Expanded Overview. Details, Stories and four news photos. Buddhist response. About 5000 words for each part.
Headings Part Two
- An Example of Overseas Dissent
- Voices in the Buddhist tradition on Gaza
- Moral High Ground
- The Plight of Israelis
- Psychic Numbness, Psychic Overload in Israel
- The Impact of Stress and Trauma on Israel
- Priority of Individuals and the Tormented Mind
- Out of Compassion, UN Secretary General invokes a Dramatic Move
- Necessary Steps
- Link to 50 Alternatives to War
For Whom the Bell tolls?
It tolls for Gaza and Israel.
Part Two of Two
An Example of Overseas Dissent
Over 300,000 protesters participated on the streets of London Saturday 11 November 2023, along with demonstrations in cities around the world, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Protestors included Israeli citizens, people from the Jewish community, rabbis resident in the UK, Palestinians and internationals. They demanded a ceasefire in Gaza. Some carried banners and signs with the emotive word genocide on their banners. (Genocide refers to an act to destroy part or all of a group of citizens)
The good people of Israel and Gaza deserve governance with a moral spine. Western nations, especially the USA, appear fearful of criticising Israel, fearful of holding back $billions in military aid and fearful of putting a blockage of exports to support the army.
Those who criticise Israel’s foreign policy regularly get accused of being antisemitic. I can speak from experience. Occasionally, Israelis told me I am anti-Semitic or a Leftie. I am neither. Israelis told me I take sides – for Palestine and against Israel. I certainly take sides – for the resolution of suffering and against the infliction of suffering.
Israel is a nation state. People of a nation-state are civilians. The Jewish people form a cultural/religious faith with a right to have a homeland. The West (and certain Israelis) needs to understand the difference between civilian and cultural/religious identity. People who criticise the Israeli government, IDF and their supporters are not antisemitic. Critics hesitate to speak up against the Israeli government as they face accusations of being antisemitic. This line of attack on critics of Israel has its impact on their psyche, making them hesitate to say or write anything.
Is the current Israeli government arguably the most anti-Semitic institution in the world?
Israel is not at peace with its neighbours and it is not at peace with itself. First duty of the government requires developing a caring relationship with all its citizens. Israel’s foreign policy comes at immense personal cost with immense suffering in the army and its Jewish and Arab citizens living in constant fear.
Hamas and the Israeli government have a basic policy of adhering to an ideology of Us and Them, an ideology that matters far more than the protection and support of Palestinians or Israelis. Both sides use the same irresponsible language to justify their killing of each other. In Hebrew, ein breira – we have no choice. This language reveals a mind frozen in a violent ideology depriving any potential exploration for another approach. You hear the language of “no choice” regularly in Israel when referring to Palestinians and you hear the same language from Hamas and their supporters.
Responses to Gaza in the Buddhist tradition
1. World Fellowship of Buddhists
In Colombo, Sri Lanka, hundreds of Sri Lankans joined a protest organized by the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Colombo to stop Israel’s aggression on Gaza.
Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu leaders were all part of the rally together with residents of the Sri Lankan capital who chanted, ‘Free, free Palestine” and carried banners reading “Stop the massacre,” “Stop bombing Gaza,” and “Pray for Gaza,” along with Palestinian flags…
2. Buddhist Peace Fellowship
We say NO to a US-funded war of annihilation on Palestinians.
NO to governments engaging in terrorism and warfare targeting civilians.
NO to conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism.
And NO to using tragedy as an excuse to expand Israel’s settler-colonial hold on Gaza.
3. Response from a Senior Dharma teacher in Israel
In a personal capacity, Stephen Fulder, senior Dharma teacher in Israel, who lives not far from the Lebanon border, said he experienced at times a ‘lonely voice’ among some people when he called for a ceasefire in Gaza and ending of rockets going from and to Lebanon.
He told me many Dharma friends are completely behind his views and work hard to bring wholesome views to the community, There are people he knows, including Dharma friends in the Insight Meditation tradition, who have been swept away by reactivity and anger towards Hamas. Fear in the minds of many Israelis keeps producing wars to get relief from the fear, he added.
