by Lydia Alaiadi
As the conflict in Gaza alarmingly escalates, the Palestinian people are underrepresented in international talks. Meanwhile, Israel has blocked humanitarian aid in Gaza, and in defending itself against Hamas, has left Palestinian civilians as victims of its attacks.
Israel, as much as any country, has the right to defend itself, its people, and its independence – an argument repeatedly stated by the Israeli government. What makes this particular situation different, though, is the fact that Israel is not defending itself against another country or government. Hamas is not and should not be the representative of the Palestinian people. Hamas was elected in 2006, and has controlled the Strip since 2007, but there have been no elections held after that. As half of Gazans are under 18, it is correct to say that Hamas does not represent the population.
In the last three weeks the Palestinian Authority, with its highly corrupted leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has been somewhat quiet. Thus, Palestinian people are left completely alone without a sound representation in the political sphere. As the cries to stop the war arise from all over the world, with marches and protests supporting the protection of Palestinian people, Israel’s strategic partnerships and allies allow its inhumane approach to the conflict.
Noam Katz, the Israeli Ambassador to Greece, on October 24 gave the opening speech at the Economist Impact’s 27th Annual Economist Government Roundtable in Athens. “Hamas launched an unprovoked all-out war against Israel” the Israeli Ambassador stated. The attacks by Hamas were a surprise to many since the execution appeared to be well-planned. It makes us wonder how Israeli Intelligence did not anticipate the attack, since it has some of the best-developed Intelligence systems, cyber defense and offense programs.
Katz also highlighted the deaths and captures of Israeli civilians, including children and the elderly, and the devastation felt by so many people, stating that October 7 is their September 11. “There is no war more just than this” he said. “Hamas revealed its true nature as a genocidal, murderous criminal organisation with a key goal of the destruction of the state of Israel. Hamas is the ISIS of Gaza, Hamas is ISIS” he added. While the attacks by Hamas left Israeli civilians devastated, Hamas, as a criminal organisation, naturally disregards laws when it comes to war. On the other hand, the Israeli forces, bound by International Law, have been launching attacks targeting civilians, like the attack on hospital in Gaza.
Misinformation and propaganda
When the Economist team asked Katz about the attack, he stated that the number of deaths could not be confirmed since Palestinian people don’t have a Health Ministry. The numbers given to the public come from Hamas, which cannot be trusted as a credible source. All the misinformation that comes out of both sides might as well be the most harmful element of the conflict as it keeps it alive. The more the attacks, the more civilians will become victims of a government and an organisation that have no interest in resolving the conflict. And the number of deaths will rise on both sides.
Online, advocates for Israeli civilians are labeled as murderers, advocates for the Palestinian people are labeled anti-Semitic. And while most of the people who protest about the matter only care for the protection of civilians and peace, heated debates are happening in every corner of the internet, thus proving how propaganda is prolonging the conflict.
It’s important to consider the role of actors such as Saudi Arabia, which has been in diplomatic talks with Israel in the past, and the great threat to Saudi Arabia, Iran. “We sent a clear warning to Iran and its proxies to stay out of the war” Katz said. Israel’s aim to remain powerful in the Middle East has been achieved through its military forces and its allies outside the regions. While these allies can defend its interests internationally – its close relations with the US are a clear example of that – Israel is able to keep its status because of its competition with the other powers in the region.
Conflict is part of Israel’s strategy to survive in the region. It allows it to showcase its true power and keep other countries from attacking it. We can surmise that surrendering to Hamas in any way would be Israel’s biggest strategic mistake, and its future in the region would be heavily jeopardized. Becoming “soft”, losing, or giving in to a small organisation would mean being easily defeated by any other country. Its inhumane attitude towards Palestinian civilians is not just an act of ethnic cleansing. It rather is a means to an end: the end being for the Israeli government to remain powerful and relevant in the region.
The future of the Palestinian people
“Hamas is a genocidal army” says Katz. The truth is that as long as Hamas is present and powerful, peace talks cannot proceed and will not proceed. What does this mean for the future of the Palestinian people? A more realistic approach would suggest that only with Hamas gone from Palestine can peace be reached in Gaza. But if Iran supports Hamas, this day might never come because, just like Israel, its strategy is to impose its power in the region. The worst-case scenario for the Palestinians would be an even further escalation of the war, leaving no one behind. The only hope for Palestinians is for the International Community to impose its power in the region, supporting all the victims of a war born out of greed – without allowing the past to repeat itself.
War has its limits in both law and ethics. “We are not engaging in a battle against the Palestinian people” Noam said at the end of his speech. And the battle might not be against them, but they are the victims.
The smallest contribution to the conversation is welcomed as it empowers a movement in which people are demanding their governments to help put an end to the murdering of thousands of people, murders that are happening because, for some, power is all that matters.