In Israel and around the world, we are glued to the news feeds, as fresh details of the horrors since Saturday morning emerge and their inevitable consequences play out. With wall-to-wall coverage across every available outlet, not to mention social media, it can sometimes feel as if there is nothing left to say.
But it is important to be an active listener at times like this, to ensure that what is difficult and uncomfortable is also part of the conversation. And, as I immerse myself in both the Hebrew and English media coverage of events from providers around the world, there are some key questions that appear to me to be important, and yet suppressed.
- Why are more questions not being asked of Egypt, in relation to opening fully the Rafa crossing out of Gaza to as many people as wish to cross into Sinai? In a time of war with Israel, that is the obvious refugee route out – but up until today it has been closed, and there have been no meaningful attempts to use it as a release valve.
- Why are numbers of casualties provided by Hamas accepted unquestioningly as civilian casualties? There is a vast difference between those killed while preparing further acts of terrorism and war against Israel – and of course, and unfortunately, uninvolved residents of Gaza caught up in Israel’s targeted, and pre-identified, airstrike zones. I have yet to hear international reports recognise this.
- Where is the dividing line between so-called “militants” and terrorists? Does it come down to something as superficial as battle fatigues, or military titles? My understanding, and I believe that of most others, is that “militants” are in some shape or form soldiers, operating both offensively and defensively, against another army, according to basic rules of engagement which seek to protect civilians. There are no dividing lines within Hamas of which I am aware – between the gunmen who hunted festival-goers through the orchards, or took captive children, parents and grandparents sheltering in their homes, and those who “fight” for Hamas in other ways.
- Where is the pressure on Hamas to treat Israeli hostages in accordance with international humanitarian standards – whether that be as prisoners of war, or in accordance with basic decency? There are fundamental, international codes of behaviour which do not include threats to execute prisoners one by one, or parading prisoners and bodies through the streets.
- In a world in which the majority of nations have condemned Hamas’s acts of terror, how is it possible for representatives of all those countries to stand for a minute’s silence at the start of this week’s UN Human Rights Council meeting to mark the “loss of innocent lives in the occupied Palestinian territory and elsewhere”? As a follow-up, why have questions not been asked of the UNHCR’s special rapporteur for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Francesca Albanese) who has even in the course of this week accused Israel of “militarized settler colonial occupation” and failed to condemn Hamas’s actions?
- Having determined earlier this week to suspend all aid to Gaza with immediate effect, recognising that there are no guarantees money is going to humanitarian rather than Hamas terror projects, why has Europe now walked back from that decision? And why are questions not being asked of other so-called aid-funding, from governments, international organisations, and non-profits, which is similarly murky in terms of its actual destination?
- How will the humanitarian needs of Gaza’s citizens be met without Israel’s involvement? There is not a country on earth who would supply food, water, and electricity to a region holding hostage large numbers of its citizens, nor is it appropriate that pressure should be put on Israel to do so. So what solution does the international community wish to put in place, operating once again via Gaza’s border with Egypt?
- Where is the recognition that while they are for the time being sitting on the side-lines, Fatah who currently control the West Bank themselves support acts of terrorism against Israeli citizens, paying pensions to those who die killing Israelis?
- Why is the prospect of some sort of accord between Saudi Arabia and Israel so threatening to the interests of Iran and Hamas, and what does that tell us about their real interests? The will through the Abraham Accords and more recent diplomatic efforts for Arab nations historically opposed to Israel to engage and to work together to move relations forward tells us that alternatives to war between historic enemies are possible, even in the Middle East. It is their tragedy that despite all the efforts over many, many years devoted to pursuing peace, the Palestinian people have never been gifted leadership which puts their long-term interests first and commits seriously to a process of progress.
- Where is the recognition that a two-state solution can only ever be possible between two, ideally democratic, states? It is not simply that talk of peace between Israel and Palestinians at this point in time is wildly inappropriate. The key acknowledgement needed – and missing from any and all perspectives – is that peace can be achieved, eventually, between governments who want it, but it takes two, and terrorists, divided amongst themselves, committed to the annihilation of the other party to a peace, and heedless as to the advancement and protection of their citizens, have no interest in coming to the table.
There are always questions about the past, and the future, which need to be reserved for other times when a war is ongoing. But those I’ve identified should be asked now, again and again until they are answered.
It is the job of news networks to report and to question simultaneously. That is part of their basic contract with us, the consumers of news, and we rely on them to do it for us, informed by their own expert insights. It is the news services and their teams of experienced reporters and presenters who have access on our behalf to decision-makers and influencers with the ability to help shape the course of the conflict.
If they fail in this key responsibility, we end up with an overly simple version of events – one with which everyone is comfortable, but which simply is not true.