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101 Days and Counting ... latest Blogpost from Muriel Pearson

Today is 101 days since hostilities erupted into the open with Hamas’ attack on southern Israel and the inevitable overwhelming response from the state of Israel. The toll of death and suffering and the fear that grips everyone involved in the conflict is hard to imagine, let alone describe.

A brief dip into the 84 page submission by South Africa to the International Court of Justice on 11th January and then into Israel’s detailed response the following day is almost like reading about two different conflicts. The polarisation between those siding with Israel and those siding with Palestinians, especially those in Gaza is almost absolute. There seems to be little recognition of the humanity of all.

Last Saturday I was part of a group in Nelson Mandela Square who read aloud the 84 page South African submission charging genocide. I read aloud the section describing the absolute destruction of all cultural assets in Gaza: every university, the library, the cultural centre, the museum, the archives of Palestinian life. One of the strengths of Palestinian identity has been a pride in traditional crafts like embroidery, and traditional music and dance. I have no doubt that this will survive, but so much has been lost.

At one point, as the catalogue of danger for pregnant mothers and new born infants was being read out, and the ever mounting numbers of dead and injured children repeated, a man pushed aggressively into the semi-circle. ‘Have Israeli children not died too?’ he shouted.

He did not stay to hear my answer. ‘Yes, Israeli children have died too. Yes, Israeli children are being held hostage. Yes, Israeli children have been frightened and traumatised by air raid sirens and rocket attacks. But tit for tat, running totals of loss and a refusal to look to ‘the day after’ the vicious assault on Gaza by land, sea and air does not make for a fear free and peaceful future for Israeli children.’

‘If the children are really your concern call for an immediate cease fire and hostage release. Demand a political solution. And don’t just say, ‘The other side are refusing to negotiate.’

There seem to be very few voices in Israeli society calling for realistic peace talks and future planning. Maoz Inon is one such voice. Yesterday he tweeted:

‘As someone who parents were both murdered in their home on October 7th, it’s as clear as daylight that we must:

  1. Bring back the hostages at any price.

  2. Stop this war and work for peace.

  3. Demand that the government and the security establishment take full responsibility for this systemic failure.

  4. Build a shared future and give some hope to every person between the rive and the sea; a future based on equality, security, justice, reconciliation, and human solidarity.’

‘At any price’ is, I think, a hyperbole, and not to be taken literally. But those who want to hold out against any form of negotiation with Hamas are not prioritising hostage release. At the moment, voices like Maoz’ and Ami Dar, who is vocal on X (Twitter), seem very isolated, but it is important to amplify them and to connect such voices together.

Yesterday was a public holiday in the U.S. commemorating Dr Martin Luther King. King was very often a lone voice, and his analysis dismissed as too radical. As Berenice King posted on X today:

‘Daddy…wasn’t assassinated because he wanted his children to be judged by the ‘content of their character’ but for dismantling racism, poverty and militarism.

He wanted corrective measures to eradicate racism, not the delusion that it doesn’t exist.’

Sometimes people ask, ‘Where is the Martin Luther King or the Desmond Tutu of our time?’ but neither of these men developed their views or their commitment to non-violent resistance in a vacuum. They were surrounded by others who encouraged, challenged, argued with and prayed for them.

Rev Dr Munther Isaac, Lutheran pastor of Christmas Church, Bethlehem has a challenge for each of us, ‘Where were you when Gaza was going though a genocide?’

For every day the war continues and the humanitarian apocalypse grows that question becomes more urgent.


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