Item in Washington Post, 14 November 2023
For more than a month now, the war in Gaza has been dividing the world, with the deepening split aggravated by intense emotions. Two narratives, Palestinian and Israeli, have pitted demonstrators, media outlets, religions, peoples and regions against each other. In the process, the moral clarity that we should and must share about basic human values has turned into moral confusion.
So let’s start with some basic reality. The fact is that the thousands of victims across Israel, Gaza and the West Bank have been overwhelmingly civilians. On Oct. 7, Israel was wounded and deeply traumatized by the killings of more than 1,000 Israelis, including women and children, by Hamas. And since then, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed by the indiscriminate Israeli shelling of Gaza. Thousands of children lie dead in the rubble of Gaza’s destroyed houses, schools and hospitals. In the name of our common humanity, how can such brutal acts and murders be accepted?
Today’s human suffering and global tensions urge us to adhere to the norms of humanity before we reach a moral breaking point for all.
Leaders everywhere have the responsibility to face the full reality of this crisis, as ugly as it is. Only by anchoring ourselves to the concrete facts that have brought us to this point will we be able to change the increasingly dangerous direction of our world.
It begins by recognizing our duty not only to enforce humanitarian intervention and put an end to this atrocious war but also to admit that the current path is not a path to victory for anyone — and most definitely not a path guided by moral clarity.
I cannot but believe that Palestinians and Israelis want the same things. They are not monsters; they do not cherish misery and death. Like Israelis, Palestinians have a right to lives of dignity, security and respect, in an independent, sovereign and viable state.
Yet for almost 20 years, Israel’s unilateral actions have undermined the peace process and flouted the Oslo accords, which promised the two-state solution of peace and security for both sides. Instead, step by step, and against international law, the Palestinian territories have been divided into small, disconnected enclaves. Israel has tripled its “settlements” on land that the accords recognized would be part of the Palestinian state. Jerusalemites have been pushed out of their homes. Muslim and Christian holy sites have been attacked and worshipers harassed. And now, 60 percent of Gaza’s besieged population of 2.3 million Palestinians has been displaced.
Gazan families being bombed out of their homes are victims of this collective punishment, with no place to take shelter. No hospital, no school and no U.N. building is safe any longer. And make no mistake, Gazans will not abandon their homes because a leaflet or a text message tells them to do so. They know that leaving means losing hope, dignity and the chance to go back to their land: They have seen it happen to waves and waves of their fellow Palestinians and to their ancestors throughout the past seven decades of this conflict.
Indeed, Israel’s “exit” from Gaza 18 years ago was not a contribution to the two-state solution but a preemption of any such solution. It produced a permanent division that denied a Palestinian state by denying a single Palestinian partner.
An Israeli leadership that is unwilling to take the path of peace on the basis of the two-state solution will not be able to provide its people the security they need.
Israelis cannot continue their lives as usual, expecting security solutions alone to ensure their safety, while Palestinians live in misery and injustice. With no political horizon, the promise of a peaceful future will evade both Israelis and Palestinians.
Are there any realistic alternatives to a two-state solution? It is hard to imagine any. A one-state solution would force Israel’s identity to accommodate competing national identities. A no-state solution would deny Palestinian rights and dignity.
If the status quo continues, the days ahead will be driven by an ongoing war of narratives over who is entitled to hate more and kill more. Sinister political agendas and ideologies will attempt to exploit religion. Extremism, vengeance and persecution will deepen not only in the region but also around the world.
What happens next will be a turning point for the entire globe. A concerted international effort to develop a regional architecture of peace, security and prosperity, built on a Palestinian-Israeli peace based on the two-state solution, is a priority.
It is up to responsible leaders to deliver results, starting now. That work will not be easy, but it is imperative. There is no victory in the carnage that has been unfolding. No one will prevail unless the Palestinians are given their rights and their state. Only this will be a true victory for peace, for Palestinians and for Israelis alike. And that, more than anything, would be a victory for our common humanity.