Stephen said he felt pain over the Hamas invasion and the bombing of Gaza. He invited meditators and others to explore ways towards peace and reconciliation.
Israelis attend Buddhist meditation retreats with Tovana, Israel’s primary Dharma organisation, based in Ein dor, 90 minutes north of Tel Aviv. At the start of a retreat, meditators make the commitment to uphold ethics mentioned. In the Buddha’s teaching, he stated the first ethic is “I undertake the training to abstain from killing or injuring a living being.” The Buddha also said, “one should not cause a living being to be killed nor incite another to be killed.” The principle applies throughout life.
A minority of Buddhist meditators worldwide regard the ethic to support non-violence/non-killing as only applying to the retreat or their personal life but do not apply the teachings to conflict and war.
4. Gaia House, near Totnes, Devon, England
Gaia House, a Buddhist retreat centre, issued this week a statement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The centre had received requests for a statement from the Sangha of practitioners. Here are opening paragraphs:
We do not support violence, killing, persecution, or the dehumanising of others, in any circumstance. We are likewise profoundly saddened by the tragedy of hostility and oppression, to which so many in our world are subject. Our deep desire is for peace to prevail in the world, and we recognise that each of us has a role to play in making this a reality.
In line with our ethical principles and commitment to mettā (goodwill) we join the many voices calling for a ceasefire and an end to hostilities. We wish to see an end to the ongoing violence and loss of life, the release of Israeli hostages and unjustly detained Palestinians, and humanitarian support for all impacted communities….
5. Dalai Lama
Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama has described the ongoing violent conflict between Palestine and Israel in Gaza as ‘unimaginable’ saying he did not expect such sort of violence from people who claim to hold religious principles.
“All major religious traditions — Islam, Christianity, Hindu, of course, Jainism and Buddhism – all major religious traditions — teach us the practice of compassion, love, forgiveness, tolerance. So then a person who believes in certain faith, why do you involve in such violence?”
“It is really very, very sad,” the Dalai Lama added.
6. Eva Mantler, a Dharma practitioner and psychotherapy student in Vienna, Austria
Cruelty and war crimes have no sides. To see the humanity behind all the terror is what we need. Nobody can justify what has happened and is happening.
We cannot justify the slaughter of innocent beings by Hamas. We cannot justify the killing and bombing of civilians, children, women in the name of ‘cleansing’ Gaza of Hamas.
There are other choices to respond to the problematic political situation.
I can imagine the underlying pressure amongst people, such as Israelis who criticise their own military. They do not hold to the ‘common’ view,
They have to endure a lot of public reaction if they speak up against war crimes and the same with the Palestinians and Hamas.
7. Sacred Mountain Sangha in California
This Sangha has issued an invitation for a daily (weekdays only) 40-minute Dharma, chanting and meditation circle.
The website states: “This is a dedicated support for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and hostilities in the Occupied Territories alongside the return of hostages to Israel and return of imprisoned Palestinians, particularly children, held without trial or due process. Each session includes check-ins and support for extending our Dharma practice to Right Action, protecting all from harm, by calling on political representatives and influential leaders to demand a ceasefire and swift transition to a fair and just political process.”
8. Buddhist Teachers and Senior Meditators provide a Toolkit
The toolkit encourages Buddhist teachers and Sanghas (networks of practitioners) to speak up about Israel and Gaza/Palestine. They provide the tool kit for all Buddhist traditions and lineages.
Toolkit: Inviting Dharma Leaders to Speak Up about Palestine
Creators of the toolkit come from various Buddhist lineages including Insight Meditation, Plum Village, Sacred Mountain Sangha, Soto Zen, based in the United Kingdom and the United States, of various ethnic, cultural, and racial backgrounds.
