Unasked questions over Gaza ceasefire calls in Israel-Hamas war!

Juliet Moses – 7 December 2023

Like most people, I am horrified by the death and destruction that has ensued since Hamas sent its henchmen and rockets into Israel on October 7, massacring more than 1200 civilians and abducting some 240 others. Evidence continues to mount of unfathomable atrocities including mutilation and rape.

What humane person would not be distressed by those attacks as well as the suffering and deaths of innocent Gazans resulting from Israel’s response?

Ceasefire now” has become a common catchphrase, chanted at weekly protests and hashtagged on social media. I understand the attraction of repeating two words in the belief that they have the power to save lives. I am sure some people genuinely use them for humanitarian reasons, believing an indefinite ceasefire will lead to long-lasting peace, although I wonder why they do not demand the same for the numerous other conflicts where innocent civilians are dying and being displaced.

However, I also believe that some people demanding “ceasefire now” are not concerned for all the people affected by this war. Some deny, minimise or justify the atrocities of October 7. Some do not demand the return of some 140 remaining hostages that Hamas continues to hold as bargaining chips, the others having been released during a negotiated pause in fighting last week.

Israelis evacuate a site struck by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel, on October 9. Photo / AP
Israelis evacuate a site struck by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel, on October 9. Photo / AP

That is why I have questions for people demanding a ceasefire.

Are you willing to accept that Hamas, the Iranian-backed regime designated as a terrorist group by (among others) the European Union, United States, Canada, Australia, Britain and (in respect of its military wing only), New Zealand, will govern Gaza indefinitely? There have been no parliamentary elections in Gaza since 2006. In 2007, it killed and expelled members from its rival party Fatah, and has oppressed Gaza ever since. According to human rights watchdogs, Hamas brutally suppresses any dissent against it, and denies its people basic freedoms. It has long been accused by military experts like the Nato Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence of using Palestinian civilians as human shields. Recently a Hamas official claimed the complex, costly tunnel network it has built under Gaza is for protecting its fighters and declared the United Nations responsible for protecting Gazan civilians.

While their people suffer, three of Hamas’ most senior leaders control billions of dollars of wealth and live in luxury in Qatar. Should some of the responsibility for the protection and betterment of Gazans not fall on their government, rather than the enemy it has just savagely attacked?

Maybe you’re okay with Hamas remaining in power, and think that it should reach a diplomatic solution with Israel. How do you compromise with a group whose declared intent in its founding charter and officials’ statements since October 7 is to annihilate Israel and murder Jews?

Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005, in the hope that could be a step towards an enduring peace, but Hamas was elected the next year. Geopolitical experts believe the timing of the Hamas attacks was because Israel was soon to sign a normalisation agreement with Saudi Arabia, which contained concessions for the Palestinians. Hamas violently rejects any progress towards peace.

If you accept that Hamas will remain in power and undermine any moves towards peace, what security measures would you tolerate Israel taking to protect itself? A blockade more severe than what was imposed by it (as well as Egypt) after Hamas came to power and started firing rockets at it? A continuing Israeli military presence in Gaza, like before 2005?

Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip on December 6. Photo / AP
Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip on December 6. Photo / AP

If you’re not keen on those ideas, and you’re out of other options, you have arrived at the point that Israel will become indefensible. Israel says more than 250,000 displaced persons have been evacuated from the southern border with Gaza and the northern border with Lebanon, as rockets continue to bombard those regions. While Hamas remains in power, it remains an existential threat to Israel, a country that is less than a tenth the size of New Zealand.

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Do you care? My final and most important question is whether you want Israel to survive. Or do you deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination in their historic homeland, a right guaranteed under international law and realised after the 1947 UN partition plan, when the British occupation ended in a tiny remnant of the collapsed Ottoman Empire? If you support replacing the Jewish people’s homeland with a Palestinian homeland, from the river to the sea, your cry for “ceasefire now” is the antithesis of peace.

Juliet Moses is a spokesperson for the New Zealand Jewish Council. Photo / File
Juliet Moses is a spokesperson for the New Zealand Jewish Council. Photo / File

But if like me you believe that both the Jewish and Palestinian people must have self-determination, living in dignity and security and with the freedoms many in New Zealand take for granted, you must recognise that this will not happen while Hamas remains in power. Hamas broke the ceasefire that existed on October 6, as with every previous ceasefire. Parties that start wars do not usually dictate the terms on which they end, unless they win them. Hamas could end it tomorrow though, by unconditional surrender.

I do not have all the answers, but I do have many questions. And if you are not asking them of yourself while demanding “ceasefire now”, maybe it’s time to drop the slogan. Or at least add a new one, “surrender Hamas”.