Letters to the Editor: We must find peaceful solution to war in Israel

'We have witnessed mass civilian deaths and the systematic destruction of civilian infrastructure in previous military incursions and four wars since 1989'
Letters to the Editor: We must find peaceful solution to war in Israel

People during a pro-Palestinian protest in London, marching from Hyde Park to the US embassy in Vauxhall. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA

We are former UN staff members who have lived and worked in Gaza and the West Bank.

We have witnessed mass civilian deaths and the systematic destruction of civilian infrastructure in previous military incursions and four wars since 1989.

We feel profound empathy with the family and friends of Israeli civilians killed and taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 — who include peace activists dedicated to furthering Israeli-Palestinian understanding.

We write in deep sorrow at the deaths of 101 of our former UN colleagues since 7 October, alongside thousands of other innocent civilians in Gaza, a number that continues to rise.

We acknowledge the deep historical collective trauma that exists for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The current scale of violence and destruction feels existential. We are tired of calls to action favouring one side over another, which only entrench polarised positions. We stand with those who believe in our shared humanity.

One atrocity does not justify another. The killing and hostage-taking of Israeli civilians by Hamas October 7 violates every moral code of conduct and international law. These acts have been, justifiably, categorised as war crimes. The horror of these massacres should not erode the rules of war.

The actions of the Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza, too, have been classified as war crimes, including by an Israeli human rights organisation. The level of death and destruction currently unfolding is unprecedented. This is not a one-off but forms part of a systematic pattern of “unjustified, disproportionate, and illegal violence by Israeli security forces towards Palestinians” over 56 years of occupation – as stated in a June 2023 report co-authored by 17 Israeli NGOs.

We are seeing dehumanising language employed, which evidence tells us, precedes ethnic violence and large-scale atrocities, including genocides. Israel’s Defence minister called Palestinians in Gaza “human animals”. The current war has been accompanied by a rise in anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab hate speech and violence globally, as well as increased violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. The overwhelming majority of the population of Gaza and the West Bank are civilians.

These are not nameless ciphers, but mothers, fathers, grandparents, children. They, like their Israeli counterparts, want and deserve to live in dignity and security.

Many experts, including seasoned military strategists, agree this is not a conflict that can be solved through military means. In 2013, former heads of Israel’s domestic intelligence agency stated the need for engagement with Palestinians, an end to occupation and a political solution.

In a recent survey, 73% of Gazans favoured a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have ignored these voices for too long.

We call for an immediate ceasefire, combined with unfettered humanitarian access to alleviate unconscionable human plight and a route to secure hostage release.

Yet a ceasefire will mark nothing more than a hiatus unless it is accompanied by a strategy for a better future.

One element is accountability: previous calls for an independent, impartial mechanism to investigate the actions of both Israel and Hamas cannot go unheeded.

Alongside rebuilding of the shattered population centres on both sides, a meaningful peace process must begin, supported by the international community but led by Israelis and Palestinians. This must channel the expertise of legitimate grassroots representatives including women and youth groups. Their inclusion, evidence shows, is a precondition for sustainable peace.

The only way to escape this region’s tortured past, and honour the memories of those killed, is to renew efforts towards a negotiated political solution, rooted in justice. The world cannot look away. History will judge us if we do.

Joanne Mac Mahon (UNRWA, Gaza and Lebanon, 2006-2008; PCHR Gaza, 2005-2006) Turners Cross, Cork City

*Names of signatories and their dates of employment for the UN in Gaza rest with the editor. All are signing in their personal capacity.


Underground parking for towns

From the second half of the 20th century into the 21st century many small Irish towns benefitted a lot from European Union funded town-road-bypasses which took heavy vehicle traffic away from their narrow streets.

But now in this twenty-first century another major scheme is needed, I believe, that could very much help small Irish towns grow further into becoming large enterprising towns while at the same time still being able to preserve their original peace and quiet.

The major new scheme that, I believe, is needed now is the provision of underground parking underneath Irish small towns.

The convenience that underground parking would, I believe, provide for small towns could very likely attract lots of people from great distances into them so that such visitors could easily park their cars right underneath the very shops and restaurants that they could wish to do business with.

So in this way too, I believe, many local town businesses could begin to grow and flourish much more than they might be doing at the present time while the narrow streets of their town should still happily remain being fairly pleasant places to walk and to chat in.

This outcome could happily represent two of the best characteristics of Irish towns. One characteristic belonging to the tranquil past of Irish towns and the other characteristic belonging to their potential wonderful busy future?

But for those towns at a risk of flooding due to climate change etc, such underground car parks might be usefully adapted in those towns to act in times of flooding as temporary reservoirs which would be able to take up most of the street-level initial flood-water above them so that this water could be continually pumped out to a sufficiently safe distance altogether away from such endangered towns?

Sean O’Brien, Kilrush, Co Clare

Boil notice has now gone on too long

I, and approximately seven thousand other people have been on a Boil Water Notice from Uisce Eireann since last May. We were informed that there was cryptosporidium in the Foynes/Shannon Estuary water supply and ultraviolet disinfection is to be used to kill it. However, there is no timeframe allotted to the carrying out of the work.

In the meantime, a mountain of plastic has built up from usage of bottled water. I reckon the consumption is at least over a million litres of bottled water.

Letters, emails, and telephone calls, have all been ignored by Uisce Éireann, who refuse to tell us when we may have a resumption of bacteria-free water. Why is it that a body in charge of such an important utility as water can remain unaccountable and uncontactable?

If only we could harvest rainfall and convert it into clean, bacteria-free water we might be able to fill many reservoirs, thus lessening the pressure on our rivers for supply. It appears there is water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink!

Antoinette Dwyer, Old Kildimo, Co Limerick

Defence forces are not ‘safe’ spaces

In a piece your paper published on the Health and Safety Authority investigating the Defence Forces, you added in “amid bullying claims”, although the function of the Health and Safety agency is confined to overall safety in the workplace.

The Independent Review Group has already reported on bullying, published in March 2023 and an oversight body is to be established. It is paradoxical to examine or investigate a defence force for health and safety, as its task requires going into harm’s way and taking the consequences of military action. Defence training, because of it’s nature, requires a degree of pressure, stress, and is robust and almost continuous in its initial stages.

Defence forces are not safe places, as is to be witnessed by our annual Day Of Remembrance. Right now our forces are not being supported and could be undeservedly damaged to fit in popular agendas.

John Jordan, Commander Rtd, Cloyne, Co Cork

Heartless tech

Bernie Linnane (Letters, November 9) suggests that AI cannot be any worse than humans, and that humans are the biggest threat to humanity. But AI doesn’t have a heart, and even a scintilla of real ‘humanity’ has to be better than the heartless machine.

Peter Declan O’Halloran, Belturbet, Co Cavan

Suffrage at 16 is inappropriate

Whatever rules and regulations we may have in this country it is essential to be consistent.

The age of sexual consent is 17.

One cannot be sent to prison under the age of 18. How inconsistent would it be to have those under 18 influencing election to our parliament and consequently our government while simultaneously holding the view that, at 16, they are not mature enough to give sexual consent or be sent to prison.

This would be the situation if we lowered the voting age to 16.

Brendan Casserly, Curraheen, Bishopstown, Cork

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