Peace Begins with a Ceasefire

Grief should not beget grief.

We call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The long-term policy of displacing Palestinians into ever smaller concentrations of land in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza is not new – but today is newly inflicted at enormous scale, on an accelerated schedule and accompanied by spectacular violence.

The war against Palestinians cannot be justified by the horror of the October 7 incursion and massacre perpetrated by Hamas. The Israeli government’s assault embraces the logic whereby civilians, cities, homes and entire ecosystems are justifiable targets. It rejects international humanitarian law. It engages in ethnic cleansing. It weaponizes starvation, as defined in international law to include all items indispensable for human life – food, water, medical supplies, housing, electricity and more – to impose collective punishment against the entire population of Gaza. And the reaction of the U.S. government has been to underwrite the onslaught with commitments to send even more weapons to supply the Israeli military. The U.S. is complicit.

The death toll and scale of destruction in Gaza mounts daily. Already over 9,000 Palestinians have been killed, an estimated 3,000 of whom are children. Entire families have died, in the fire of bombs or crushed under the ruins of buildings. None of 2 million people are unscathed. Countless homes, civilian infrastructure, hospitals, mosques, churches, schools and more have been reduced to rubble.

At the moment when principled and sustained leadership for peace is urgently needed, it is painfully absent. We join international calls for an immediate ceasefire and urge world leaders to commit to the search for a just and equitable peace.

We condemn the massacre perpetrated by Hamas on October 7, and demand that all hostages be released.

We reject the logic that tars an entire people for the actions of a government or non-state actor. We honor the sanctity of life of Palestinians and Israelis, and their broader communities whether near to or far from the conflict zone.

We condemn the use of mass starvation.

Starvation, as defined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, is “intentionally using the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival.” A foremost example of mass starvation is siege, such as we are witnessing this today in Gaza. Despite the trickle of supplies now entering, we remind global leaders that siege is prohibited under international law when there are no efforts to distinguish between combatants and civilians. Throughout history, starvation has been used to displace, coerce, and impose collective punishment on populations. It must be condemned everywhere it is deployed, whether by allies or opponents.

We demand that the U.S. government stop sending weapons to a war zone.

We condemn the response of the U.S. government to send more weapons to Israel as it pursues a war replete with violations of human rights and humanitarian law. We honor the example of Josh Paul, who, in protest against U.S. weapon transfers to Israel, resigned from the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. He wrote: “I cannot work in support of a set of major policy decisions, including rushing more arms to one side of the conflict, that I believe to be shortsighted, destructive, unjust and contradictory to the very values that we publicly espouse…”.

Following the end of the Cold War, European countries, the U.S. and the UN endeavored to create ethical policy guidelines that would restrict the sale of weapons to war zones. Along with other major weapons producing countries, the U.S. has rarely heeded even its own articulated principles on this matter; but that makes them no less important. American-made bombs are central to the arsenal that is destroying Gaza. This must end.

American hypocrisy in sending pitifully small amounts of humanitarian aid while feeding the war is not lost on any of us.

Peace is the only way to protect all peoples in the region.

Demands for a ceasefire are off the table for the Israeli government and its supporters, foremost of which is the U.S., which vetoed calls in the UN Security Council for the bombs to stop falling. Even more dangerous, the possibility of peace itself is being further undermined with each day, as it has been each year that the unsustainable and unjust occupation is allowed to endure.

The American and European response to this war is the latest chapter in a global turn away from peacemaking as an international priority. We have witnessed the trend in Ethiopia and Sudan, where diplomacy has taken a backseat to political expediency. It belies the principled posture of European and American positions on Ukraine, where calls to uphold international humanitarian law are used to condemn the Russian invasion and violence against civilians. These laws are relevant and needed. In fact, they are most needed at times of emergency and high emotion. These laws are undermined wherever they are treated as luxuries of political convenience.

We are not naïve; arriving at a sustainable peace in the Middle East is profoundly difficult. The tragedy is not its difficulty, but the abandonment of the goal.

Recent efforts to normalize relations between Arab states and Israel have attempted to ignore the Palestinian people and sideline peace. The terms of exchange have been convoluted security agreements cemented through arms trade deals. This is not peace.

Whether one views oneself as a friend of or long-standing activist against Israeli policies, an advocate for Palestinians or not — our role as people outside the line of fire is to demand that cooler heads prevail. Negotiations, not bombs and more death, are the only way forward. A peace process must be real and that means difficult; it means that the hard decisions can no longer be put off and injustices should no more be protected by powerful allies. But for anyone who cares that the region enjoy a future more peaceful than its present, this is the only path forward.

It begins with an immediate ceasefire.

The Staff of the World Peace Foundation

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