9. An Appeal to Insight Meditation Society (IMS), USA,
Buddhist practitioners appealed to IMS, a major US centre, to take a public stance against the US-backed violence against the Palestinian people. 121 Insight Meditation practitioners and Dharma teachers signed the appeal. It was delivered to IMS’ executive director, board of directors, and guiding teachers council on November 30, 2023. It called on them to join their voices with the growing number of Western Buddhist leaders calling for a total ceasefire, such as Thanissara, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Insight Western Mass, Plum Village, East Bay Meditation Center, ARISE Sangha, Kaira Jewel Lingo, Lama Rod Owens, Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams, Bhikkhu Bodhi and Hozan Alan Senauke.
The Plight of Israelis
The current Israeli government, military and media constantly conditions Israelis to treat Palestinians as a threat to the survival of Israel. Citizens repeat what their government tells them or experience a psychic numbness, which gets in the way of the urgent need for dialogue and reconciliation with Palestine.
Just like the Hamas government, the Israeli government has let their people down. These leaders prefer holding to rabid views that protection of life. It is time for them to step down. The violence of the self-righteous position of the Israeli Prime Minister and leading figures in his government give license to a significant section of Israeli citizens to project such vulgar stereotypes on the Palestinian people.
Here are recent examples:
• FakeReporter, an Israeli group that monitors disinformation and hate speech, reported. “Calls for Gaza to be “flattened,” “erased” or “destroyed” had been mentioned about 18,000 times since Oct. 7 in Hebrew posts on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.
• Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war on the Gaza Strip until Hamas has been destroyed. He said: Hamas leaders have only two options either to “surrender of die.” (22 October 2023) “They are the new Nazis.” (23 October 2023)
• Israeli President Isaac Herzog said: “there are no innocent civilians in Gaza.” (23 October 2023).
• The Defence Minister said: “We will wipe this thing called Hamas, ISIS-Gaza, off the face of the earth. It will cease to exist.” (12 October 2023)
• Former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations described Palestinians as “horrible, inhuman animals.” (26 October 2023)
• Deputy Knesset Speaker said: “We Are Too Humane. Burn Gaza Now.” (17 November 2023).
This is the language of fascist demagogues. Their obscene language sounds like similar rants of Hamas against Israel. My heart reaches out to decent Israeli and Palestinian citizens listening to or reading these statements in the media from their pathologically and ideologically bound leaders.
There are voices in Israel, as well as many in the international Jewish community, who experience shock and shame at the merciless attacks on Gaza. Film and photos reveal the total obliteration of suburbs and many residents. Retribution. Retribution. Punishment. Punishment. Punishment. Children cry on the rubble in Gaza: “Why does Israel hate us? We are children. We have done nothing wrong.”
A few newspapers in Israel, political, religious voices, Israeli citizens, call for a ceasefire, Arab Palestinians in Israel face arrest if they protest the consequences of the invasion on their people in Gaza and Jewish Israelis face harassment from the police.
Thoughtful Israelis experience a deep sadness over the invasion of Gaza. Israelis fear for the hostages, who sadly have become a weapon of war. We should not assume most Israeli citizens support the mass killing of Palestinians. Nobody knows what percentage support the daily bombardment and who want a ceasefire. Small protests have taken place in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities.
Friends told me in Israel of rabbis who have reinterpreted the great commandment of Moses – Thou Shall Not Kill. Certain Rabbis claim that Moses meant Thou Shall Not Kill Jews.
The followers of such rabbis then join the army with religious approval. Young Jewish citizens obviously enter into harm’s way when sent into a battle zone. I regard such rabbis as antisemitic. They place the political objectives of the nation state above the most sacred commandment found in the Torah. As a result, those who adhere to the precious teachings of the Jewish tradition, get trapped in the cycle of suffering in times of war.
Moral High Ground
Israelis who express their disgust about the morality of the huge death toll and the systematic destruction in the north to central and south Gaza will hear aggressive feedback from fellow Israelis. They will be told they are Hamas sympathisers, traitors or both. Nothing justifies the daily massacre of Palestinians yet Israeli citizens remain quiet. Their inner murmurings of deep concern remain within themselves rather than find expression. Very few civilians are conscientious objectors. The few who speak up might face death threats in emails and texts.
