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The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is deeply pained by the resumption of conflict, after a period of relative peace, between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Reflecting on the first clause of IHEU’s Oslo Declaration on Peace — namely that, “All wars are started by human beings and war can be ended by human beings working together” — we regret that opportunities to calm tensions and initiate talks have been foregone on both sides.

gaza-victim-2014We echo the stance and concerns of outgoing United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who in her statement of 23 July notes both that:

— “Gaza has been subjected to daily intensive bombardment from the air, land and sea, employing well over 2,100 air strikes alone” since Israel’s operation “Protective Edge” commenced on 7 July, killing over 600 Palestinians of which “around 74 percent of those killed so far were civilians”; and that:

— “indiscriminate firing by Hamas and other armed groups of more than 2,900 rockets, as well as mortars, from Gaza continues to endanger the lives of civilians in Israel” and “that it is unacceptable to locate military assets in densely populated areas or to launch attacks from such areas”.

Arbitrary terror attacks and the use of “human shields” is an affront to common dignity and universal human rights, as is the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and any use of asymmetric force which creates such unacceptably high levels of civilian fatalities.

The situation between Israel and Palestine is not reducible to a simple equation of rockets and a response to those attacks, nor to occupation and a response to that circumstance. The history of Israel’s founding, prior war by other states on Israel, occupation and blockading of Palestinian territories by Israel, and the violence and threat to civilian life on both sides, means there is no simple blame game.

That said, the current offensive in Gaza, despite some precautions by Israel, clearly fails to minimize casualties (on both sides) and to the contrary risks entrenching and prolonging violence and increasing the risk of casualties (on both sides). As such the ongoing bombardment operation must be abhorred as a human rights tragedy.

We are alarmed by reports of airstrikes on some egregious targets and reports of the resumption of punitive property demolitions.

We note that, in addition to the real tragedy for each individual affected by the current conflict, the ideological and regional context also inflates the risks of prolonging the violence.

We urge the United Nations and all regional players to recognise this complexity and to intervene only with a sense of balance and compassion.

To conclude, again with reference to the Oslo Declaration on Peace, “Peace is more than just the absence of war. Peace requires respect for the worth and dignity of our fellow human beings, tolerance among individuals, and harmony within each person.” The current conflict, coming as it does after a period of relative calm, will we hope swiftly subside into non-violence. When this happens we hope the authorities and people of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories will reflect that they then have a new opportunity to talk, to find mutual understanding of the others’ point of view, and to work for lasting peace.

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11 Responses to IHEU statement on Israel-Palestine conflict

  1. Josh Kutchinsky says:

    This is a very well worded, wise and judicious statement. Our membership will Include people with a deep personal involvement on both sides. This may be seen by some as risking a moral equivalence where it should not exist but this would be unfair. Others might call it mealy-mouthed. This too would be wrong. It is a statement which I believe we can all agree with even though we may not see how to move from sound words to solid deeds.

    • Eric says:

      Based on the evidence, I would conclude that any of the membership that supports Israel at this point is not aware of the facts. It is not possible to be a true humanist and support a brutal occupying force that has been systematically stealing land from the original Palestinian owners, depriving those Palestinians of their human rights, and committing genocide against the occupied peoples at irregular but frequent intervals. I would not want to be part of any organization which supports Israel’s actions at this time.

    • Eran says:

      Your presumptuous conclusions are, well…, presumptuous.

  2. John says:

    Israel is the principal transgressor in the conflict as they are one of the most heavily armed states in the area.
    Israel should be subjected to universal boycott, divestment and sanctions until they stop oppressing the Palestinians and free them to lead their own lives in their own separate and independent state.

  3. Jeffrey Mansfiel says:

    I heartily endorse the comment made by John. The only terrorist here is the Zionist Israeli state.

    This statement is welcome but is heavily biased, hardly surprising given the overwhelming power of Zionist propaganda in the British media, especially the BBC. This comment – “Arbitrary terror attacks and the use of “human shields” – comes straight from the Zionist hasbara propaganda handbook, which casts the Palestinians in general and Hamas in particular as terrorists and accuses them of using their people as human shields. This is a complete lie, nothing more than propaganda and should not be stated as a truth. Gaza is an overcrowded prison camp, with 1.8million people jammed together without basic human rights and in appalling conditions, all because of Israel’s brutal collective punishment. What are they supposed to do, leave Gaza? They can’t.

