New Zealand

Israel-Palestine tragedy has simple solution

Nothing will ever be the same in the Holy Land after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel – and after Israel’s apocalyptic response.

So said Francesca Albanese to a Catholic audience in Wellington recently.

Albanese is the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

But the Israel-Palestine issue has a simple solution, she says.

Israel needs to end its military occupation of the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza.

An international peacekeeping force then needs to move in to protect civilians for as long as it takes to reach a permanent solution.

Albanese said this “two-state solution” was where the international consensus lay, but that could not happen until Israel ended its occupation of the Palestinian territories it seized in the 1967 war with its neighbours.

Governments around the world needed to stop tip-toeing about the issue – they need to pressure Israel to withdraw.

“It’s very simple. The solution cannot start without ending the military occupation, removing the soldiers and tanks.

“There should be an international force there to ensure stability and peace for the Palestinians and protection of the Israeli settlers [in the West Bank] until they withdraw and give back the land they have stolen.

“We need to go to a place where these two peoples live in peace and, when it happens, it will be the most beautiful place in the world. That is my hope.”

Albanese, an Italian human rights lawyer, was appointed the Special Rapporteur in May last year. She has been making a brief visit to New Zealand.

The Ecology, Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington invited her to speak about the bloody war between Israel and Hamas.

It started on 7 October when Hamas, the group which controls Gaza, attacked Israeli civilians on a public holiday, killing 1200 and taking more than 200 hostages.

The Israeli response of declaring war on Hamas has led to a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with thousands killed and more than a million people displaced.

“The seventh of October has been a ground zero moment” Albanese said. “The status quo between Israel and Palestine is gone. Nothing will ever be the same.”

Israel had the right to self-defence but it was illegal to wage war against a civilian population.

“It is an inferno on Earth. I don’t know anyone who would identify with the massacre Hamas did, but Palestinian civilians should not have to atone for what Hamas did.”

The war was apocalyptic she said. Twelve thousand people had died and almost 30,000 injured.

Some 1.6 million people had been displaced by Israel, emptying 60 per cent of Gaza’s small area. The UN had lost a record 100 staff. Forty-five journalists had been killed.

Gaza had been bombed for 46 days, with entire residential areas flattened. There was no water, no food. People were recharging their phones from bicycle-wheel generators.

“An ethnic cleansing will happen if Israel is not stopped” she said. “You can understand my shock when I hear Western leaders struggle to say the one word that can stop all this – ceasefire.”

Mons. Gerard Burns of the Archdiocese Ecology, Justice and Peace Commission said Albanese’s particular knowledge of the issues was helpful for local Catholics’ understanding, preaching and action.

“As members of Christian Churches we have a special interest in what happens in the lands Jesus walked” he said.

“The conflict in those lands over the last 100 years, but especially since 1948, is deeply painful for all involved. It has also been a special concern of the UN, being so closely connected to the first steps of that organisation.

“The land is important to three great faiths which is why the UN, in 1947, proposed a special status for Jerusalem and Bethlehem.”

Footnote: The Catholic Church and bishops of Aotearoa NZ have been concerned about events in the Holy Land. These links are to recent commentaries and articles.

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