As millions of people around the world flood the streets in support of Palestine and to condemn their governments’ complicity in Israel’s genocide, many are demanding a ceasefire. In New York City, hundreds of brave Jewish protesters occupied the Statue of Liberty holding banners reading “ceasefire now”. In several major cities, including London, Washington, DC, and Melbourne, record numbers chanted the same thing. The hash tag #CeasefireNOW has been trending on social media for weeks, and is being taken up by millions.
The ubiquity of the demand reflects people’s desperation to see an end to the relentless bombing that is killing devastating numbers of Palestinians and causing unimaginable suffering. And it is a testament to the scale of popular anger at the blood-soaked Western leaders who reject such an idea out of hand, lest they appear in any way disapproving of Israel’s atrocities.
There is without question an urgent need to stop the daily murder of Palestinians by Israel. But to be meaningful, any ceasefire must bring a permanent end to Israel’s offensive, and it must be accompanied by immediate measures to prevent further suffering in Gaza and to rebuild what has been destroyed.
A temporary halt to bombing—whether via a ceasefire or the contemptible “humanitarian pause” advocated by Western leaders—is no solution. It is a victory for spin more than humanitarianism, intended to defuse criticism of Israel so that its military objectives may be better achieved. And for Israel, temporary breaks in bombing can be strategic: urging Palestinians to move south, closer to the crossing to Egypt, during any pause in fighting advances the campaign of ethnic cleansing more than it makes Palestinians “safer”. And it means Israel can treat anyone who remains as enemy combatants and therefore legitimate targets for further massacres.
So any ceasefire must be permanent if it is to advance the cause of the Palestinians. But even that, on its own, is not sufficient to meet the scale of the humanitarian disaster that is unfolding in Gaza. Urgent and immediate relief is also needed: food, medical supplies, water, fuel, electricity, search and rescue equipment, construction materials and more need to be moved into Gaza both to ensure the remaining population can survive and to ensure that Gaza becomes habitable again. Simply stopping the bombing and leaving Gaza as uninhabitable rubble only further aids the ethnic cleansing Israel is hoping to achieve. If Palestinians are not to be permanently displaced, homes must be rebuilt urgently, along with basic infrastructure like hospitals, markets, roads and schools.
The terms of any ceasefire are also important: Israel is likely to agree to a ceasefire only if it involves the permanent expulsion of Hamas and any other resistance groups from Gaza. Israel and the US are already in talks about reinstalling the corrupt Palestinian Authority there, possibly aided by a long-term occupation by UN, Arab or even Israeli forces. This would be a significant victory for Israel and defeat for the Palestinians. A ceasefire that strengthens Israel’s stranglehold on the lives of Palestinians in Gaza will be no victory.
Even if a permanent ceasefire on favourable terms could be achieved, a return to the status quo as it was prior to 7 October should not be confused with peace or justice. Even the best ceasefire will not end the siege Israel imposes on Gaza, a siege that has been collectively punishing Gaza’s 2 million inhabitants every day for nearly two decades. It will not end the expansion of settlements into Palestinian land on the West Bank and the apartheid conditions Palestinians are forced to live with day in, day out. It will not disarm one of the world’s most well-armed states, which oppresses and terrorises the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and inside Israel every day of their lives.
Justice for the Palestinians is simply not possible so long as they are living in the shadow of Israel, backed by the most powerful state on Earth and its despicable allies like Australia, whose slavish devotion to every Israeli atrocity is a chilling warning of what we can expect in the wars that are yet to come. These barbaric regimes have to be brought down and replaced with something altogether different if we want to see a world without oppression and war.
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The level of suffering in Gaza is more than the human mind can comprehend. As the war enters its twentieth week, it feels increasingly obscene to be going about daily life while an entire people are being systematically destroyed, their lives, histories and culture blown to pieces or buried under rubble.
The Banyule Palestine Action Group has collected more than 600 signatures on a petition calling on Banyule City Council, in Melbourne’s north-east, to pass a motion supporting an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in line with motions passed in other councils across Australia.
Asked how she stays hopeful as a 63-year-old socialist and Palestinian living in the diaspora, Reem Yunis replies: “I don’t have the luxury not to be inspired. My grandparents died without seeing a liberated Palestine, my parents died and were buried in the diaspora. Most of my people are living in the diaspora, and the ones in Palestine are being robbed of water, resources and every bit of land they have. We need to have hope and fight, because if we won’t fight for a free Palestine, who will?”
Human Rights Watch, an international investigative and reporting organisation, says that it has “significant human rights concerns” about Australia’s treatment of refugees and Aboriginal people.
To drive a whole people out of their land—to turn it into something akin to the Zionist myth of Palestine, supposedly “a land without a people for a people without a land”—requires many things. Most obviously, it requires the killing and terrorising of Palestinian people on a colossal scale.