    The blame lies entirely with Israel, which has no ‘right to self-defence’ because it is an occupying power, whereas the Palestinians, as an occupied people, do have the right to resist. The Israeli strategy is clear: make life impossible for all Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, steal their land, target their children, drive them away, kill them, and if they resist call them terrorists. The immediate cause of this latest terror attack on Gaza was the formation of a unity government, by which Hamas was implicitly recognising Israel because Fatah has done so. That directly threatens Israel’s plan to take the whole land only for Jews. Hamas was blamed for killing the three settlers, and Israel launched its pre-meditated attack, after having arbitrarily locked up 800 West Bank Palestinians and destroyed much of their infrastructure.
    Boycott Israel, Divest from Israel, sanction Israel until it respects international law and the Palestinians’ human rights, ends its illegal and murderous occupation and sits down to engage in sincere talks to bring a just solution to the Palestinians’ aspirations. Free Palestine!

    • Eran says:

      “sincere talks to bring a just solution to the Palestinians’ aspirations” – have you ever read the Hamas charter? Or did your in-depth research miss out on that bit?

      Not only is Hamas not even prepared to recognize Israel, its “aspirations” include killing Jewish occupants of what they see as Palestine.

      Reading a bit before stating an opinion – it’s a wonderful thing.

      Everyone is offering a “free Palestine”. What about a “free Islamic State”? The IS charter and the Hamas charter, as well as modus operandi are very similar.

  4. Theodore says:

    Dear John, please re-read the statement and do not make blunt assumptions. There is no conflict in the world where both parties have blood on their hands. I would nog defend neither Israel nor Palestine but If you make a unilateral statement, one could answer that Israel calls before bombing and hamas does not (confirmed on Palestinian television by the prime minister of Palestine), that hamas uses schools and children to protect their misiles (confirmed by UNRWA UN mission in Palestine) and that fantastic groups like ISIS and BOKO HARAM are settling in the region with the tolerant and ethical behavior as we saw them developping in the past. I agree it may seem unfair that there are much less casualties in Israel but should they turn off their iron curtain so they also can show horrible images of massacres of the random bombing. Many images of Hamas using civilians as shield could also be taken in consideration. The statement of IHEU is equilibrated and does not ‘throw the stone’ at any but at both parties. Both have blood on their hands! A ceasefire settlement is on the table since one week from egypt that just needs a signature of Hamas so a peacefull settlement can be worked at. Again in every conflict both have blood on their hands lets not judge one party. The peace declaration of Oslo should and could be used by international institutions as work document to build lasting peace. Hathred there will always be between religious entities, cultural groups, political fractions, humans in general. The aim is to find a way to coexist constructively!

  5. Nora Freeman says:

    This seems to be a well-thought-out statement with compassion for both sides while also attempting to hold both sides accountable. However, I think the even-handed posture is misplaced here. While Israelis had recently been experiencing a period of “relative calm” the same cannot be said of Palestinians in Gaza. These people have been living under siege conditions for years, with sharply limited food, clean water, and medical and building supplies (building supplies are especially needed since the massive bombardment of 2008-09). As a result, tunnels have been dug to supplement these meager rations and provisions. Hamas has taken advantage of the situation to also bring in weapons, this is true. But the tunnels would not be needed if the civilian population’s needs could be met in a more conventional and convenient manner. What happened when outside people, horrified by the desperate conditions in Gaza, attempted to bring in food, etc.? Armed Israeli military personnel forcibly boarded the ship in international waters and killed nine people. I fail to see much Israeli good faith here.

  6. Jack van Dijk says:

    Israel is in existence since 1948, by now they should have learned to exist with their neighbors. The PLO and Hamas are probably in existence as long as Israel, by now they should have realized that they have to accept the existence of Israel.
    The operative words are “have to” as in “you must”, otherwise the world will act as your Mother and cuff you around the ears.
    The USA should stay out of this and not choose sides, it should not pay for this war as in paying for Iron Dome.

  7. Eric says:

    I’m 69 and have watched this conflict over the past 47 years or so since I have achieved adulthood. At first I was pro Israel and thought that the Israelis had a right to defend themselves, which they most assuredly do. However Israel has been in charge of the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza for the past 47 years and instead of preparing them for and arranging their free statehood or providing a method for those residents of Gaza to become Israeli citizens, they have failed to do either.
    The reason is obvious to all but the most obtuse. Israel wants the lands in the West Bank and Gaza but does not want the people because they are not Jewish. Israel is a racist theocracy and as a humanist I am appalled by the manner in which they deal with those people. Jews are not the chosen people of their god. There is no god and if there were a good and all knowing god he would not want to be aligned with an uncompassionate human being such as Netanyahu and unfortunately the majority of the Israeli people.
    The UN should be put in charge of the West Bank and Gaza as the Israelis have shown themselves to be incapable of doing anything but exploiting and abusing those people.

  8. David Jackson says:

    I think this is a perfectly worded statement. Whatever one may think, taking sides does nothing to lessen the conflict. If there is enough peer pressure from the rest of the world, maybe we can shame both sides into stopping the hostilities. As slim a possibility this is, it is the only thing left to try. Focus on solutions, not the past. Keeping a score card just extends the insanity.

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