Relentless Gaza bombardment risks creating a new generation of killers


Last week the opposition opted to table a Dáil motion that sought to divide the Oireachtas on the human tragedy that is Gaza, rather than unite us. That move was regrettable.

There is much that unites deputies on this issue. The President, Taoiseach and Tánaiste have been to the forefront on the global stage in calling out Israel’s breaches of international humanitarian law. There can be no disagreement on that.

We all agree that the killing of more than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, and the displacement of more than one million Gazans is horrific and an outrage.
Speaking last week, the United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres said the alarming death toll arising from Israel’s brutal bombardment of Gaza shows “there is something clearly wrong” with Israel’s military operations. We are all agreed on that.

We are also agreed on the need for an immediate ceasefire and Ireland has been vocal in urging this. So what are the areas of disagreement?
The opposition says it wants the situation in Gaza referred to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

But that is already happening, as the Tánaiste highlighted. The problem is that many countries are not giving the ICC the financial and political support needed to conduct the investigation more speedily. Ireland is again leading the way here, giving the ICC an additional €3m.

The other area of disagreement is on expelling the Israeli ambassador. I see why some favour this gesture, but it is just that. A gesture.
It will not impact thinking in Tel Aviv and will have potential real-world consequences for others, including Irish Defence Forces personnel serving with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in Israel and the West Bank.

So, our disagreements pale in comparison to the things we agree on.
As a country that suffered terrorism, criminality and wanton sectarian violence for decades, we have some understanding of what people in the Middle East are going through.

Although most conflicts are different, whether it be the origins, their causes, or their history, there are still some universal truths.
The first is that the pain and hurt felt by the families of the 1,200 Israelis murdered by Hamas terrorists on October 7 is just as awful and heartbreaking as that felt by the families of the more than 11,000 killed in Israeli attacks across Gaza.

There are other truths. The most pertinent one is that there is no military or security solution to a political problem. It took the British security establishment far too long to realise this. Years were wasted and lives lost while successive British governments wrongly imagined there were security and military ways to quell the problem. They refused to grasp that the situation required political action and dialogue.

So-called republican and loyalist killers, operating with no public support, caused massive pain for innocent people in both communities. The tit-for-tat attacks and reprisals continued, but the political issues lay unaddressed.

In the darkest of times it took people with courage, like John Hume, to remind us that “without dialogue, there is no possibility of peace”. There were many times before 1998 when it looked as if that prospect was very far away. But it wasn’t. We must cling to this fact, even as we watch the devastation of the past five weeks.

The other truth stems from the fact that there are no security solutions to political problems. This truth holds that killing one terrorist runs the risk of recruiting two more.
Israel says it wants to destroy Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups. Israel has a duty to protect itself and its people and prevent further attacks. It has a right to go after those who killed 1,200 Israelis and took 240 innocent civilians as hostages.

But Israel also has a duty to abide by international humanitarian law. It must ask itself if this attack on Gaza is not more likely to drive many more thousands of moderate and reasonable young Palestinians into the arms of Hamas?

Israel may remove a top layer of Hamas commanders and degrade its capacity to kill Israelis in the short-term, but it risks creating a new generation of even more motivated and committed killers.

And each one will be eager for personal revenge; each one determined never to engage in the dialogue that is absolutely essential to ensuring that Palestinians and Israelis can live securely, side by side, in two sovereign states, with peace and mutual respect.

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