Palestinian boys look down from a damaged building following Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, on October 25 (XINHUA)
In recent weeks, the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip has been under full Israeli siege and airstrikes in retaliation for the October 7 attack by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) on Israel. The Israeli military has also cut off water, electricity and other supplies to Gaza.
About 2.3 million people in the 40-km-long Hamas-ruled region, almost half of them children, have been running out of drinking water, fresh food and fuel to keep generators up and running. Parents in Gaza now write the names of their children on their legs and abdomen, as they are worried "anything could happen" and no one would be able to identify the children, Dr. Abdul Rahman Al Masri, head of the emergency department Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, told CNN on October 23.
"This means that they feel they are targeted at any moment and can be injured," Al Masri added. "The black ink is a small sign of the fear and desperation felt by parents in the densely populated enclave as Israel continues to pound it with relentless airstrikes in retaliation," the CNN report continued.
As of October 26, the conflict had already killed more than 8,000 people on both sides. And at least 60 percent of the population in Gaza has been displaced from their houses, according to a press statement of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
On October 23, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a phone conversation with the foreign ministers of Palestine and Israel, respectively. Wang said all countries have the right to self-defense, but they should respect international humanitarian laws and protect civilian safety.
The way out
"May 4 has arrived, but where is our country? Tell me, where is Palestine?"—In his book Life and Death in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict published in 2019, author Ma Xiaolin, now head of the Institute for Studies on the Mediterranean Rim at Zhejiang International Studies University, recorded a question raised by a Palestinian man during a protest on May 4, 1999.
According to the Oslo Accords signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel in 1993, May 4 (1999) was supposed to mark the end of a five-year transitional period of autonomy and the achievement of Palestinian independence.
But to date, that goal remains elusive.
Negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, two bitter enemies for decades, have long been stalled, resulting in a deadlocked Middle East peace process.
"The current Israeli-Palestinian conflict affects the whole world and involves a major choice between war and peace," Wang said in his phone conversation with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
The two-state solution [which calls for the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side and in peace with Israel] is the consensus of the international community, he added.
The historical background of this solution is that Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and other places during the Six-Day War in June 1967. The United Nations Security Council has since twice passed resolutions demanding that Israel return the Palestinian territories it captured. But not only has Israel refused to return them, it has continued to expand its settlements there.
The root cause of the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the failure to adhere to and implement the two-state solution, Ding Long, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute at Shanghai International Studies University, said. He added that the result is that the tensions will escalate repeatedly.
China has put forward proposals for the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in 2013, 2017 and 2023, respectively. In 2013 and 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward two four-point proposals for the settlement of the issue, stressing China's firm support for a political settlement based on the two-state solution.
In June of this year, Xi presented a three-point proposal, stressing that efforts should be made to establish an independent state of Palestine, that the international community must increase development and humanitarian aid to Palestine, and that it is important to keep the peace talks on track.
China stands ready to play a positive role in promoting peace talks between Israel and Palestine, Xi said.
Rescue workers and medical personnel receive a batch of humanitarian supplies that entered the Gaza Strip from the Rafah Crossing in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on October 23 (XINHUA)
World in action
On October 21, around 30 Arab and Western leaders, as well as senior officials from the UN, the Arab League, the African Union, the European Union and other international and regional organizations attended a meeting in Cairo, Egypt, during which they called for establishing a mechanism to guarantee the progress of peace talks and finding a just solution to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
UN Secretary General António Guterres called for sustained humanitarian aid to Gaza at the gathering. He said the grievances of the Palestinian people are legitimate and longstanding, but nothing can justify the reprehensible attacks by Hamas that have terrorized Israeli civilians. At the same time, the Hamas attacks "can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people," he added.
Special Envoy of the Chinese Government on the Middle East Issue Zhai Jun spoke at the meeting in support of the two-state solution and reiterated that China opposes and condemns all actions that harm civilians and violate international law.
That same day, the Rafah Crossing, Gaza's only border point not controlled by Israel, opened, allowing trucks loaded with humanitarian aid to enter the enclave for the first time since Israel had sealed off the region following the October 7 Hamas attack.
The Chinese Government is providing emergency humanitarian assistance to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and the Palestinian National Authority to meet the urgent needs of those in the Gaza Strip, Xu Wei, a spokesperson for the China International Development Cooperation Agency, said on October 16.
