In war, there is no winner, only losers. The victor may win the battle, but always at the expense of lost lives, property, and homes. War is the enemy of development. When war erupts, life and development stop. The loser is the whole country, families from both warring forces, killed, maimed, orphaned.
Persistent wars that remain unresolved because of their deep-seated causes, like abject poverty, inequality, and oppression, have dire economic impacts and profound consequences for peace and development. The Ukraine war is a clear case in point; its effect is worldwide. These wars result in significant GDP per-capita loss and long-term economic scars that may be more difficult to heal. We know this from our own history of colonial wars, civil strife, and local armed conflicts in the Philippines.
In any war, the children are the most vulnerable and most affected. In the brewing Israel-Palestinian war, almost half of those killed by explosions and gunfire were children. In just one month, children were killed, as many as 5,000 a day, by indiscriminate firing and aerial bombings. When hit, they either die instantly or lose their limbs, their sight, or cognitive capacity, or become critically ill - physically or mentally or both -from the trauma of war.
I felt a great sense of relief when, after a month of relentless bombings and killings, both Israel and Palestine agreed to a ceasefire last November 21. I know that many worldwide, of whatever persuasion - pro or anti - share the same. At last, both warring forces would agree to stop the shootings, even if temporarily. That ceasefire came from tremendous pressure worldwide and among the protagonists themselves to enable the release of Israelis who have been held captive in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails. As I monitored the news today, the ceasefire may start any time soon.
For the people in the affected line of fire, a ceasefire means a stop to bombings and shootings, from fear and actual dying from dehydration and lack of medical care—a time to retrieve the wounded and displaced children for clean water, food, and humanitarian assistance. A ceasefire means a time to ponder and rethink solutions.
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict dates back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the birth of major nationalist movements among the Jews and among the Arabs, who all desired to attain sovereignty for their people in the Middle East. Before the establishment of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state in 1948, Palestine was home to a diverse population of Arabs, Jews, and Christians, as all groups had religious ties to the area, especially the city of Jerusalem. Following the conquest of the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire ruled Palestine from 1918 until 1948, when it proclaimed the Jewish State of Israel despite the UN plan for partition between the Jews and the Arabs as separate states. Israeli military forces then forcibly occupied the West Bank and Gaza, known as the Palestinian territories, in 1967. Aggrieved, the Palestinian Arabs have since launched resistance movements.
The October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel was said to be in retaliation to decades of long-built-up anger over Israeli persecution, like the recent attacks against Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and the expansion of Israeli settlements into their territories. Hamas has declared armed resistance against Israel and the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state. It’s their story. On the other hand, Israel’s story is committed to the British grant to establish the Jewish state and their supposed biblical and historical ties to the land.
As I monitored a news Podcast, I became increasingly apprehensive upon hearing Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recorded message that “We are still at war, and we will continue the war until we achieve all our goals.” The goal, he said, is “to destroy Hamas, return all our hostages, and ensure that no entity in Gaza can threaten Israel.” If we are to believe him, the war will continue with deadlier blows after a brief ceasefire. The statement breaks my heart, and I am sure of all peace-loving people worldwide.
The story of this war may not see an end in sight any time soon. But the ceasefire offers a relief for all. Pacinthe Mattar, an independent journalist and 2022 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, wrote in his column that the ceasefire would also shield journalists temporarily who have also fallen prey to the bullets and bombs, often from discriminate firing from Israeli forces who suspect them of being sympathetic to the Palestinians.
Today, the State of Israel is a full member of the UN while the State of Palestine, as of 2012, is a de jure sovereign state, meaning the “State of Palestine” is a Non-Member Observer State. The inequality is too apparent to ignore.
Maybe the two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, which peace advocates around the world have long espoused, should be given due recourse: an independent State of Palestine alongside the independent State of Israel. That should demand a more extended ceasefire for decision-makers to ponder as a long-term goal for peace and development.