The Israel-Hamas war in Gaza is causing headaches for politicians around the world as the national diplomatic stands are coming into conflict with the sentiment of citizens on the ground.
In the United States, for example, the Joe Biden administration has been walking a tightrope as it seeks to demonstrate its longstanding support for a key ally in the Middle East, while at the same time seeking to influence the hard right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to temper his government’s attack on Hamas in a way that protects innocent citizens of Palestine.
If recent polls are to be believed, the US President’s popularity is at an all-time low and apart from his age and the cost of living, his strident support for Israel has been blamed.
The tactics being employed by Israel have been likened to war crimes, as tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians, many of them children, have been killed.
This situation has already caused deep divisions in the democratic party and comes at a most inopportune time as the US presidential race has started and Biden is underwater with Donald Trump leading in head-to-head matchups.
The US, and arguably the rest of the world, would be in uncharted and dangerous waters were Trump, who is facing 91 criminal charges and a host of civil suits, to be elected to a second term in office.
In a statement issued in the last 24 hours, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said health services in Gaza had suffered “catastrophic” damage, with most hospitals no longer functioning.
Speaking at a United Nations briefing in Geneva, Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, revealed: “We now have 1.7 million people displaced, so we have twice or three times the population (in the south of Gaza), using one-third of the hospital beds in less than a third of the hospitals available.”
It is deeply distressing to watch the images of children being pulled from rubble after a bombing raid by Israel. Having already cut off food, water, and fuel to the Gaza Strip in an attempt to “destroy” Hamas, one can only imagine the degree of suffering that civilians are enduring.
The Israeli government is insisting that it is simply defending its national sovereignty and its citizens against a terrorist group that is committed to the destruction of Israel.
The international media has revealed that the Netanyahu war Cabinet contains many hardline, rightwing zealots who have never advocated for peace with the Palestinians and have done all in their power to undermine all efforts to create an independent Palestinian state.
As the global divide over the war continues, several countries have suspended relations with Israel or withdrawn their ambassadors and diplomats.
Among those nine countries are South Africa, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia and CARICOM member Belize.
Though Caribbean Against Apartheid in Palestine, which marched in the streets of Bridgetown last weekend, called for Barbados to follow suit, that would be a bridge too far for the Mia Mottley administration.
Barbados has to be more strategic in its stand on the matter. Following their return from the Saudi Arabia-CARICOM Summit, Prime Minister Mottley and her St Vincent and the Grenadines counterpart Dr Ralph Gonsalves were not prepared to cross the Rubicon to commit to a move that could fracture relations with Israel for years to come.
The two leaders held the position that Israel has a right to defend itself. However, at the same time, they have called out the perceived disproportional response of Israel and asked for a ceasefire and return of all hostages.
Dr Gonsalves articulated, “Self-defence cannot mean revenge. Self-defence cannot mean collective punishment and it cannot mean genocide. What is happening is plain wrong.”