Bart Eeckhout is the main commentator of The morning.
Every day the war in Israel and Gaza brings its own misery. An ambulance, a hospital, a school… Nothing and no one is safe from the war of revenge waged by the Israeli army in Gaza, in response to Hamas’s terrible terror raid in Israel.
That army operates on behalf of a government that openly fantasizes about the structural expulsion of the Palestinian population and about the use of nuclear weapons. A government that quietly continues to colonize the West Bank, one of the many fuses in this terrible powder keg. Even though it is undeniable that Hamas is a pernicious terrorist movement that uses innocent people as target practice, it is becoming more dubious by the day to grant the Israeli government a moral advantage. The strategy to eliminate Hamas by destroying all of Gaza goes way too far.
The absurd lack of restraint on the part of Israel leads to much diplomatic hand-wringing. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is calling on the Netanyahu government to take a “humanitarian pause”. European President Charles Michel kindly asks the government to allow “vital aid” into Gaza. Israel is festively ignoring it all.
International diplomacy is always the art of shuffling reluctantly towards your goal. But now the conclusion is emerging that what the US and the EU are doing is too light to encourage Israel to show any restraint. It is precisely this international hesitation – prompted by the brutal attack by Hamas and a historic sense of guilt towards Jewish people – that inspires the Netanyahu government to show no mercy whatsoever, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths.
The immense suffering there also endangers peaceful coexistence here. The risk of anti-Semitic reprisals is real, as became apparent this weekend in France. At the same time, frustration is mounting among all those who feel a connection with the Palestinian plight. But even in the broader population, many do not understand why Israel is allowed to go so far too far. In neighboring countries, despite political anathemas, this has led to massive protests; In Belgium it remains quite quiet. It is a great pity that protest here largely remains the monopoly of radical left activists who incorporate criticism of Israel into their own anti-imperialist agenda.
That should be possible differently. It must be possible to rally a broad group of Belgians behind a platform that unequivocally calls for a ceasefire. A platform that condemns the terror of Hamas and the military retaliation of Israel, which speaks out against anti-Semitism and against the mass murder of civilians in Gaza. In short, a platform that dares to choose the side of peace.
It would be a necessary signal of solidarity to all people in the Jewish or Arab communities who feel unsafe or uncomfortable here. It would also be a signal to political leaders that they can and must do more.