It is time for this madness to stop


Earlier this week, I wrote a short piece about why the international community should no longer allow the Israeli blockade to continue its slow strangulation of Gaza and the humanitarian crisis it is causing. Barely had I finished writing when news began to come through that Israel had begun to open its borders to let more humanitarian supplies through. Ominously though, the news was not accompanied by statements from Israel about a new approach to relieve tension or get the ceasefire back in place. Instead it was accompanied by warnings of military action.

Today we found out what they meant. Fi6 fighters have hit scores of targets throughout the Gaza strip. We are told that the objective has been to take out Hamas’ security apparatus. But the pictures on our TV screens show, in one of the poorest and most densely populated places on earth, the reality is not quite like that. The missiles have hit residential areas and refugee camps that are home to around one and a half million people. As I write this, the death toll is already said to be topping 140. Civilian casualties are reported to be high.

And to achieve what? Israel claims that it has been left with no option but to take this action to stop the rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israeli towns like Sderot. There is no doubt that these ramshackle devices that have fallen on these towns inflict real fear even if they rarely cause many casualties. But if Israeli children living in Sderot have a right to live without the trauma caused by the constant fear of what the wail of a siren may herald, do not Palestinian children living in Gaza City also have rights? Do they not have the right to spend their days and nights with an electricity supply, to medicines and to the other supplies that have been disrupted by the blockade for two years now? Do they not also have the right to go to bed without fear that a missile will fall on their home – but without even the protection of a warning siren or a bomb shelter to flee to?

And if months of siege and blockade of Gaza have not provided the security which Israel says these actions were trying to win for its people in Sderot, does it seriously think that laying waste to residential areas of Gaza City is really going to foster a spirit of peace and friendship for the future?

It is time for the international community to say that the madness has got to stop. The way to stop the rockets on both sides is to build serious efforts to bring peace between Israel and Palestine. That means giving the Palestinians a real stake in the future, not starving them or bombing them in collective punishment for the actions of those who fire the rockets from their side.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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