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Palestinian Knesset member: World must act to stop Netanyahu’s rampage in Gaza

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Picture: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/REUTERS/Taken on October 19, 2023 – Palestinians work to remove debris as they search for bodies at the site of an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, October 19, 2023.

By Jake Johnson

“Those of us who are Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel are uniquely positioned to see through his bluster and warmongering to the failure he really is — truths that the past several days have laid bare.”

A Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset took to the pages of The New York Times on Thursday to call for global action to end the deadly siege of Gaza and prevent far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from using the ongoing conflict as an opportunity to permanently displace Palestinians living in the occupied territory.

“Mr Netanyahu has used every day in the prime minister’s office and every ounce of his power to try to convince the world that safety for Israelis must come at the expense of safety for Palestinians and to block all pathways to peace,” wrote Ayman Odeh, the leader of Israel’s left-wing Hadash party. “He has sold a fairy tale about the unbeatable might of the Israeli military and his own ability to manage a violent system in which Palestinians have gone to sleep under occupation and siege and Israelis have woken up with an uncertain future. Now he is adding to the civilian death toll.”

“Those of us who are Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel are uniquely positioned to see through his bluster and warmongering to the failure he really is — truths that the past several days have laid bare,” he added. “We see the extent to which he is willing to burn our shared homeland to the ground rather than bring about long-term solutions that will deliver safety and a good life to all of us, Palestinians and Israelis alike.”

Odeh implored the international community to “step up in the face of unspeakable tragedy and choose life” by taking several immediate steps, “including calling for a cease-fire to stop all civilian deaths and preventing Mr Netanyahu’s government from any attempt at pursuing the long-term forced displacement of Palestinians; a humanitarian exchange of prisoners to bring home all civilians held hostage, especially infants, children, and older adults; and restoring the flow of basic human necessities to all the people of Gaza.”

To secure peace over the long-term, he argued, nations must end their “support and approval for the Israeli military occupation and siege of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.”

“There is nothing in this world — not even the cruel occupation — that can justify harming innocent people. Nothing.”

Odeh’s op-ed came on the 13th day of Israel’s latest bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip, which is facing a massive humanitarian crisis as Israel restricts the delivery of critical aid, including fuel that the territory’s overwhelmed hospitals desperately need. It also came amid escalating violence in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli soldiers reportedly killed nine Palestinians on Thursday, including a 16-year-old boy.

“Israeli forces are increasingly and brazenly killing Palestinian children throughout the West Bank,” Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability programme director at Defence for Children International-Palestine, said in a statement on Thursday. “At this moment, there is absolutely no check on Israeli aggression as the international community enables war crimes through the provision of weapons and financial and diplomatic support to ensure Israeli forces and officers enjoy impunity regardless of the gravity of crimes.”

Warning of a “long war,” Netanyahu has rejected calls to stop the bombing in Gaza and lift the blockade, agreeing only to allow limited aid to reach people in southern Gaza through the Egyptian border. The US, Israel’s largest supplier of weapons, has encouraged its ally to permit humanitarian aid to reach Gazans but has not pressured the Netanyahu government to halt the airstrikes and agree to a cease-fire.

Guillemette Thomas, Doctors Without Borders’ medical co-ordinator for Palestine, said Thursday that “since access to health facilities is extremely dangerous and complicated by the shortage of petrol, only the most severe patients seek hospital care”.

“Since the start of the conflict, more than 9,700 people have been injured,” Thomas continued. “I believe that these people are in serious danger of dying in the next few hours, because it’s becoming impossible to get medical attention.”

More than a million people have been displaced in Gaza and nearly 3,800 people in Gaza have been killed by Israeli airstrikes that began on October 7, shortly after a Hamas attack on Israel that killed 1,400 people. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has called the Netanyahu government’s response a “criminal policy of revenge”.

In his New York Times op-ed on Thursday, Odeh wrote that “there is nothing in this world — not even the cruel occupation — that can justify harming innocent people”. “Nothing. I have always categorically opposed harming civilians, and I will continue opposing it with every fibre of my being. It is a violation of our collective humanity.

“I have friends who were killed and who lost children in Hamas’ murderous attack on October 7,” Odeh added. “I have friends who were injured and killed in Gaza in the days that followed. My heart has broken, along with the people of this country and people around the world, for each and every family searching for loved ones, grieving them, or trying to bring them home.”

Odeh isn’t the only Knesset member who has sharply criticised the Netanyahu government’s assault on Gaza.

On Wednesday, the Knesset Ethics Committee suspended left-wing member Ofer Cassif for 45 days for comparing the Netanyahu government’s policy in Gaza to the Nazis’ “final solution”.

“They use the terrible, horrifying, unacceptable carnage in the struggle of Israel as an excuse to attack Gaza as part of the realisation of this fascist subjugation plan,” Cassif, who is Jewish, told Democracy Now! in an interview days after the Hamas attack.

In response to his suspension, Cassif said that “even in these difficult days, I will not be silent and will continue to fight for the public and the principles on whose behalf I was elected — peace, equality, and justice for all”.

Jake Johnson is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams

This article was first published on Common Dreams