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World leaders must act immediately to end the cycle of violence in Palestine

Over the past two weeks, the people of Gaza have faced relentless bombing by Israeli forces, following an unprecedented terror attack committed by Hamas. The scale of Israel’s military attack is staggering. More than 7,000 people in Gaza have been killed — nearly half of them children — and more than 15,000 injured, according to latest reports. The number of political prisoners has reportedly doubled, to 10,000. Echoing painful historical events, the situation is again raising fears of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza, as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory has cautioned

Humanitarian organizations are issuing urgent warnings that all systems in Gaza are on the brink of collapse, with catastrophic consequences for people and their economic, social and cultural rights. Thousands of buildings and other vital infrastructure have been destroyed. Over a million people have been displaced. Access to food, water, electricity, fuel, life saving medicine, and other basic supplies has been cut off in a “complete siege” of Gaza. Amnesty International reports that only 54 trucks carrying aid and supplies have been allowed into Gaza since October 7. Doctors are pleading for help as they are being forced to operate in “nightmarish conditions” in Gaza’s hospitals.

Protecting populations from atrocity crimes is a shared responsibility of the international community. The US and other countries, who are refusing to support UN Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, are abdicating this responsibility. In the face of public pronouncements by Israel’s political leaders that “the emphasis is on damage, not accuracy”, this unwavering support for Israel’s actions is utterly inexcusable. 

The Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) has long denounced Israel’s occupation of Palestine, calling attention to systemic violations of economic, social, and cultural rights by Israel. We condemn the grave breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law being committed now and add our voice to the growing global movement rallying in solidarity with Palestinian demands for justice. 

There is no military solution to this crisis. At its root is almost six decades of military occupation that has stripped Palestinians of their most basic rights. Investigations by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have concluded this constitutes apartheid under international law. As the UN Special Rapporteur notes, this status quo is not only brutalizing Palestinians, “it is also increasingly jeopardizing and failing to protect Israeli citizens.”

The airstrikes were launched in retaliation to the attack by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, who fired indiscriminate rockets and sent fighters into southern Israel on October 7. More than 1,400 people were reportedly killed. Reports suggest that more than 200 people have been taken hostage in Gaza by Hamas. International law is unequivocal on these horrific acts: they are crimes, for which there must be accountability. International law obligations are also nonreciprocal: one war crime does not excuse another. 

The political repercussions of the crisis, which are being felt around the world, are extremely worrying. This includes a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied West Bank. It is also resulting in recorded instances of violent expressions of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, as well as violations of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, including crackdowns on protests in many countries. The UN Special Rapporteur points to “ethical relativism, selective outrage, framing only one’s own civilian population as worthy of protection and security” as part of the problem. It is “a huge, ineludible, outrageous problem of inequality that, if unaddressed, condemns Israel and Palestine to reenact the same bloody cycle”.

We echo demands from UN experts and human rights NGOs that all governments support:  

  • An immediate end to violations of international law. 

  • The agreement of a ceasefire.

  • The release of hostages taken by Hamas and Palestinians arbitrarily detained by Israel. 

  • The safe passage of all necessary humanitarian aid.

  • The restoration of basic services. 

  • The establishment of an international protective presence in the occupied Palestinian territory.

  • An embargo on the delivery of arms and military equipment to all parties to the conflict, given that serious violations amounting to crimes under international law are being committed. 

This represents an urgent prerequisite for breaking the cycle of bloodshed and envisioning an alternative: a shared future of sustainable peace — for both Palestinians and Israelis — founded on dignity, equality, and human rights.