Silence, or more precisely fear of speaking up, ensures the minimum of public discourse. Freedom of choice involves consumer goods but does not apply when it comes to genocide.
Israeli government inhibits freedom of movement of Gaza citizens, minimises their contact with the outside world and ensure they live in prison conditions. Every two years for decades IDF have launched rockets into Gaza. Tension and pressure build up with the outburst of organised rage.
Every night without exception, BBC news states the UK government has named Hamas as a terrorist organisation. BBC does not state daily the UN gathers evidence to find out if the Israeli and Hamas government have committed war crimes.
In Zoom meetings, Israelis told me Israel is the world’s most moral army – a common view in the country. Prior to a bombing raid, Israeli air force might drop leaflets from the sky; for example, they dropped leaflets over southern Gaza telling everyone to evacuate. It sets up fear and panic. The civilians have no idea where to go. There is no area of safety. Not long after, bombs fall onto refugee camps.
Israeli bombers drop flyers telling people to evacuate southern Gaza.
Israeli government and IDF ascertains regularly that Israel is the ‘most moral army in the world.” Israel does not have the authority to make such absurd claims.
Ask the Palestinians.
Psychic Numbness, Psychic Overload in Israel
Outside Israel, thoughtful people cannot comprehend why there seems to be so little protest in Israel about the bombing and ground war on Gaza. Many Israeli citizens remain quiet, fearful of sounding unpatriotic when listening to friends and family who support the invasion of Gaza. Fear of speaking up contributes to a psychic numbness, which indirectly perpetuates the public rage against Gaza.
Two of our Israeli mindfulness teachers offered an online mindfulness course to reduce stress.
Survivors in both countries will continue to live under the occupation of ongoing mental suffering. Mindfulness courses in Israel will not reduce stress if patterns of reactive negativity towards Hamas and Gaza dominate perceptions. People should not delude themselves into thinking mindfulness can reduce stress and live in fear and anger at the same time.
I heard they received over 4000 emails from Israelis wishing to join the course. I have had Zoom meetings with Israelis, including in recent months one to ones, small groups and larger groups. Gaza rarely gets mentioned. I heard many references of the terrible suffering Hamas inflicted on Israelis.
The Israeli stress level is high. Many friends in Israel engage daily in giving loving support to fellow Israelis suffering over bereavement, support the wounded/traumatised citizens and campaign for the release of the hostages. Israelis tell me they barely have time to think about the people in Gaza. Israelis have rallied together to support each other.
Stress comes from anger and fear. The emotion of anger/hate or emotionless thoughts of anger/hate reveal stress, which contracts the mind. Sadly, these severely problematic states of mind block connection with the humanity of Palestinians. The absence of an empathetic response seems to show a cold-hearted reaction to current events in Gaza. That may not be the case. Psychic numbing needs consideration. As the numbers of bombings and killings increase, the capacity to address the invasion correspondingly decreases. The mind simply cannot handle the growing death toll in Gaza. Tortoise like, the mind draws into the shell of the collective consensus.
On Zoom, one Israeli mother, who fully supported the Israeli government’s war on Palestinians, told me her son, a teenage soldier in the IDF, was currently in Gaza. I asked if she had seen news footage of the impact of the Israeli invasion. She said “None until 10 days ago. She said she watched once Al Jazeera news. I asked what she saw. She said she saw mothers weeping over their loss of their children.
I asked how she felt seeing the Palestinian mothers in deep distress.
She said, “Uncomfortable.”
This small recognition of the suffering of Palestinian mothers has the potential to lead to a change in heart and mind. The hearts of the fearful and traumatised have no time to reflect on a primary human ethic – to treat others in a neighbouring country, as one wishes to be treated. Psychic numbing obstructs empathy and compassion,
Psychic overload goes back a long way for many Israeli citizens. Army officers in uniform visit primary/secondary schools/colleges/universities to tell children and young adults about the vulnerability of the State of Israel, the importance of the IDF and the threats and killings from Palestinians and Arabs. Every Israeli family has members who were in the army and many still on call. In times of war, Israelis tell me they check the news and social media every 30 minutes throughout the day for an update. This contributes to psychic overload.
