Last weekend, I was a witness to the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign protest that marched from the Garden of Remembrance to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, Ireland. The protesters had emerged from all walks of life, yet streamed together in a mass movement crawling down O’Connell Street. The red, black, green, and white of the Palestinian flag was a vibrant contrast against the overcast sky, and cheers for Palestinian independence resonated through the streets of Central Dublin. Young children appeared overwhelmed by the sheer crowd that had manifested for the cause, a young girl notably carrying a white sign with purple writing scrawling the words, “Stop the killing in Gaza”. Many placards and signs conveyed solemn truths through different mediums, some with elaborate wording and some with images of terrified young children that needed no further explanation. A particular prop at the protest left me speechless – an Israeli flag splattered with red paint. Such a symbol needed no words, no accompanying images. Flags have come to signify the pride and heritage of a nation, and here was a flag blemished by scarlet handprints, the paint symbolically staining Israel with bloodshed, inhumanity, and injustice.
During the rally outside the Department of Foreign Affairs, speeches were delivered that echoed with passion, with each address congruent the campaign’s requests for the complete ceasefire in Gaza and the recall of the Irish Israeli ambassador, Boaz Modai. The crowd received a live phone call from a journalist reporting from a hospital in Gaza, relaying information regarding the unimaginable conditions of medical care there, where doctors are forced to operate in corridors with flashlights due to lack of supplies. Palestinians also spoke at the rally, their words weighted with emotion and exhaustion. Exhaustion of another round of relentless warfare that plagued their homeland. Exhausted from the fear they experienced every day as they anticipated a single phone call that would confirm their worst nightmares of a violent, senseless death of a loved one. Exhausted from trying to fight the complacency so many people around them appear to project regarding the Israeli-Gaza conflict. An exhaustion that I interpreted to be harrowing, yet I admired their resilience to step onto that platform in a land far away from where such genocide was occurring. Their hope was unwavering, a hope that was defiant of years of persecution and hatred.
The complexity of the conflict in Gaza is something that we in the West can only begin to fathom, as it is a conflict that both brews and erupts as result of religious, political, and historical factors reaching a terrifying crescendo. The blame of the atrocities that have been committed within the past three weeks has been primarily put on Israel, who throws such accusations around like a hot potato with claims that Hamas (a Palestinian-Sunni terrorist organization) were storing missiles to be used for future launch against Israel in said locations. Therefore, it is plausible for some to accept these waves of missile strikes as an action of justified self-defence. However, despite one’s own convictions regarding the justifications of warfare, the recent strikes on UN shelters are inexcusable and in my opinion, could constitute war crimes. Buildings that were seen as safe havens for those who are the primary victims of Israeli air strikes – civilians – were obliterated in mere seconds. These centres of refuge provided aid for up to three thousand people, and without these hubs the citizens of Gaza once again faced a basic struggle of survival whilst also experiencing the terror of the spontaneous bombardment of shells. UN Secretary General, Ban-ki Moon, called such a heinous crime “madness”, and even Israel’s closest ally, the United States, criticized the self-proclaimed, “last remaining democracy in the Middle East” regarding its inhumane actions.
As of Monday, 04 August 2014, the New York Times reported that Israel was attempting to wind down the conflict unilaterally, and many spectators have predicted that the conflict will quiet down within the coming weeks. Certainly the slow unravelling of such a conflict is welcome amid reports of shrapnel gruesomely ending innocent lives and of morgues no longer having adequate storing space, resulting in the storing of children’s corpses in ice cream containers. However, I cannot accept this fragile peace to be a permanent solution. In order for peace to finally be restored to this ravaged land, we must ensure that vengeance is not pursued by any party involved in the conflict and that war crimes that were committed are consequentially dealt with in the International Criminal Court. The world must also come to have a global discussion of the limitations of self-defence, the word that Israel used so freely in order to justify its relentless campaigns that have resulted in the deaths of over 1,700 Palestinians, 400 of whom were children. Hamas and its violent threats must also be dealt with if any long term solution is to be concretely established, as well as dialogue commencing once again regarding a two state solution. Such propositions are quite easy for me to write as I sit in the safety of my own home in Ireland, many miles away from warzones where injustice and senseless loss rage on. However, although my naivety might undermine the suggestions I have proposed, I can recognize that in the conclusion of conflicts that have darkened humanity’s presence in our world, all of these closures of bloodshed are dependent on justice, not vengeance. Only when nations and citizens can see past the damning nature of revenge can true peace ever be achieved.