Letters to the Editor: The true war crime is using civilians as a human shield

One reader says Israel is trying to minimise civilian casualties, while others consider the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, West Bank settlements, and the threat hanging over Lebanon
Letters to the Editor: The true war crime is using civilians as a human shield

Israelis amid the rubble of a building the day after the initial Hamas attacks on October 7. Picture: Oded Balilty/AP

Can an Irish-born Jew be allowed to express his opinion on the war in Gaza?

I read each day from people who have never been to the Middle East or Israel. They are quick to lecture Jews on how they should behave.

We Jews have been persecuted since the time of our enslavement in Egypt. My great-grandparents fled Russia from the pogroms instigated by Tsar Nicholas, stopping off in Cork, speaking only Yiddish, they thought they were in New York and were happy to make their home in Ireland.

When Jews had no sovereignty over their ancient homeland, the antisemites would tell them to go to Palestine as they were not welcome in Ireland. And, now that a remnant of the Jewish people have restored sovereignty to their homeland, they somehow have stolen the land from the “ancient Palestinians”. Let me make it clear, Hamas does not want any piece of land. Their goal, clearly stated in their charter, is to destroy Israel and kill all its people based on their interpretation of the Quran and Hadith. The October 7 massacre of Jews was more barbaric than any normal human being could even imagine.

The Palestinian Arabs have been offered a state multiple times but always refused to accept. Since modern Israel’s existence in 1948 more than 900,000 Jews who lived in Arab countries were expelled (their crime being Jewish due to the founding of modern Israel), with all their possessions stolen between 1948 and 1973. Two thirds went to live in Israel and the rest settled in the USA and Europe. There has been no justice or compensation for these people.

Another lie repeated ad nauseam is that Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza. Israel uses smart munitions to reduce collateral damage. They warn civilians to leave before bombing. The Israel army does more to try and minimise civilian casualties than any other army. Hamas deliberately uses civilians as shields and places its forces and rocket launchers close to, or even under, hospitals and uses the civilian deaths as propaganda.

Israel is entitled under international law to knock out rocket launchers that are firing into Israel even if civilians are being used as shields. Using civilians as a shield is a war crime but, according to the world, the Jews are the war criminals.

October 7 was a watershed moment for the people of Israel and their aggressive defence would be fully justified if they were not Jewish. However Jews have to live by different standards laid down by gentiles because we are Jews.

Keith Davies, Augustine, Florida

Conflict threatens Lebanon too

Goal welcomes the Government’s decision to call for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian access to Gaza as the ongoing tragic events in Gaza and Israel spill over to neighbouring countries.

Once again, Lebanon is at a crossroads, as we witness families bracing for the worst as the imminent danger of being dragged into this highly complex crisis is on their doorstep. The sight of families fleeing southern Lebanon for the relative safety of Beirut awakens the trauma of the 2006 war in which more than 1,000 people died, and which saw much of the country’s infrastructure levelled.

Tracing their footsteps north is all too grimly familiar. The country’s economic and financial tailspin over the past five years and the collapse of its once prestigious health systems have rendered the country much more vulnerable to the terrible humanitarian fallout that would ensue from the onset of all-out war. Substantial humanitarian assistance will be needed, given Lebanon’s precarious reality.

The Lebanese people have remained remarkably resilient in coping and adapting to their new realities, but this new round of hostilities will further strain an already weakened health infrastructure along with public services.

The complexity of this conflict cannot be overstated. As a humanitarian organisation, we support the call for an immediate ceasefire, to avert the needless suffering of thousands of families, women, and children. In the days ahead, as people prepare for a long hard winter, Goal, along with partners, will support populations caught in this conflict.

Siobhan Walsh, CEO, GOAL

Palestinians under attack in West Bank

I recently returned to Galway from the West Bank in occupied Palestine, having served on a programme of the World Council of Churches. I was based in Masafer Yatta in the south of the West Bank. We provided protective presence to Palestinian communities vulnerable to attack from both the Israeli military and Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements.

We also monitored and reported breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law.

