TFF also wants to be on record with this Statement so that when historians look back on this moral calamity, they will see who stood with whom and who advocated peace instead of ongoing genocide.
The killing has to stop, and we call, together with the UN and so many others, for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.
The horrific attack of Hamas on October 7, 2023, with the death of over 1100 people, is indefensible. There is no excuse for the killing of absolutely innocent people. While there is a painful history of 75 years of brutal occupation and apartheid regime against the Palestinian people, there is no justification for such an act of senseless violence.
However, Israel’s response can by no means be seen as practising the right to self-defence. It is an utterly out-of-proportion massacre of civilians, mainly women and children, executed by the military of the most totalitarian and racist government Israel ever had since it was established. It is an unprecedented murderous revenge. It is genocide.*
Despite the strongest condemnation by the UN, despite the unprecedented calls of its Secretary General, Israel continues with its systematic high-tech slaughter, and the Western governments are standing silent or, like Germany, declare their ”unwavering support for Israel.“ EU leaders declared immediately that ’Europe’ is ”standing with Israel.” The US voted against a ceasefire.
> The homes of tens of thousands of people in shambles, 24 of 36 hospitals, schools, mosques, libraries, the beautiful university of Gaza – destroyed, erased to the ground.
>1,9 million out of 2.2 million people forced out of their homes into the streets, deliberately starved of food, water and medical help, trapped under more and more bombing without any possibility to escape – it is a war crime of monstrous proportions.
But while much of Israel and many of the Western governments seem to be blinded by the idea of eternal victimhood of Jews and Israel, that can’t be used as an equally eternal excuse for just every atrocity. Fortunately, hundreds of thousands of Jews in and outside Israel show in unequivocal terms, that this is not happening in their name.
Hundreds of Jews with kippas packed New York Central Station as early as three weeks after the beginning of the forced exodus of 1 million Palestinians and the following slaughtering and blocked the whole station for hours, all of them in black t-shirts with huge letters ”This Jew is for immediate ceasefire“. And they keep protesting.
By all means available, this Israeli government should be isolated until it stops the genocide. Its political and military leaders must be held accountable for the horrible crimes against humanity and be brought to justice. What is at stake is the strength of international law, several conventions and UN Charter norms.
Every country that has delivered and continues to deliver the military means enabling this immoral, illegal and barbaric policy must be seen as complicit and likewise be held accountable. Without the ongoing military and political support of the US and Western States, Germany in particular – that 10-folded its weapon deliveries since October 23 – this horrible war and the unlawful occupation would be over soon.
There is no doubt that this will backfire on Israel and the West.
The whole world is watching the slaughtering and the collaboration of the Western states with horror and disgust. The arrogance of the ”leading nations” and their claim to act in the name of democracy, freedom, and human rights – as well as their ’rules-based international order’ – is fast falling apart.
How can we move towards long-term peace?
• We still believe that Jews and Palestinians can live together – and so do many of them themselves. Even under shocking conditions, people and organisations on both sides still insist that their lives are inextricably linked and that peaceful coexistence is possible.
It will be a long and painful path to make this happen – and it will only be possible with equal rights for all.
And it will need tremendous pressure from the outside and a non-violent revolution from the inside to change Israel into a just, human rights and law- respecting true democracy.
• We need to look at the entire Middle East as a region – we need its dense network of economic, cultural, and political ties to set up an all-regional conflict-resolution mechanism á la the OSCE. This way, over several years, all parties can dialogue their way through to something they can live with in the long term.
There are many possible elements – tie peace into economic and political mechanisms and relations; think of cantons and autonomies; think of mutually beneficial/cooperative uses of territories; think of the relations of it all with the Rest of the World, including the Global South. Tie it in with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, BRI.
Warfare requires no intellect or creativity; peace-making requires both.
• The violence must die down to move towards such a civilised process. We need an immediate ceasefire.
Ideally, we need a huge UN mission to disarm Israel and Hamas to such a level that neither can re-start a war. And then all the good offices around the world, governmental but certainly more so non-governmental, to help mediate, consult, dialogue every detail: What do the many parties fear and what do they want?
And then – at the end, after years of such a peace-building process – the parties would come to a final negotiation table and then sign an agreement of peaceful coexistence with all its civilian and military modalities.
• Conflict resolution means solving problems that stand between the parties. It cannot succeed by violence, looking to the past, or tit-for-tat for what was done yesterday.
It is, instead, one big, complex and long peace workshop where better futures/visions/ scenarios are brought up, evaluated, and sorted out – ending in combining the best elements into a comprehensive future arrangement.
You can’t change the past, but you can change the future. And – no! – everybody will not be happy, but all can be happy with something – and see a better future for their children.
And this is also where truth and reconciliation commissions come in – the healing and forgiveness that is found in all religions.
Peace is still possible.
Signed by TFF Associates:
Christina Spännar – PhD in sociology, founder, Sweden.
Jan Oberg – PhD in sociology, founder and director, Sweden.
Annette Schiffmann – Veteran peace activist & organiser of numerous international conferences on alternatives to war and violence: Iraq, Death Penalty, Israel/Palestine, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Heidelberg, Germany.
David Swanson – Co-Founder, Executive Director, and a Board Member of World Beyond War, author, activist, journalist, and radio host, the United States.
Liu Jian – Co-founder of Ichi Foundation, Beijing, China.
Erni Friholt – Secretary, the Orust Peace Movement, Orust, Sweden.
Claus Kold – PhD, senior researcher, director of TurningPoints, Denmark.
Biljana Vanskovska – Professor, Head of the Global Changes Center, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, Macedonia.
Farhang Jahanpour – Retired professor and Editor for Middle East and North Africa at BBC Monitoring, England.
Radmila Nakarada – Professor, Faculty of Political Science, University of Belgrade, Distinguished Fellow, New South Institute, Johannesburg, Belgrade, Serbia.
Ola Friholt – Chairman, the Orust Peace Movement, Orust, Sweden.
Richard Falk – Professor Emeritus, Princeton University, public intellectual and former UN Rapporteur for the Occupied Territories, US/Turkey.
Elaheh Pooyandeh – MA in peace studies, peace educator and mediator, Tehran, Iran.
Ina Curic – Sociologist, M.A. in Gender Studies as well as Peace and Conflict Studies; former TFF project coordinator in Burundi, creator of Imagine Creatively story-telling for peace, Romania.
David Loy – Retired professor of Buddhist and comparative philosophy, writer, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Zen tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism.
Chantal Mutamuriza – Former TFF project coordinator in Burundi, human rights advocate and humanitarian worker, Switzerland and Ethiopia.
Chaiwat Satha-Anand – Professor emeritus, Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University and prolific writer on Islam and nonviolence, Bangkok, Thailand.
Mairead Maguire – Nobel peace laureate, co-founder of Peace People, Northern Ireland, Kilcief County Down.
Gareth Porter – historian, independent investigative journalist, author and policy analyst specializing in U.S. national security issues, the United States.
Shastri Ramachandaran – Independent Journalist, editor, writer, publication & media consultant, New Delhi, India.
Peter Peverelli – Retired professor, School of Business and Economics, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam and lifelong expert on China, The Netherlands.
Neelakanta Radhakrishnan – Dr., The Gandhi Peace Mission, India; former Director of Gandhi Darshan and International Centre of Gandhian Studies in New Delhi, India.
Jorgen Johansen – Editor at Irene Publishing, independent peace researcher and writer, Sweden.
Majken Sorensen – Associate Professor of Social Science at Østfold University College and Karlstad University, Sweden.
Jake Lynch – Associate Professor in the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia. He also writes, reports and broadcasts regularly as a journalist working in peace journalism, as well as making documentary films.
* Appendix: Why we use the word ”genocide.”
The use of the word ’genocide’ is controversial in many circles and may evoke emotional reactions. We are also aware that it has been used by some for political purposes to denigrate some other country or people.
But we do not use the term lightly or for political purposes. Given the links we provide below to trustworthy sites and organisations, legal documents such as the Genocide Convention, as well as expert opinion, we believe this is the term that best summarises what has unfolded in Gaza and subjected the Palestinians to unspeakable, unprecedented suffering as a people.
