As Israel’s military continues to indiscriminately bomb civilian targets including hospitals, churches and UN shelters, the global outrage against Israel is mounting. French President Emanuel Macron is the first western leader to openly criticize Israel for killing children, women and elderly and calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. He emphasizes that Israel, especially as a democracy, must respect international law including international humanitarian law.
Gaza on the eve of 12 November 2023 has seen yet another terrifying escalation by Israel’s military. Israel’s IDF has surrounded Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital with snipers. The IDF is evicting hundreds of patients including many children onto the streets of Gaza. According to Al Jazeera, 650 patients including 36 children are now facing “inevitable death”. All hospitals in northern Gaza are currently under heavy assault by the IDF. No verifiable figures are available for how many innocent civilian patients the Israeli military has killed over the last 24 hours alone.
The UN has confirmed that Palestinians in Gaza no longer have access to any medical services. Since Israel began its war of revenge against Hamas by targeting the entire civilian population of Gaza, the civilian death toll has reached at least 11 100, including 8000 children and women. An official statement by the Ministry of Health in Gaza has stated: “due to the targeting of hospitals and the prevention of entry of any of the bodies or wounded [we] are unable [as of 11 November] to issue accurate statistics for the numbers of dead and injured during the past hours.”
As the world looks on in horror and seeming helplessness at the inhumanity of Israel’s military campaign directed against defenseless civilians, the aims of Israel’s PM Netanyahu are becoming clear. Clear northern Gaza of any Palestinians and then take over Gaza. The innocent civilians, the injured, the old, the infirm, the children are not Hamas terrorists—they are Palestinian human beings.
Historians are rightfully calling Israel’s attack on Gaza a continuation of the 1948 Nakba, which is defined as “the violent displacement and dispossession of Palestinians, and the destruction of their society, culture, identity, political rights, and national aspirations.” Nakba includes these events as well as the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the persecution and displacement of Palestinians in the region— constituting grave violations of international law for over 75 years.
France’s President Emanuel Macron gave the BBC an exclusive interview on 10 November. Macron, who talked with the BBC’s Katya Adler for about 30 minutes, had strong words for Israel. He called on Israel “to Stop killing Gaza’s women, babies and the elderly”. Macron went on to state that Israel cannot justify its violence and war against terrorism “by killing innocent people”.
“Right after the 7 October the whole world shared the pain with Israel and supported Israel. Sharing the pain we do and the willingness to get rid of terrorism.” Macron went on reiterate that France knows what it means to face terrorism and to fight against it. Nevertheless, “there is no justification for attacking civilians”. He went on to repeat that “you cannot justify fighting against terrorism by killing innocent people.”
France “recognizes the right of Israelis to protect themselves.” But today “de facto civilians are bombed and killed. Babies are bombed and killed. … We do urge Israel to stop.” The French President urgently reminded Israel of its obligation to abide by international law and emphasized that there is only one solution – a ceasefire.
The global calls for a ceasefire are mounting and millions are protesting around the world. Yet the ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Palestinian population are continuing. How many more innocent civilians must die?
Macron’s intervention is significant and one can only hope that other world leaders, including Joe Biden, will stop turning a blind eye. As Macron stated, “because Israel is a democracy it must comply with the rules of war and international humanitarian law”. In so doing, Macron is stating clearly that Israel is currently not in compliance of the rules of war, international law and international humanitarian law.
Much more needs to be done to protect civilians. The devastation of civilian infrastructure and houses, the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas, carpet bombing and the siege of an entire civilian population are, according to Macron, forbidden under international law. Without pointing the finger at Israel, Macron’s statement was forceful and very clear.
As long as Israel does not stop its killing, the spiral of violence, vengeance and retribution will escalate to unforeseeable and catastrophic consequences for the greater Middle East.
As William Blake keenly observed, “You never know what is enough until you know what is too much.”
The world now sees that what is happening in Gaza has greatly exceeded “too much”.