The war in Gaza this summer stirred a surge of pro-Palestinian sentiments. The conflict, which lasted over fifty days, was characterized by a surprising shift in public opinion, highlighted by the comments of pop stars, actors, and other celebrities in solidarity with the people of Gaza.
The effects rippled outward, and by October 3rd, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven declared the Sweden would recognize Palestine as a state. This pledge was soon followed by a British parliamentary vote which recognized, by an overwhelming majority of 274 to 12, the state of Palestine. Romaine Nadal spoke on behalf of the French Foreign Ministry, declaring that France would soon recognize Palestine as well. The US and UK’s criticism of Israel’s expansion and establishment of settlements in the West Bank also came as a surprise.
While this a shift in global opinion is important on the political stage, the real life implications are intangible. “UK recognizes Palestine” is a very attractive headline. In reality, however, it isn’t as pretty as it seems; it’s a non-binding gesture—a mere formality.
What really matters is the people—the people of Gaza. Recognition might be important for future peace talks and negotiations—but that’s exactly what they are, and what they’ll always be: talks and negotiations. What does recognition even mean to the average citizens on the streets of Gaza? What does it mean to the victims of Operation Protective Edge? What Gaza needs more urgently is food, water, shelter, and humanitarian aid. Over 2,000 civilians were killed in airstrikes during “Operation Protective Edge”, and hundreds of homes were destroyed.
The headlines should instead focus on “European Union pledges over $500 million for the reconstruction of Gaza.” This is the first step that really makes a difference. Over the last decade, the EU has spent over $1.3 billion reconstructing Gaza, but unfortunately, such efforts go in vain with each war every few years.
In order for the impacts of aid to last, they must be immediately followed by the observance of the law. According to the all too infamous United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 signed in 1967, Israel is legally bound to return territories in the West Bank to Palestinians. This resolution, unfortunately, is silently blowing in the wind, along with many others. In September of 2014, Israel declared the expropriation of over 990 acres of land in the West Bank near Gvaot. The move was criticized by the US and UK, but other than that, not much has been done. The only peace the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can achieve is under the weight of the rule of law.
Some might say that simply healing the wounds averts our attention from solving the root cause of the conflict. This might be true, but can this be explained to the victims? The Palestinian conflict is complex and deeply-rooted. A fix-all solution may not yet be in sight, but what we do see are humanitarian atrocities and violations of international law. To begin working for a lasting peace, we must address the issues in that same order: humanitarian atrocities, and violations of international law. Until then, symbolic formalities can wait.