Israel and allies must define their endgame: CJPME

Montreal, October 9, 2023Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) calls on Israel and its allies to define their endgame as the renewed Hamas-Israel violence enters its third day.  Following a Hamas attack on Israel on Saturday which resulted in over 800 Israeli deaths, and up to 100 prisoners and hostages, Israel has struck back with airstrikes, killing at least 560 in Gaza, including many civilians. The calls for a ceasefire from CJPME and others have been ignored, and Israel and its Canadian supporters seem intent only in extracting a price from Palestinians, making no distinction between civilians and militants. While Israel has declared its intent to retaliate forcefully, observers demand to understand Israel’s endgame, as entering yet another cycle of violence will do nothing to bring peace or security to either Israelis or Palestinians. 

“Even if, after some massive offensive, Israel deals a blow to Hamas, the status quo will sadly continue,” asserts Thomas Woodley, president of CJPME. Experts on the conflict point out that as long as Palestinians are denied their human rights and freedom, their armed resistance to Israel’s belligerent occupation and apartheid is bound to continue. “For the sake of both Israelis and Palestinians, world leaders must insist on a plan whereby there is hope for a different future,” continued Woodley.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is “embarking on a long and difficult war,” presumably including a ground invasion into Gaza, along with ongoing strikes from land and sea. Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant has announced that Israel is imposing a “complete siege” of Gaza, shutting off electricity, and blocking the entry of food and fuel, while referring to Palestinians as “human animals.” CJPME points out the Fourth Geneva Conventions require that belligerents – i.e. Israel and Hamas – allow civilians to flee hostilities, and that they allow humanitarian aid – food and medical supplies – to reach trapped civilians. To this end, the UN’s World Food Programme has called on the establishment of humanitarian corridors to deliver food supplies into Gaza following Israeli airstrikes.

“It is natural to react with horror and anger at the images of dead and desecrated Israelis,” continued Woodley. CJPME notes that international law dictates that armed resistance movements must discriminate between civilians and combatants, and that Hamas’ attacks on civilians and seizure of civilian hostages are illegal and appalling. “But a prolonged and brutal attack on Gaza by Israel will only lead to additional death and misery, and will only further entrench the enmity between Palestinians and Israelis.” True friends of Israel and the Palestinians would insist on an endgame that leads to a different outcome, one that would establish trust, security and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians. 

CJPME is also horrified that Israel’s military response to date has involved the indiscriminate use of violence against civilian targets in Gaza. Over the past two nights, airstrikes have killed entire families in their homes as they slept. Earlier today, an attack on the centre of the Jabalya refugee camp killed at least 50 people. Multiple residential towers, ambulances, and even a UN school hosting displaced families, have been directly hit. CJPME warns that in this context, Canada’s expressions of “full support” to Israel will be understood as a green light to commit further massacres.

CJPME points out that in 2008-2009, when launching “Operation Cast Lead,” Israel sought to disable Hamas’s military capability, stop Hamas’ rocket attacks, and destroy Hamas’ smuggling tunnels. Fifteen years later, Israel faces the exact same threats, because it has sought only to repress and dominate Palestinians in the intervening period.  CJPME asserts that blind support for either the Israeli side – as expressed recently by many Canadian politicians – or for the Palestinians is a political and humanitarian dead end.  Nuanced voices on the conflict call for a recognition of this reality, and pressure on both sides to find a way to move beyond violence to a truly viable path forward.