About 10 years ago, I visited Auschwitz with Dominika from Krakow, Poland. There were groups of Israeli teenagers seeing the grim reminders of the holocaust. The trip would have helped many of them to understand the history of their family going back only two or three generations.
All Israeli citizens must join the army at 18 – men for two years, eight months and women for two years. Their army training includes throughout the language of us and them, namely Israelis/Jewish people and Palestinians/Arabs. These young Israeli adults must fake mental illness to get out of compulsory conscription. Their CV for a job application often requires details of their period and position in the army. Israelis told me that if they get classified as ‘refuseniks,’ the term sometimes used in Israel, may well impact their career.
I had a private meeting with a mother of a 17-year-old son. She told me the family live in Israel. His father is Jewish and she is a Muslim Palestinian. The family of three keep it a secret from everybody. She is always afraid someone in or outside the school will find out her son is half-Palestinian. His mother felt concern for the life of her son. He said he hears teenagers in school shouting out about how many Palestinians they will shoot when they join the army. In a few months, her son will receive the compulsory callup for the army. Her son said to her. “I am 50% Palestinian I do not want to be sent into Palestine to kill Palestinians.”
We spoke for 90 minutes on the way forward.
Stress in the present and anxiety about the future increases as the government call on the army of regulars currently numbering about 170,000 and reserves of around 460,000 to await orders. Israel has a budget of $24 billion making it the world’s 15th biggest army out of the 193 members states in the UN.
The Impact of Stress and Trauma on Israel
Fear, anger and warfare manifest as ugly forms of insecurity. In this insecurity, government, the military and senior politicians believe the waging of war upon civilians and their political masters will give security. Instead, the waging of war creates a new generation of angry young men determined to inflict suffering on Israel. Since 7 October 2023, IDF continues to kill on a daily basis Palestinians in the West Bank ensuring angry young men, who have lost loved ones, will seek retribution in the future. This is part of the history of 75 years of the state of Israel. Warfare makes things worse.
Many soldiers in the IDF will return home traumatised from Gaza due to what they have done or what they have seen. Israel will experience an epidemic of PSTD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Unresolved military violence can produce domestic anger or threats of violence when the soldiers of any rank return home. Guilt, depression and self-harm will haunt the lives of soldiers. They will wake up in the night from nightmares, shaking with fear, sweating, yelling. Some will require anti-depressants for years.
Soldiers will experience an impact of the war in incidents in their daily life including when they make love to their partner. Unhappiness, addictions and mental health issues often get exposed after leaving a war zone, because of the control over emotions soldiers exert in battle. I have listened to reports of the impact of military service on the lives of young people, especially those with sensitive souls in various countries.
Families in Israel will also become traumatised with the mental health issues of their loved ones after they changed from army uniform to civilian clothes. It will take a long time for Israeli society to recover from the obscenity of the Hamas invasion. Palestinians face a similar nightmare but, on a scale unprecedented since the formation of the state of Israel.
There is an urgent need for thoughtful Palestinian and Israeli citizens to initiate a fresh approach, starting with communication to replace killing.
One organisation, Combatants for Peace consists of Palestinians and Israelis soldiers who were once engaged in combat against each other. They saw the futility and madness of killing and began to see the humanity behind the ‘enemy.’ The first meetings were mostly devoted to telling the participants’ personal stories.
UK representative for Combatants for Peace, Ben Yager, a former Israeli soldier, lives in Totnes, Devon.
Priority of Individuals and the Tormented Mind
Human beings regularly have three priorities which have a considerable influence on their daily life existence. The three priorities are the interests of self, interest in the family and the interest in the nation state. All three mental constructs enter daily into the consciousness of all citizens. Yes, self, family or nation state take priority over the other two to a greater or lesser degrees.