One central criterion is intentionality – that there is a deliberate intention to harm, eradicate, humiliate, displace or make life impossible for a nation – in part or, over time, in whole.
Most of the links provided by professor John Mearsheimer here, in which various Israeli leaders are on record, make it abundantly clear that the suffering cannot be explained merely by ’collateral damage,’ i.e. civilian casualties caused by unintended consequences of bombings and other warfare activities.
Furthermore, according to the Genocide Convention of 1948 – “Article 2 of the Convention defines genocide as … “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
All these criteria do not have to be present – as the word ”any” indicates. In the case of Gaza, it should be abundantly clear that the Israeli government’s activity falls within criteria a, b and c.
To that can be added a multi-decade occupation (since 1967), apartheid, humiliation and other elements that, in and of themselves, do not constitute genocide.
Oct. 15, 2023 Public Statement: Scholars Warn of Potential Genocide in Gaza
On 15 October 2023, over 800 scholars and practitioners of international law, conflict studies and genocide studies signed a public statement warning of the possibility of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Finally, another statement, ”Declaration of Conscience and Concern of Global Intellectuals on Gaza Genocide,” drafted by world-renowned Princeton University Professor Emeritus of International Law and TFF Associate Richard Falk, together with former Turkish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, determines that the word ’genocide’ describes the situation in Gaza. It is signed by many scholars, diplomats, former ministers, etc. and addresses the world community, including the UN (forthcoming).
More statistics when you click on the image or download the PDF below:
Death and destruction in Gaza
I do not believe that anything I say about what is happening in Gaza will affect Israeli or American policy in that conflict. But I want to be on record so that when historians look back on this moral calamity, they will see that some Americans were on the right side of history.
What Israel is doing in Gaza to the Palestinian civilian population – with the support of the Biden administration – is a crime against humanity that serves no meaningful military purpose. As J-Street, an important organization in the Israel lobby, puts it, “The scope of the unfolding humanitarian disaster and civilian casualties is nearly unfathomable.”
Let me elaborate.
First, Israel is purposely massacring huge number of civilians, roughly 70 percent of whom are children and women. The claim that Israel is going to great lengths to minimize civilian casualties is belied by statements from high level Israeli officials. For example, the IDF spokesman said on 10 October 2023 that “the emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy.” That same day, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced: “I have lowered all the restraints – we will kill everyone we fight against; we will use every means.”
Moreover, it is clear from the results of the bombing campaign that Israel is indiscriminately killing civilians. Two detailed studies of the IDF’s bombing campaign – both published in Israeli outlets – explain in detail how Israel is murdering huge numbers of civilians. It is worth quoting the titles of the two pieces, which succinctly capture what each has to say:
“‘A Mass Assassination Factory’: Inside Israel’s Calculated Bombing of Gaza”
“The Israeli Army Has Dropped the Restraint in Gaza, and the Data Shows Unprecedented Killing.”
Similarly, the New York Times published an article in late November 2023 titled: “Gaza Civilians, Under Israeli Barrage, Are Being Killed at Historic Pace.” Thus, it is hardly surprising that the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said that “We are witnessing a killing of civilians that is unparalleled and unprecedented in any conflict since” his appointment in January 2017.
Second, Israel is purposely starving the desperate Palestinian population by greatly limiting the amount of food, fuel, cooking gas, medicine, and water that can be brought into Gaza. Moreover, medical care is extremely hard to come by for a population that now includes approximately 50,000 wounded civilians. Not only has Israel greatly limited the supply of fuel into Gaza, which hospitals need to function, but it has targeted hospitals, ambulances, and first aid stations.
Defense Minister Gallant’s comment on 9 October captures Israeli policy: “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals, and we are acting accordingly.” Israel has been forced to allow minimal supplies into Gaza, but the amounts are so small that a senior UN official reports that “half of Gaza’s population is starving.” He goes on to report that, “Nine out of 10 families in some areas are spending ‘a full day and night without any food at all’.”
