Gaza ceasefire now

 Gaza ceasefire now:

Building hope for a better future for Palestinians and Israelis, with equal rights and mutual security

A call on the British Government by the Balfour Project

This cannot be allowed to continue: the civilian deaths and mass destruction of homes, hospitals and schools inflicted on Gaza over the last five weeks, with starvation and disease stemming from the bombardment and “complete siege”. There can be no military solution to this conflict. Only a just political solution will last. Any other outcome will only serve to foster radicalisation and violence. The toll in Palestinian civilian life already far outstrips that in Ukraine since the Russian invasion of 2022.

Upholding international law – actions not just words

Two-thirds of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have lost their homes and try to survive without the bare essentials of life – food, fuel, water, medicines and shelter. Denying civilians those essentials breaches Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law. It constitutes collective punishment, and it is happening before our eyes. The British Government needs to call it by its name, and call for it to end, now.

Israel does not have the right to take revenge on the entire population of Gaza. Its military objectives do not override its responsibilities under international law. Forced displacement of civilians under occupation is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions. The actions of extremist Jewish settlers to force Palestinians from their homes and lands in the West Bank must therefore also stop and the Government of Israel must be required to end its incitement and enabling of these criminal actions. Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, who have been forcibly displaced must be guaranteed their right to return home.

The acts of terrorism on October 7th committed by Hamas and other Palestinian groups, including the taking of hostages and ongoing rocket attacks on civilian areas, are also war crimes. The British Government is right to condemn them as such.

In line with its own international obligations as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and as a High Contracting Party to the Geneva Conventions, our Government should make clear that there must be accountability for all war crimes, irrespective of who commits them and wherever they are committed. The International Criminal Court must be enabled to fulfil its role, investigating all alleged war crimes in Israel and Palestine. Failure to uphold international law in Israel and Palestine now will invite well- founded accusations of double standards. Further, it will help create the conditions for yet more acts of violence and terrorism.

Ending the slaughter, bringing the hostages home

In response to this man-made catastrophe unfolding in Gaza, the Balfour Project joins the United Nations and many humanitarian organisations in demanding an immediate ceasefire. All human life is equally sacred. A ceasefire will ensure that vital aid can reach all civilians in need throughout the Gaza Strip, as international law demands. It will also allow time for success in negotiations for the release of all the Israeli and foreign hostages kidnapped by Hamas.

The treaties and conventions which Britain has signed oblige our Government to exert its influence with Israel, the US and the other permanent UN Security Council members to insist on a cessation in hostilities accompanied by a huge aid operation – not the 4-hour so-called “humanitarian pauses” which force people from one danger area to another while preventing humanitarian aid from reaching all areas that need it. The British Government should join the UN Secretary-General, the President of France and others in pressing for it now.

A way forward

The Balfour Project calls on our Government now to work with Israel, the PLO, the US, the UN Secretary-General and other partners, especially Israel’s Arab neighbours and the Gulf states, for the day this war ends. Meeting this huge challenge requires resources and years of sustained political commitment.

The first, most urgent task is to address Palestinian humanitarian needs, with UNRWA to the fore. The second is to create a Marshall Plan to rebuild shattered homes, schools, hospitals and livelihoods in Gaza and enable those displaced to return. Israel must play its part in this. After all the damage done, it cannot wash its hands of the consequences. No more blockade; no more siege. Mutual security, not military occupation.

A temporary international administration is needed in Gaza, under a joint UN Security Council and Arab League mandate, to begin the rebuilding and to support a new international initiative for a political process to bring hope of a better future for all: a future of equality.That initiative must be rooted in international law, reuniting Gaza with the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

It is for Palestinians to decide who should lead them in exercising their right to self- determination, without interference. A key principle must be the affirmation that Palestinians and Israelis have equal rights to self-determination.

Britain’s deeds and misdeeds over decades in the region give our Government the responsibility to lead work to end the occupation by negotiation on the basis of international law, freeing Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination alongside Israelis. The first step along that road is for the British Government to show equal respect for both peoples. It recognised Israel in 1950. It should recognise Palestine in 2023 and encourage others to do so. Twelve years ago, Foreign Secretary William Hague said “We reserve the right to recognise the state of Palestine at a time of our choosing, and when it will best serve the cause of peace”. That time has come.

The Balfour Project

14 November 2023



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