Self, family and nation-state can carry identification, which is narrow, exclusive and potentially destructive. When identification with these areas matters more than anything and anyone else, you will live in a contracted environment. The building of these three mental constructions into the supreme purpose of life can come at the expense of ethics, wisdom and a liberated way of being. The ideology of identification brings about a dismissal of the rights of others, the family and other nation states.
More than a decade ago, I spoke in Tel Aviv on Compassion and Action. After the talk, an irate Israeli came to me to condemn my talk. “What do you know about the conflict? What do you know about Israel? What do you know about the Palestinians? We live here. You are an outsider.”
I asked the Israeli how many conversations he had with Palestinians. He said nothing. He could not bring a Palestinian to mind including a Palestinian living in Israel. That applies to most Israelis unless they attempt to join dialogue groups of Palestinians and Israelis, visit the West Bank, help Palestinians with picking olives and other co-operative ventures. I have Dharma friends who have stayed committed for years to develop friendships between Palestinians and Israelis, as well as inviting internationals to come to Israel and Palestine.
I replied to the angry Israeli: “Your silence tells me you have never had a single conversation with a Palestinian. This is a major difference between you and me. I have been going to Nablus and elsewhere in Palestine for 20 years. I have met many Palestinians, men and women, who have shared their experiences with me. You only know what the Israeli government, army and media have told you. That’s the difference between the two of us.”
The government, media and powerful voices conspire together to inflate their own self-importance. The existence of others doesn’t matter too much if self-family-nation state holds the power and dominates the viewpoint.
People easily forget the desire to inflict more suffering on the other generates a psychological climate of revenge. Because of trauma, the body remembers the fears, anger and violence. Thought stimulates what they what they did to us. They destroyed our lives; they destroyed our homes and culture. They destroyed our institutions, our places of worship, hospitals and schools. It might well be true but it leads to justification for encouraging one’s own country to engage in the same blind desire to inflict even more suffering on them.
Grieving father outside hospital in Gaza
The tormented mind does not fade easily, even with the best of counselling. Those who advocate war have no psychological understanding of the dynamics of such intense suffering and its long-term impact on society. The innocent suffers as much as the guilty, whether in uniform or out of uniform whether accomplices in killing or directly involved in killing.
What are the features of this rage against life? First, those who plan death and destruction and those who remain obedient to the orders to make others suffer have no empathetic feeling relationship with others. It is easier to slaughter thousands of people if you have no relationship with them, no caring human contact and no communication with them. They are simply targets, faceless beings, a set of numbers. People become non-persons, non-family members, of no matter. They become a label—Palestinians, Israelis – regarded as unfit for existence, only suitable for killing, only suitable to endure maximum suffering.
A handful of human stories enter the news. The personal stories have little relevance, except to make viewers and readers feeling momentarily sorry for the victims. Compassion and forgiveness can sound like an out-of-date idealised religious dogma to dissolve the vitriolic hostility of those supporting the violent policies of those trapped in the crucible of hatred.
Spiritual, religious and secular people have no obligation in the hell of war to find compassion and forgiveness for the enemy. This often displays an unreasonable expectation upon the hearts and minds of people. Let me make it clear. You do not have to find forgiveness and compassion. You have a duty to find equanimity, clarity and wise action to help resolve suffering and end the despicable circumstances creating the conditions for war.
You have the human potential to refuse to sanction any kind of support for violence and killing and stay true to that principle, an unyielding determination to refuse to submit to the forces of pathologically sick minds intent on of suffering, of mass murder.
Your capacity to remain grounded, equanimous and non-reactive gives you the freedom to act fearlessly to take steps to help stop the acts of genocide that both Israeli and Hamas governments appear to sanction. The UN continues to gather evidence to see if genocide/breaking of international humanitarian war/human rights law/creation of conditions for famine, hate speech and more.
A UN report on 28 December 2023 referred to the “rapid deterioration” of human rights in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and urged Israeli authorities to end violence against the Palestinian population there.
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it had recorded mass unlawful detentions, reported torture and other forms of ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees. 300 Palestinians in the West Bank had been killed. 4,785 Palestinians had been detained in since 7 October. “Some were stripped naked, blindfolded and restrained for long hours with handcuffs and with their legs tied, while Israeli soldiers stepped on their heads and backs, were spat at, slammed against walls, threatened, insulted, humiliated and in some cases subjected to sexual and gender-based violence,”
Hamas government states the Israeli military has killed 21,000 Palestinians with 55,000 wounded (26/12/2023). 85% of citizens in Gaza have fled their homes with 40% in immediate risk of famine.
IDF has exchanged rocket fire with Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen and Syria. The risk of all out warfare in the Middle East has become a real threat in the region.
Out of Compassion, UN Secretary General invokes a Dramatic Move
UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres of Portugal has invoked Article 99 in a warning of a deepening ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza as he called on the Security Council to act.
As a non-member observer, Palestine can speak at UN meetings but can’t vote on resolutions about the situation in Gaza.
In the world of diplomacy, he initiated a dramatic constitutional move by invoking Article 99. UN said it was the first time a Secretary-General had used Article 99 since 1966.
Article 99 is a special power given to the Secretary-General in the UN Charter. This power allows him to call a meeting of the Security Council on his own initiative to issue warnings about new threats to international peace and security.
The US has used its power of veto 34 times to block resolutions critical of Israel.
In other letters, Mr Guterres made strong criticism of Hamas and the Israeli government for what they have unleashed. In one of his letters this month, the Secretary-General wrote to the 15 member UN Security Council on the situation in Gaza including the plight of his UN staff.
Here are extracts from his introduction and notifications of his staff based in Gaza:
Mr. President, Excellencies,
I wrote to the Security Council invoking Article 99 because we are at a breaking point.
There is a high risk of the total collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza, which would have devastating consequences.
More than 130 of my (UN) colleagues have already been killed, many with their families. This is the largest single loss of life in the history of our Organization. Some of our staff take their children to work so they know they will live or die together.
Colleagues have shared heartbreaking messages from staff members pleading for help.
I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the UN is totally committed to stay and deliver for the people of Gaza. I pay tribute to the heroic humanitarian aid workers who remain committed to their work, despite the enormous dangers to their health and their lives.
But the situation is simply becoming untenable. ….
Israeli restrictions on movement, fuel shortages, and interrupted communications, make it impossible for UN agencies and their partners to reach most of the people in need…….”
On 22 December 2023. UN Security Council passed a watered-down resolution calling for an increase in humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza. The resolution’s approval follows days-long delay aimed at avoiding a US veto, but many observers criticised the last text for not calling for a halt or break in fighting. Palestinians felt let down by the resolution. They want the bombing and shelling to stop.
Palestinian friends in the West Bank and Jerusalem have been telling me for more than a decade they do not believe there is any hope for a two-state solution.
Three decades ago, I proposed a one-state solution called Palisrael where people in Gaza, West Bank and Israel could co-exist under international law and collective security. A Palisrael would serve as a homeland for Jews, Muslims and secularists under UN guidance. The world would surely support such an initiative. Instead of spending $billions every year on the military, they could use the money for the construction of a new state. My view received a lukewarm response from Palestinians and Israelis.
Respected leaders and representatives of Israel and Palestine need to meet. First, they should only talk about their personal lives, their families, their daily challenges. Everybody gets to know each other as citizens, men and women, as people, without seizing on national/political/ cultural/religious identity that obstructs genuine communication.
The development of friendship, of mutual understanding, then becomes the first step towards healing.
I stated at the beginning of this report that I have no confidence in the current crop of heads of state and politicians in the Middle East or the West. Unless there is a massive change of heart and vision, our leaders are not fit for purpose.
The first duty of politicians gives priority to serve the needs and rights of the good citizens of Palestine and Israel to know contentment in daily life and experience genuine security, free from fear.
We need change.
Link to 50 Alternatives to War
BBC News (online)
Middle East Eye (online)
New York Times
MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE IN PEACE AND