Despite the ever-increasing death toll in Gaza, Western politicians are still calling for a “humanitarian pause” in Israel’s attack on Gaza. “Humanitarian” is defined as “the pursuit of promoting human well-being as a primary or preeminent good” – but in the case of Gaza, a “humanitarian pause” in the war in Gaza will have little impact when it comes to promoting human well-being.

As Malak Benslama-Dabdoub, lecturer in law at Royal Holloway University, recently pointed out, there is “an important difference between a humanitarian pause and a ceasefire”. A pause is a short-term, localized pause in fighting to allow humanitarian assistance to reach civilians before fighting begins again. A ceasefire, on the other hand, is part of a political process that would hopefully lead to a permanent end to the fighting.

That’s true, but the differences go much deeper and are much more problematic. The argument made by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as well as Labor leader Keir Starmer and others for a pause rather than a ceasefire is that a ceasefire would allow Hamas to regroup and grow stronger while the fighting stopped.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a ceasefire in Gaza and said there is no justification for the bombing of civilians in Gaza.

Indiscriminate killing

The effect of a ceasefire would be to stop Israel’s constant bombing and other attacks on the people of Gaza. This would undermine the Israeli government’s goal of eradicating Hamas and taking complete control of Gaza.

Although Hamas’ attack was horrific, there are both legal and moral limits to what Israel can do in response. These limits have been exceeded.

Israel is the de facto occupier of the Gaza Strip, as it has control of all of Gaza’s land borders with the exception of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. This includes controlling Gaza’s access to the Mediterranean and its airspace.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision would extend this to complete control of all security in Gaza, which would inevitably entail an Israeli military presence in Gaza.

Read more: Israel-Hamas conflict: What Gaza could look like “the day after” the war

Failure to call for a ceasefire is an implicit endorsement of this action, which could lead to increased radicalization and violence.

But rejecting calls for a ceasefire also means implicit acceptance of other, longer-term Israeli goals. Both Israel’s Intelligence Ministry and the Misgav Institute for National Security and Zionist Strategy, a think tank with close ties to the Israeli government, have developed plans to eliminate Gaza by expelling all Palestinians to Egypt. This should at least be called ethnic cleansing.

Netanyahu has previously spoken of “clear”.[ing] the West Bank,” while recently quoting a biblical instruction from the first book of Samuel in which God commands King Saul to kill every person in Amalek, a rival nation of ancient Israel. Critics say this reference “has long been used by the far right to justify the killing of Palestinians.” Some have interpreted it as a justification for genocide.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has said there are no innocent civilians in Gaza, a claim that blurs the distinction between combatants and non-combatants. This effectively justifies collective punishment, which is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions.

The Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip and the resulting deaths of more than 11,000 people, including 4,500 children, should be investigated by the International Criminal Court as a possible war crime, as should Hamas attacks.

Read more: Why Palestine’s accession to the International Criminal Court could be a game-changer

I’m waiting to die

For this reason, calling for a “humanitarian pause” is not a truly humanitarian act. As I have noted elsewhere, humanitarianism – providing food, water and medical care to those affected by war – often amounts to little more than what is known in the medical world as “relief.” Medical care is aimed at “making the remaining time as comfortable as possible” for the patient.

I further argued:

While many millions of people have been saved through humanitarian aid, to some in the middle of the conflict it must seem as if the refugee camp is a kind of hospice where humanitarian workers ensure that the refugees stay alive until the war Feeling good – either directly through armed attack forces or indirectly through malnutrition and war-related illnesses – kills them.

This is the case in Gaza. There is literally no escape for the people of Gaza. They are at the complete mercy of the Israeli military. Although Israel has told people to leave the northern Gaza Strip and go south, this has not resulted in security.

Israel is still bombing the southern Gaza Strip. Men, women and children are still being killed there. Israel has bombed hospitals and put them out of service.

It seems clear that Israel has imposed few significant restrictions on its military that would ensure the safety of civilians in Gaza. An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said at the start of Israel’s bombing of Gaza on October 10: “The focus is on damage, not accuracy.”

The people of Gaza are just waiting to die at the hands of Israeli bombs, mortars and bullets. A humanitarian pause that allows food and water would do little more than create “well-fed dead.” They would be kept alive for a while, but many more of them will die at the hands of the Israeli military.

Israel has begun imposing four-hour “humanitarian pauses” in fighting in the northern Gaza Strip. This will do little to slow the march to death of Gaza prisoners. As one observer noted: “Israeli forces will spend 20 hours a day murdering people in the Gaza Strip. Not 24.”

Calls for a humanitarian pause in Gaza do not aim to “promote human well-being as a primary or paramount good.” Rather, they ignore Israel’s massacre of Gazans, thereby undermining the supposed humanitarian outcome that their advocates claim.

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