The majority of deaths were of civilians — with over a third estimated to be of children. Israel also stands accused of using white phosphorus in its offensive — a chemical only allowed for illumination purposes, and never where civilians may be affected.
The scenes from Gaza are horrendous. I cannot think of another situation of armed conflict in the world where civilians have literally nowhere else to go — there are no refugee outflows because they are trapped, utterly unable to escape.
The United Nations has called for an end to Gaza’s bombardment. But the Security Council has been unable to move decisively to end the bombardment because of American support for Israel’s stated objectives of ending Hamas’s capacity to fire rockets into Israel and destroying the network of tunnels along the border with Egypt that purportedly allow Hamas access to arms.
The fact that the tunnels have also been a humanitarian lifeline to Palestinians, enabling the entry of food and medical supplies is, seemingly, irrelevant.
Africans across the continent have also called for an end to the Israeli offensive. But, sadly and tellingly, the majority of that support has come from Africa’s Muslim population alone. That is certainly the case here in Nairobi, where the demonstration was predictably forcibly broken up as the marchers neared the Israeli Embassy.
But, as a result, Kenya has added its voice to the calls for an end to the Israeli offensive. These calls, however, seem futile in the face of official Israeli determination to achieve outcomes that are appear shortsighted to even the most casual of observers.
Palestine is not a Muslim issue. It is heartening, for example, that Nigeria’s interfaith body issued, for the first time ever, a joint statement on the current war on Gaza and that Venezuela has withdrawn diplomatic recognition from the Israeli delegation in Caracas.
And it is heartening that opposition to the offensive also exists within Israel itself — ranging from the ultraorthodox Jewish religious community to human rights, peace and women’s communities.
Palestine is an issue of international justice. This is lost in the excited discussions of the intricacies of military strategy, weaponry, perceived military gains and losses — much in the manner that video games are discussed.
This perpetual focus on symptoms rather than causes has been typical of the debate around Palestine, predating even the consequences of Palestinians having chosen to elect into power —freely and fairly — the government of Hamas.
The Israeli state was based on a fundamental dispossession of thousands and thousands of Palestinians. Until that is recognised, the region will know no peace. A settlement must be reached that respects not only the rights of Israeli citizens to security but also the rights of those dispossessed and their descendants. The talks currently underway in Egypt must thus be about far much more than monitoring borders and rocket fire.
They must strive to lay a foundation for the return of both governments to the table to work on a two-state solution that is just to those dispossessed and their descendants. And that recognises the right of return (with adequate compensation and full equality rights) of Palestinians into what is now termed Israel.
Enough is enough. The world must insist that the conflict be brought to an end. And that end will certainly not be achieved by closing tunnels and ending rocket fire.
*L. Muthoni Wanyeki is executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission