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Want peace in Gaza? Here’s four things that need to happen

Once again, we are faced with appalling images from Gaza as innocent people trapped in an open air prison face into yet another summer of war.

The Shejaiya neighbourhood after the 2014 war in Gaza, almost the entire residential neighbourhood lay in ruins. Photo: Garry Walsh The Shejaiya neighbourhood after the 2014 war in Gaza, almost the entire residential neighbourhood lay in ruins. Photo: Garry Walsh

The cycle of violence is all too familiar. So, too, is the cycle of empty words that accompany it.

The last major round of violence, in 2014, saw 1462 Palestinian civilians and six Israeli civilians killed. In Gaza, entire families were wiped out. The pain, suffering and trauma was indescribable and continues to this day.

Let us be clear: the violence must end. There must be an end to the Israeli army pounding Gaza from the sky and Hamas firing rockets. Any attack which targets civilians constitutes a war crime.

Conflict in Gaza doesn’t erupt from nothing. It is an inevitable and direct result of policies implemented by the Israeli state. Many governments – including Ireland’s and those from across the EU – condemn these policies but take no action to stop them. This, in effect, enables Israel’s project of indefinite expansion and occupation of Palestinian territory.

If we truly want to break the cycle of violence, we must address the factors that lead to tragic but inevitable conflict.

Here are four steps the Irish government and the EU must take if they really want to ensure peace in Palestine and Israel:

1. Perpetrators of war crimes must be held accountable. Currently, there is no accountability for actions being taken. Political and military leaders will continue to inflict enormous suffering on innocent people unless they are held accountable for their actions. This means ensuring the International Criminal Court has full and unhindered access to investigate potential war crimes.

2. The latest round of violence is directly linked to attempts by Israel to forcibly evict Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem to make way for Israeli settlers. The Israeli settlement programme evicts Palestinian families from their land and hands it over to Israeli settlers. This is a war crime. Ireland and the EU must acknowledge it as such.

3. Given the forced transfer of populations in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Irish Government and EU must recognise the situation as an annexation of Palestinian land by the State of Israel. It must take all appropriate measures to end the occupation of Palestinian land. This includes recognising the State of Palestine and ending trade with settlements that provides de facto economic support for their continued illegal expansion.

4. The people of Gaza live in an open air prison. Very few people are allowed in and very few people are allowed out. We have experienced living with 5km and 20km travel limits over recent months. People in Gaza live in a permanent lockdown. They live their entire lives governed by a permanent 40km travel limit. The blockade of Gaza must end. People in Gaza must be allowed to breathe, to trade and to live like the rest of the world.

It is easy to call for peace. The real political work is in ensuring it happens. Without concrete steps, empty words will not prevent more innocent loss of life. Nor will it halt the continued dispossession, humiliation and dehumanisation of the Palestinian people.

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