While the eyes of the world are on Israel and Gaza, Palestinians are under attack in the West Bank.

The combined area of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is 10% smaller than County Galway, where I live. According to the United Nations, there are now more than 700,000 Israeli settlers living in 279 settlements across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. All of these settlements are illegal under international law.

On October 4, I saw yet another new Israeli settlement with a large flock of sheep. It appeared on Palestinian land on a hill near Tuba village in Masafer Yatta. I witnessed the increasing levels of violence and harassment directed at Palestinian communities from Israeli settlers. I saw Palestinian shepherds being harassed as they grazed their flocks, forcing them off their land. I saw evidence of attacks on the water storage tanks, homes, and animal shelters of the villagers. I witnessed the harassment of school children, sometimes by armed settlers, as they made their way to school on paths close to these illegal Israeli settlements. Since October 7, according to the UN, attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are surging, with at least 115 killed, more than 2,000 injured and nearly 1,000 others forcibly displaced from their homes because of violence and intimidation by Israeli forces and settlers. Among the dead are 33 children. Without an end to the
occupation, without equality, and full dignified human rights for all, this cycle of violence will never end.

Our Government has regularly criticised Israeli government policy, in particular, stating its strong opposition to Israeli construction and expansion of illegal settlements. However, Ireland has yet to take concrete action and continues to trade with businesses in the settlements. As a first step, Ireland must end its complicity by immediately passing the Occupied Territories Bill in Dáil Eireann.

Máire Ní Mheibhric, Mionloch, Co Galway

How many must die before the EU calls for a ceasefire?

Peter Power of Unicef Ireland powerfully conveys a sense of the horror and trauma endured by the children of Gaza since Israel began its blockade of this enclave in 2006 ('Gaza's traumatised children have lived through five wars already', Irish Examiner, October 30).  

Even worse, however, many thousands of children have not survived Israel’s merciless onslaughts. So far, more than 9,000 people have died in Gaza as a result of air strikes and artillery shelling in the current war and, shockingly, over 3,000 of the dead are children, killed in the most distressing of circumstances, many alongside their parents and siblings. War crimes are war crimes, whether carried out in southern Israel or in Gaza or the West Bank. Palestinian lives matter, too.

What is unfolding in Gaza is a deliberate and sustained massacre, and not just a humanitarian disaster. It can be stopped.

In the face of this avoidable catastrophe, the EU response has been shameful and it was profoundly depressing to see the Irish Government agree at a leaders’ summit to a declaration that calls merely for “humanitarian pauses” instead of loudly demanding an immediate ceasefire. Leo Varadkar remarked that he doesn’t “really mind what language is used”, but the difference in meaning between a temporary “pause” and a proper “ceasefire” will be measured in lost Palestinian lives. The UN general assembly, by contrast, has demanded a full ceasefire and an urgent humanitarian intervention.

How many more thousands of civilians must die before the EU believes that a ceasefire should be demanded of Israel? How many more children must be killed and maimed? Can the EU and Leo Varadkar supply us with a number?

Fintan Lane, Lucan, County Dublin

No, this is not a time for war

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has quoted the Bible to justify Israeli military actions in Gaza: “The Bible says there is a time for peace and a time for war. This is a time for war.”

There are many versions of the Bible, and the truth of its messages are often lost in translations or manipulations. Ecclesiastes 3:7-8 has one such version. ‘There is a time to tear apart and a time to sew together. There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. There is a time to love and a time to hate. There is a time for war and a time for peace.’

It’s not the first time that religion and religious beliefs have been misused to justify the unjustifiable. The Middle East and the wider world is being torn apart by unjustified wars. In this 21st century of weapons of mass destruction, no war is justifiable and throughout history wars were never justifiable when peace by peaceful means should always have been possible. Now is the time to sew international peace back together. Now is the time to speak out against war crimes. Now is the time to show love and never to hate. There should never be a time for war. The risk of nuclear war was never greater. If it happens there will be no future. Planet Earth will be uninhabitable.

Edward Horgan, Castletroy, Limerick

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