for choosing a military response over diplomacy. As everyone knows, one’s enemies are always to blame. Like children in the playground, blaming each other for starting a fight, our government on hand blames the other side and on the other hand portrays itself as helpless. Its inability, or perhaps unwillingness, to find a non-militaristic solution to the situation in Gaza, is yet another testament to its lack of vision. To add insult to injury, they refuse to listen to their citizenry. The majority of the public in Israel does not think that the war in Gaza is going to bring about a lasting solution to the current crisis. Even those Israeli-Jews, who have sadly applauded the death of hundreds of Palestinians, are likely to stop their support of the carnage once the offensive begins to claim the lives of Israeli soldiers. We have experienced a similar situation two years ago, during the Israeli attack on Lebanon. Like today, those of us who opposed the military attack from its inception were subject to anger and ridicule, until the first Israel casualty.
No inquiry commission is going to bring back to life the dead on both sides. It is time to listen to the sane voices of reason now! There are of course other solutions to this crisis, solutions that don’t involve violence and military might. There are alternatives to violence. If they are not self-evident, they must be sought after and envisioned! And history has to be taken into account as one considers such alternatives. For example, Gaza, with its refugee camps, is in itself a result of a never-ending war that started in 1948. UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian refuges handles today close to 500,000 refuges in the Gaza Strip alone. These refuges are the decedents of families that were driven out of their homes not only in 1948 but also in 1952, when the Palestinian residents of Ashkelon, who by the way held Israeli citizenship, were expelled to the Gaza Strip…
You cannot put an end to injustice with military power and destruction. The Palestinians are fed up with this approach and they are not likely to sit and wait peacefully until Israel realizes that there is no military solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
If we are to find a long and lasting solution to the conflict, we need a fundamentally different approach to the current crisis. Israeli must lift the blockade and allow freedom of movement within and to and from the Gaza Strip. This includes re-opening the airport and the fishermen port, ensuring the supply of fuel and flow of electricity and in particular addressing the grave need for medical supplies. Furthermore, students should be allowed to leave the Gaza Strip and pursue their studies elsewhere and Palestinian workers should be permitted to work in Israel. This is only the beginning. We should support the establishment of a railroad service that would connect the Gaza Strip with the West Bank to allow family visits and other vital exchanges. In short, to undo some of the damage wrought about by decades of military solutions, Israel needs to demonstrate generosity. We should pursue peace with an enemy that is alive rather than dead and the sooner the better!
Dr. HANNAH SAFRAN is a founder of Women in Black. She lives in Haifa, Israel.
Translation from Hebrew: Dr. Simona Sharoni