The terrible events unfolding in Israel and Palestine horrify us. The gravity of the events demands a firm response from the European Union, which is not being forthcoming. As social organisations, we are addressing the acting President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, in the framework of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, and all political forces in Spain. Human rights must be guaranteed immediately.
We unequivocally condemn the attacks perpetrated by Hamas in Israel. Hamas and other armed groups committed war crimes that cannot be justified under any circumstances. The attackers showed a chilling disregard for human life. All those responsible for these acts must be brought to justice in fair trials. But Israel’s response cannot take the form of a collective attack on Gaza’s civilian population. An indiscriminate attack, targeting over two million people, demonstrates the same chilling disregard for human life that it claims to be fighting.
We are deeply concerned about the grave violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including war crimes, committed by all parties to the conflict. We remind policy makers in Spain, a member state of the European Union, that what they do or do not do has important consequences for the lives of millions of Palestinians and Israelis, as well as for the perception of the EU as an impartial actor committed to human rights around the world.
The Gaza Strip, under Israel’s illegal blockade since 2007 and under occupation since 1967, is suffering a desperate humanitarian crisis affecting more than 2.2 million people trapped in the “world’s largest open-air prison”, as the UN has repeatedly called it. The total siege of Gaza has meant blocking the entry of food, fuel and humanitarian aid; cutting off electricity and water. All this amidst massive bombardment causing the death of thousands of people, destruction of homes and infrastructure, and an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The Israeli order to the civilian population, including medical personnel and patients in hospitals, to “evacuate” the area to the south of the Strip may constitute forced displacement and, consequently, a violation of international humanitarian law and a possible war crime.
The consequences of this crisis will transcend the local level. There is a high risk of regionalisation and internationalisation of the conflict, with the danger that this entails in a highly agitated global geopolitical context.
The war between Israel and Hamas did not start on 7 October. Israel’s military has a long record of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including imposing a system of apartheid on the Palestinian population for decades, with impunity. Responsibilities must be investigated and prosecuted. Human rights violations and war crimes committed by Palestinian armed groups and security forces cannot go unpunished either, they must be investigated and prosecuted.
The consequences of this crisis will go beyond the local level. There is a high risk of regionalisation and internationalisation of the conflict, with the danger that this entails in a highly agitated global geopolitical context. Spain and the EU now have an important role to play in reversing the disregard for international law and promoting initiatives that resolve the conflict and lead to peacebuilding. Turning our heads is not an option.
The situation is extremely serious, therefore, we urge the Spanish political forces, and especially the acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, in the framework of the EU presidency, to demand an immediate ceasefire. Pressure must also be put on the Israeli government to lift its illegal blockade of Gaza. International efforts must be accelerated to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid and medical assistance to a desperate population. In addition, they must demand that the Israeli authorities immediately rescind the order to “evacuate” the civilian population of northern Gaza. Another key issue is the demand for respect, by all parties involved, of international human rights and humanitarian law. It is urgent to demand the immediate release of civilians abducted by Hamas and other groups, as well as an end to attacks on civilians by these groups. Military operations that jeopardise access to humanitarian assistance and medical care must end.
Spain and the EU should unconditionally support and therefore promote the ongoing investigation into the situation in Palestine by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and promote, within the UN, a comprehensive arms embargo on all parties to the conflict. Spain, for its part, should suspend the supply, export and authorisation of all arms, munitions and other military and security equipment to Israel.
This article was originally published in La Marea and was signed by: Irene Bello Quintana, President of La Coordinadora de Organizaciones para el Desarrollo; Esteban Beltrán, Director of Amnesty International; Ana Barrero Tíscar, President of Asociación Española de Investigación para la Paz (AIPAZ); Andrés Rodríguez Amayuelas, member of Futuro en Común; on behalf of more than 650 organisations working for the defence of human rights, justice and peace around the world. Photo: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images.