Patrick J. O Brien

A war where humanity loses, no matter who wins

Graphic content. Israeli soldiers walk near the bodies of Israeli civilians killed by terrorists from Gaza in the southern city of Sderot on October 7, 2023. (Oren ZIV / AFP)
Graphic content. Israeli soldiers walk near the bodies of Israeli civilians killed by terrorists from Gaza in the southern city of Sderot on October 7, 2023. (Oren ZIV / AFP)

“Terrorism will never be justified. The recent calculated attack by Hamas is a game-changer in the Israeli-Palestine conflict, but we must avoid a wider war. ” Reports Patrick J O Brien

It is impossible to overstate the sense of international shock to the barrage of barbaric terrorist attacks unleashed on the people of Israel last weekend. It was terrorism in its most despicable form. Saturday’s assault, the worst breach in Israel’s defenses since Arab armies waged war in 1973 saw Israel caught off guard and saw innocent people become fatalities of this ongoing crisis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel is now “at war,” with the Israel Défense Forces quickly retaliating.

Across the occupied West Bank, concrete checkpoints, separation walls and soldiers are reminders to the international communities at the failures to build peace between Israelis and Palestinians since the historic Oslo Accords was signed almost 30 years. The accord, intended as a temporary measure to build confidence and create space for a permanent peace agreement, has long since frozen into a system for managing a conflict with no apparent end in sight.

It has been 25 years since my country’s landmark peace accord, an accord that ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland, a period known as “the Troubles” Europe’s ugliest sectarian conflict. Catholic killed Protestant, Protestant killed Catholic. British troops flooded in from the mainland and were soon locked in deadly confrontation. Three decades of brutal and utterly ruthless bombings and shootings followed, with more than 3,500 people killed mainly innocent civilians.

For many years with some naivety, I believed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was fixable, that a final resolution could and ultimately would be found in the creation of two independent, sovereign states. I thought it was, all in all, the fairest but also the most pragmatic solution, and that both sides would make it happen, sooner rather than later, despite the obvious obstacles.  Of course, it is necessary to recognize that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is a complex conglomerate of problems, and external interference is one of the main reasons why this problem has not been resolved and even intensifies hatred.

President Zelenskiy, whose army has been fighting a war Russia launched against it 19 months ago, said that Israel just like Ukraine has “every right” to protect itself. “Let the value of human life and the intolerance of terror be the principles that will finally unite the whole world, wherever they aim their missiles and whomever they attack, terrorists must lose. And this is important for the whole world.” Unusual words considering Ukraine’s relations with Israel which has been tense since Russia’s invasion began in February 2022. While having sent tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Prime Minister Netanyahu has consistently refused to supply weapons to Kyiv.

Last weekend atrocity confirmed to the world that Hamas is not and has never been interested in finding peace or a solution. President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas which governs much of the West Bank but not in Gaza was said to welcome a Saudi peace plan as well the offer of financial assistance to improve the lives of Palestinians before Hamas sabotaged those plans. Though President Abbas didn’t condemn the attack he said that the current escalation is the “result of the political impasse, the denial of the Palestinian people’s legitimate right to self-determination and the establishment of their independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital and the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. In the weeks ahead, the Israeli military will surely retaliate and kill hundreds more Palestinian militants and civilians. I believe that thousands on both sides will suffer. The world stands in solidarity with Israel in repelling this brutal attack on civilians and their towns, but we must try and avoid further escalation and a wider war.

These recent events have made clear once again the costs of perpetual conflict and lost hope.  Retaliation will be harsh and Palestinian civilians in Gaza and elsewhere including many who do not support Hamas will pay a heavy price. Globally world leaders should push that all parties should start with a rapid return to peace and negotiations. Hamas should cease its rocket attacks, withdraw immediately from any areas it has seized, offer to return the Israelis it has captured without demanding they be exchanged for Hamas members in Israel’s custody, and both sides should agree to a cease-fire. We must avoid setting unrealistic deadlines and above all, keep in mind that peace, no matter how difficult to achieve and imperfect, is better than everlasting conflict.

About the Author
Patrick J O Brien is an acclaimed journalist and Director of Exante who has been working in the media for almost 25 years. Patrick who hails from Ireland is based in Malta and a contributor to some of the world’s leading financial and political magazines. Recently he returned from Ukraine where he was reporting at ground level on the escalation of war and spent time documenting the work of the Red Cross and many human right organisations
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