"A ceasefire must be achieved without delay and this is the call of the international community," China's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Zhang Jun, said on October 24 at the UN Security Council briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
"It must be pointed out that allowing the fighting in Gaza to drag on and escalate for whatever justification will not result in a complete military victory for either side, but will most likely result in a catastrophe that will engulf the entire region, completely dash the prospects for a two-state solution, and plunge the Palestinian and Israeli peoples into a perpetual vicious cycle of hatred and confrontation," Zhang said.
China, Russia and the United Arab Emirates on October 25 voted against a United Nations Security Council resolution on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict drafted by the United States. China's Permanent Representative to the UN Zhang Jun explained China's decision following the vote:
China voted against the draft resolution. Our position is based on facts, based on law, based on conscience, based on justice and based on the strong appeals of the entire world, in particular the Arab countries.
We all recall that on October 18, a draft resolution focusing on the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, emphasizing the protection of civilians and supported by an overwhelming majority of council members, failed to be adopted due to the use of the veto power [of the U.S.].
On the evening of October 21, the U.S. introduced a new draft resolution that set aside the consensus of the members, included many elements that were still deeply divisive and went far beyond the humanitarian realm. Many council members, including China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Brazil, proposed amendments to the text. However, the sponsor, ignoring the major concerns of relevant members, made only cosmetic changes to the draft before the text was put in blue [meaning the text is in near-final form] in order to rush the council to vote on it.
In terms of content, the draft is seriously out of balance and confuses right and wrong.
In terms of the approach, the draft was introduced in haste and lacked the consensus it deserved.
In terms of the effect, the draft does not reflect the world's strongest calls for a ceasefire and an end to the fighting, and it does not help resolve the issue.
Based on the above, the draft text is evidently not in a position to be adopted.
China is by no means opposing the council taking action. On the contrary, we have always strongly called for the council to play a responsible role. What we oppose is that the draft resolution is evasive on the most urgent issue of ending the hostility as it has never been able to call for an immediate ceasefire in clear and unambiguous terms.
At this moment, a ceasefire is not just a diplomatic term; it concerns the lives and deaths of many civilians.
If a council resolution is ambiguous on the question of war and peace, and of life and death, it is not only irresponsible, but also extremely dangerous. It is tantamount to paving the way for large scale military actions and giving the green light for the war to continue to escalate.
China is by no means indifferent to acts that harm civilians. On the contrary, we strongly condemned at the first opportunity all violence and attacks against civilians, and called for diplomatic efforts to promote the early release of hostages. What we oppose is that the draft resolution does not call on the parties concerned to stop the indiscriminate and asymmetrical use of force, nor does it call for a thorough investigation into the heinous attacks such as the one on the Al-Ahli Hospital.
Such selective application of international law and double standards will only push more innocent civilians to the brink of death.
China is by no means indifferent to the sufferings of the people in Gaza. On the contrary, we have always strongly called for opening up humanitarian corridors, ensuring humanitarian access and avoiding humanitarian disasters. What we oppose is that the draft resolution selectively avoids referring to the root causes of the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza and fails to urge Israel to lift its full siege on Gaza and to rescind the evacuation order for northern Gaza. Such an evasive and ineffective approach will only accelerate Gaza's falling into an even greater humanitarian catastrophe.
China is by no means denying Israel's security concerns. On the contrary, we have always strongly advocated that equal attention should be paid to the security concerns and legitimate rights of both Israel and Palestine. What we oppose is that the draft resolution attempts to establish a new narrative on the Palestinian question, ignoring the fact that the Palestinian territory has been occupied for a long time and evading the fundamental issue of independent statehood for the Palestinian people. It is worth being vigilant that the draft departs from the spirit of previous UN resolutions and embeds the dangerous logic of a clash of civilizations and the justification of war and use of force. If adopted, it will completely dash the prospect of the two-state solution and plunge the Palestinian and Israeli peoples into a vicious cycle of hatred and confrontation.
China has no selfish interests on the question of Palestine. Any initiative that contributes to peace will receive China's staunch support. Any endeavor that facilitates Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation will be pursued by China with all-out efforts. Since the outbreak of the latest round of conflict, China has actively advocated that the council take meaningful action and make binding decisions as soon as possible. We also emphasize that the actions and decisions of the council must respect facts and history, take the right direction and show due responsibility and accountability, so as to ensure that they stand the test of morality and conscience.
We are ready to continue to work with members of the council and the international community to play a constructive role in putting an end to the hostilities, protecting civilians, averting further humanitarian catastrophes and realizing a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine.
(Source: Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the UN website)
(Print Edition Title: Cycles of Conflict and Hope)
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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