Third, Israeli leaders talk about Palestinians and what they would like to do in Gaza in shocking terms, especially when you consider that some of these leaders also talk incessantly about the horrors of the Holocaust. Indeed, their rhetoric has led Omar Bartov, a prominent Israeli-born scholar of the Holocaust, to conclude that Israel has “genocidal intent.” Other scholars in Holocaust and genocide studies have offered a similar warning.
To be more specific, it is commonplace for Israeli leaders to refer to Palestinians as “human animals, ”human beasts,” and “horrible inhuman animals.” And as Israeli President Isaac Herzog makes clear, those leaders are referring to all Palestinians, not just Hamas: In his words, “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible.” Unsurprisingly, as the New York Times reports, it is part of normal Israeli discourse to call for Gaza to be “flattened,” “erased,” or “destroyed.” One retired IDF general, who proclaimed that “Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist,” also makes the case that “severe epidemics in the south of the Gaza Strip will bring victory closer.” Going even further, a minister in the Israeli government suggested dropping a nuclear weapon on Gaza. These statements are not being made by isolated extremists, but by senior members of Israel’s government.
Of course, there is also much talk of ethnically cleansing Gaza (and the West Bank), in effect, producing another Nakba. To quote Israel’s Agriculture Minister, “We are now rolling out the Gaza Nakba.”Perhaps the most shocking evidence of the depths to which Israeli society has sunk is a video of very young children singing a blood-curdling song celebrating Israel’s destruction of Gaza: “Within a year we will annihilate everyone, and then we will return to plow our fields.”
Fourth, Israel is not just killing, wounding, and starving huge numbers of Palestinians, it is also systematically destroying their homes as well as critical infrastructure – to include mosques, schools, heritage sites, libraries, key government buildings, and hospitals. As of 1 December 2023, the IDF had damaged or destroyed almost 100,000 buildings, including entire neighborhoods that have been reduced to rubble.Consequently, a stunning 90 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes. Moreover, Israel is making a concerted effort to destroy Gaza’s cultural heritage; as NPR reports, “more than 100 Gaza heritage sites have been damaged or destroyed by Israeli attacks.”
Fifth, Israel is not just terrorizing and killing Palestinians, it is also publicly humiliating many of their men who have been rounded up by the IDF in routine searches. Israeli soldiers strip them down to their underwear, blindfold them, and display them in a public way in their neighborhoods – sitting them down in large groups in the middle of the street, for example, or parading them through the streets – before taking them away in trucks to detention camps. In most cases, the detainees are then released as they are not Hamas fighters.
Sixth, although the Israelis are doing the slaughtering, they could not do it without the Biden administration’s support. Not only was the United States the only country to vote against a recent UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, but it has also been providing Israel with the weaponry necessary to wage this massacre. As one Israeli general (Yitzhak Brick) recently made clear: “All of our missiles, the ammunition, the precision-guided bombs, all the airplanes and bombs, it’s all from the U.S. The minute they turn off the tap, you can’t keep fighting. You have no capability.… Everyone understands that we can’t fight this war without the United States. Period.” Remarkably, the Biden administration has sought to expedite sending Israel additional ammunition, by-passing the normal procedures of the Arms Export Control Act.
Seventh, while most of the focus is now on Gaza, it is important not to lose sight of what is simultaneously going on in the West Bank. Israeli settlers, working closely with the IDF, continue to kill innocent Palestinians and steal their land. In an excellent article in the New York Review of Books describing these horrors, David Shulman relates a conversation he had with a settler, which clearly reflects the moral dimension of Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians. “What we are doing to these people is actually inhuman,” the settler freely admits, “But if you think about it clearly, it all follows inevitably from the fact that God promised this land to the Jews, and only to them.” Along with its assault on Gaza, the Israel government has markedly increased the number of arbitrary arrests in the West Bank. According to Amnesty International, there is considerable evidence that these prisoners have been tortured and subjected to degrading treatment.
As I watch this catastrophe for the Palestinians unfold, I am left with one simple question for Israel’s leaders, their American defenders, and the Biden administration: have you no decency?
A rare example of courageous statements among christians in these unusual times:
Pastor Munther Issac at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, delivered a powerful Christmas sermon on the war in Gaza and why the world must stand with Palestinians. ” The hypocrisy and racism of the Western world is transparent and appalling ” :