Defend Truth


Another Nakba must be averted — saving Israel and Palestine through the United Nations


Jeffrey D Sachs, professor at Columbia University, is director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and president of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The nations of the world, operating under the UN Charter and defending the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, must move urgently to help save both Israel and Palestine.

Following Hamas’s heinous attack on innocent Israeli civilians, senior Israeli military strategists are threatening the ethnic cleansing of Gaza. This would be another Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe), akin to the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and land in 1948.

If Israel commits massive war crimes in Gaza in the face of global calls for restraint, Israel would put its fundamental national security at risk. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has spoken clearly, persuasively, and eloquently about the need for a cease-fire, the release of hostages, the protection of the civilians of Gaza, support for Israel’s security, and the decisive move to a Palestinian state in line with previous UN agreements. In this, he speaks for the great preponderance of humanity and the vast majority of UN member states, who seek peace and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians.

All five permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council — the US, UK, France, Russia, and China — have a common interest in a cease-fire followed by a comprehensive agreement including Palestinian statehood. All the P5 nations desire good relations with both Israel and the Arab world. All have a strong national interest in peace, including security for Israel and statehood for Palestine.

This is true even of the United States. If the US backs ethnic cleansing in Gaza, American influence in the Muslim world, already in decline in recent years, will irrevocably collapse. 

Secretary-General Guterres has charted the framework for peace:

“We have approached a moment of calamitous escalation, and find ourselves at a critical crossroads. It is imperative that all parties — and those with influence over them — do everything possible to avoid fresh violence or spillover of the conflict to the West Bank and the wider region…

“All hostages in Gaza must be released. Civilians must not be used as human shields. International humanitarian law — including the Geneva Conventions — must be respected and upheld. Civilians on both sides must be protected at all times. Hospitals, schools, clinics and United Nations premises must never be targeted…

“But any solution to this tragic, decades-long ordeal of death and destruction requires full recognition of the circumstances of both Israelis and Palestinians, of both their realities and both their perspectives…

“Israel must see its legitimate needs for security materialised, and Palestinians must see a clear perspective for the establishment of their own state realised, in line with United Nations resolutions, international law and previous agreements. If the international community truly believes in these two objectives, we need to find a way to work together to find real, lasting solutions — solutions that are based on our common humanity and that recognise the need for people to live together, despite histories and circumstances that tear them apart.”

International players

There should be no geopolitical divide among the major powers with regard to this crisis. Russia has very strong ties with Israel, not least because of the hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews living in Israel. The UK, EU, and US also have strong economic, technological, cultural, and historical ties with Israel. China too has long and solid relations with Israel, albeit with fewer cultural and historical ties.

Yet none of these major powers wants to alienate the Arab and Muslim worlds. Every major power has a significant Muslim population: 1-2% in the US and China, around 7% in the UK and EU, and approximately 10% in Russia. Moreover, all have significant economic, security, and cultural ties with the Arab and Muslim worlds.

The P5 should work urgently together towards a UN Security Council resolution charting the path to peace and a Palestinian state (or even to one state based on equality and democracy, if the Israelis and Palestinians prefer that to a division of the land.) Russia is reportedly on the verge of submitting a peace resolution. The US should resist a knee-jerk reaction of opposing a Russian initiative, and work with Russia and other P5 members in the common cause of peace.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Gaza Strip — history of densely populated enclave is critical to understanding current conflict

Israelis and Palestinians, alas, are each deeply divided into three camps, which might be called the peacemakers, the sceptics, and the fundamentalists. The peacemakers believe that peace is possible through negotiation. The sceptics are so deeply distrustful of the other side that they do not believe in peace. The fundamentalists, a decided minority on both sides, believe that God granted them the land — whether to the Jews or the Muslims — so the other side has no rights at all.

The peacemakers are ready for peace. The sceptics can be won over with sufficient respect, diplomacy, and realism in the negotiations, and UN Security Council backing for a negotiated peace (including peacekeepers, financing, and other instruments of enforceability). Fundamentalists on both sides will be disappointed. Yet they should be reminded that human rights and dignity for all are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and backed by the UN Charter.

From time to time, brave leaders have arisen who have convinced the sceptics to try for peace, and who have told the fundamentalists that both sides deserve respect and justice. Egypt’s Anwar Sadat was such a remarkable figure. So too was Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin. Both were assassinated by fundamentalists of their own nation, martyred like other great peacemakers of our time, including Mahatma Gandhi, John and Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr.

As Jesus, himself martyred, taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God”.

The Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, before the current “unity” government, was the most right-wing in its history. Several extreme right-wingers are in the current cabinet. The Israeli media carry calls to make Gaza a place where “no human being can live”. There must be no place in the affairs of nations, least of all at the United Nations, for ideologies of hate.

The nations of the world, operating under the UN Charter and defending the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, must move urgently to help save both Israel and Palestine. If Israel attempts another Nakba, it will suffer horrendous deaths of its own young men and women in the fighting, kill thousands and displace hundreds of thousands of innocent Palestinians, and stain the name of Israel for future generations.

The UN Security Council should head off this calamity by giving urgent and timely support to the millions of Israeli and Palestinian people who yearn for a lasting peace with security and justice for all. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ben Harper says:

    As the son of the Hamas leader said, “the day Hamas loves its children more than it hates the Jews there will be peace”. There will never be peace as long as Hamas exists, particularly with the backing of Hezbollah and Iran

    • Bill Gild says:

      I believe that the quotation came from Gold Meir, prime minister of Israel during the Yom Kippur war 50+ years ago.

    • Enver Klein says:

      Irrespective of whatever quotes you keep repeating, Zionists do not want to share the land, they do not want an Arab State, and I can almost guarantee you that the Zionists will not stop until there are no Palestinians left in the land. Stop using Hamas as an excuse, Netanyahu has stated that a strong Hamas is good for Israel. Why? Because they can continue to have an excuse to “exterminate” Palestinians.

    • Enver Klein says:

      “We Cry for the Palestinians” by Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss. I strongly recommend all Zionist Supporters to listen/watch this.

  • Louise Louise says:

    The UN? Who listens to them? Whatever have they done for humanity? Absolutely nothing. The American government doesn’t listen to the UN and look at all the millions of people they have killed. 500,000 children in Iraq died because of the American government and the fictitious “weapons of mass destruction”. There are still some gullible Americans who think that somehow this was related to “9/11”.

    There is no chance of peace in Palestine whilst the US supports the Jewish occupation of the Palestinian land.

  • Alexis Kriel says:

    You don’t make mention of Hamas. There will be no peace for either Israeli or Palestinian people, as long as Hamas controls the Gaza strip. THIS is the point.

  • Aragorn Eloff says:

    Whatever one thinks of Sachs’s views on this issue, he’s not a credible interlocutor. He has a long history of making false claims on behalf of oppressive regimes like Russia, China and Syria. Many bad-faith actors like Sachs are currently weaponising legitimate Palestinian solidarity to grow audiences for their propaganda. We should stay alert.

  • John Stephens says:

    There is no doubt that Hamas initiated the present fighting, and the Israelis have the right to defend themselves. However, the long history that lies behind the present cannot be ignored. Israel is as culpable in this history as is the UK, the US, and the UN. But there is a clear principle of law that self-defence is only legitimate to the extent that it wards of the harm to itself. When it exceeds that limit, defence becomes attack. Israel is now the aggressor and needs to be roundly condemned for that.
    They and their “settlers” have been terrorising the inhabitants Gaza for decades. It is time that the international community stop supporting Israel’s fascist government. Acting against Israel is not Anti-Semitic. Don’t fear the race card. Israel plays it just as cynically as the ANC does here.
    The state of Israel was imposed on the people living in Palestine. Now impose the two-state solution on both sides. One can only hope that that compromise will have sufficient support in both camps so as to establish a lasting peace.

    • Enver Klein says:

      I’ve always wondered why there is so much support for Zionist Israel amongst “non-Jews”, I personally met a Christian Palestinian priest and what he told me was very surprising, amongst other things, no public celebrations of Christmas in Israel, Priests being told to leave because their bible tells them that the land belongs to the Chosen People, i.e., Jews. I wonder how many Christians are actually aware of this or even aware that a percentage of Palestinians are Christian.

    • Enver Klein says:

      The only way a 2-state solution will be imposed will be if America “allows it”. Zionists do not want it, as they want all of the land.

    • Enver Klein says:

      Thank you for your insight, John

      • Kanu Sukha says:

        Remember the one US president (Obama) who dared to ask the following simple question … “can’t they just stop building illegal settlements on occupied land ?” And … he wasn’t even asking for the return of the already stolen land ! Seems that was too much for most Americans .

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    A sobering take on a complex issue … released just a few hours before the mighty (great according to trump) US vetoed a UN resolution to demand a ceasefire … so the current senseless bloodletting can stop! The US it seems is adamant on enabling the bloodletting to continue and let heil Netanyahu to decide when and what he is going to do.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted