Saturday, December 16, 2017

For Ukraine, Gaza, only gloomy peace prospects

express editorial6

Donstan Bonn

 World attention remains riveted on developments in eastern Europe and in the Middle East, that have stirred more despair than hope in the prospects for peaceable international relations. Five days since a missile fired from Ukraine destroyed a civilian airliner, killing nearly 300, quarrelsome finger-pointing continues over both responsibility for the massacre and investigations into the incident.

 Airline passengers have, in earlier occurrences, been victims of horrific collateral damage resulting from assorted conflicts. Last week’s aircraft downing, however, especially touched people everywhere if only for being the second major disaster in four months suffered by Malaysia Airlines.    

 Wrenching stories keep being told about the innocent lives lost, including of world-leading HIV/Aids researchers, who were headed to a conference in Kuala Lumpur. Until then, for those flying for business or pleasure to various parts of the globe, Ukraine had likely been a remote theatre of war. 

 Trinbagonians and other Caribbean people, among whom count some frequent flyers here and there, have been inevitably touched by the wholly unexpected end of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. 

It is further distressing that the carnage figures in bitter disputes within a Ukraine torn by hostilities pitting those favouring ties with the European Union and the US against others preferring alliances with the Russian Federation. Neither side of course claims to have fired the missile. Though both sides voice support for an independent international inquiry, not only is a blame game in full swing but the investigation is also not being immediately facilitated by the pro-Russian forces in control of the crash site.

 Meanwhile, as the Obama administration all but accuses its opposite number in Moscow of complicity, fear arises that the truth about Flight 17 could be a casualty of some latter-day cold war.

 In its capacity as a stalwart supporter of Israel, Washington is also, at least morally, a party to the bloody confrontation now engulfing the notorious Gaza Strip. By yesterday, some 500 Gaza inhabitants, maybe half of them women and children, had been killed by Israeli aerial and naval strikes and by ground troops.  

 Consistent with the normal pattern, just 25 Israeli soldiers have died and maybe two civilians. Once again, Israeli bombs and artillery have been directly targeting civilian-inhabited Gaza areas. This is justified on the ground that Palestinian Hamas fighters, themselves firing rockets into Israeli territory, operate from within such communities.   

While the US upholds Israel’s right to defend itself, by any means necessary, there have been no meaningful UN moves toward ending the conflict. This time, even with casualties rising on both sides, a lasting peace, starting with a ceasefire, appears hopelessly beyond reach.