We Must Stop the Bombing of Children in Gaza

Paul John Isaak

There has been shock and dismay worldwide over developments in Palestine and Israel.

In the words of French president Emmanuel Macron, “Israel must stop killing babies and women in Gaza … there is no justification” for such bombing and killing.

After a month of Israeli bombardment, and nearly two weeks after Israel launched a major ground offensive into Gaza, 11 000 people had been killed, and 1,5 million had fled their homes.

Israel claims it is not targeting civilians. What does that mean in an urban area as dense as Gaza?

For example, at the Al Shifa Hospital (the Arabic word al Shifa means ‘house of healing’), the largest medical complex in Gaza, too much death is caused by military operations.

The house of life has become the house of death.

There is no justification for acts of war in and around healthcare facilities, leaving sick people with no oxygen, ventilators, electricity, food, and water.

This is unconscionable, reprehensible and must stop. Such military actions all but amount to a death sentence.


I propose the following action: Implement a permanent ceasefire, save lives, and build an inclusive peace based on a two-state solution as the framework for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian war.

We are facing a moment of truth, a time to act on fundamental human values: Life, humanity, and peace.

Profound respect for this is the foundation of human civilisation.

Law enforcement systems and legal armed forces exist to protect life, all lives, not to destroy them.

The Geneva Convention affirms that “civilians are to be protected from murder, torture or brutality, and from discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, religion or political opinion”.

As expressed by Hans Küng in the book ‘Towards a Global Ethic’, “all people have a right to life, safety, and the free development of personality insofar as they do not injure the rights of others. No one has the right physically or psychically to torture, injure, much less kill, any other human being.

“And no people, no state, no race, no religion has the right to hate, to discriminate against, to ‘cleanse’, and to exile.” 

The fundamental values of life allow our humanity flourish.

The second value is humanity – everyone must be treated humanely.

In the African context, we use the word Ubuntu, which broadens our understanding of humanity, namely “I am as thou art, and thou art as I am”, or “a person is a person through other people”.

In other words, my humanity is inextricably intertwined with yours.

A person with Ubuntu is open to empowering others or providing humanitarian services, to affirming others as God’s children.

It does not see the other as an enemy, but as a brother, a sister, a comrade or being an integral part of co-humanity.

As expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They should act towards one another in a spirit of brother/sisterhood.” 

The third fundamental human value is peace.

Peace is grounded in social trust, just laws, and regulated international relations. Peace offers a path to stability, security and sustainable development.

Violence and terror cannot generate anything other than further conflict and suffering.

The United Nations’ purpose, as set out in its charter, is “to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace”. 


These three fundamental values of life, humanity and peace are threatened by the war in the Middle East and other open conflicts.

They lead to unbearable horror and suffering, and increase instability and global fragility.

We have to renew international commitments to life, affirmation of Ubuntu, and acting on the principles of peaceful coexistence.

Today, we mourn in solidarity with the families of all victims and those terrorised by war.

However, we cannot despair. We need courageous engagement and responsible leadership.

In a global world, we can all take steps in the case of Palestine and Israel and uncompromisingly say now is the time for a permanent ceasefire, not “pauses”; now is the time to save lives; and that now is the time to build inclusive peace based on a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel.

Fundamental human values are vital for post-war healing and reconciliation, leading, in the long term, to replacing hatred and fear through mutual trust and common engagement.

Start today and help stop wars, save lives and build an inclusive peace based on fundamental human values.  

  • Paul John Isaak, retired professor in religion, philosophy and social ethics from the University of Namibia and Paulinum Theology Seminary.

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