October 24, 2023
For over two weeks, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience has followed with the utmost attention the horror unfolding in Israel and Gaza. As a global network, many of our members have devoted decades to preserving and sharing the experiences of those whose lives have been devastated by war, repression, violations and abuses. In this context, Sites of Conscience work to defend international law and ensure accountability for crimes past and present while also offering new paths for peace and understanding.
Eighteen days after Hamas’s attacks on civilians in Israel and Israel’s response of airstrikes and a total siege of Gaza, the prospect of a two-state solution seems more remote than ever before, and it is–as it always is–civilians who are paying the price.
In no uncertain terms, ICSC denounces Hamas’s horrific acts of murder, torture and kidnapping of civilians in Israel. We call for the release of every hostage taken by Hamas and stand in solidarity with the millions of people around the world who are outspoken advocates for peace and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis. This includes many in the Jewish community, who, having grown up in the shadow of the Holocaust, know all too well how quickly discrimination can descend into decimation.
Such crimes against humanity, however, neither excuse nor justify inhumane and unlawful responses. It is increasingly clear that Palestinian civilians–especially children–are the primary victims of the escalation of this conflict. This is unconscionable and must stop. Like all Israelis, all Palestinians have a right to live in dignity and peace. The Israeli government’s policies of collective punishment have stripped Gazans of water, food, fuel, medicine and humanitarian aid while forcibly displacing them despite there being no secure place to go.
We call on the international community to urgently forge a united response that brings an end to the escalating violence, ensures provision of humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza, and ends decades of occupation and brutal cycles of violence. This will not be easy. It will require an exploration of the Nakba and other root causes of the conflict; the emotional, social and economic legacies of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and 16-year siege of Gaza; and space for both Palestinian and Israeli civilians to mourn all they have lost so that they can play an active role in shaping their collective future.
In these dark moments, the road ahead can appear hopeless. Sites of Conscience from Colombia to Northern Ireland to Rwanda, however, show us there is a different path. The process requires courage, accountability and time, but the outcome–lasting peace–is deserving of no less.
Photo credit: Nour Tayeh via Unsplash