The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a forum of 120 developing countries, concluded its 18th Summit in Kampala, Uganda on January 18th with strong condemnation of Israel’s recent military campaign in Gaza. NAM called Israel’s actions “cruel, genocidal and a serious violation of human rights” and demanded an immediate ceasefire.
Background of the Crisis
Tensions erupted in November 2023 when Israel launched airstrikes in Gaza in response to rocket attacks from Palestinian militant groups. What followed was an intense 11-day conflict that left over 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. Despite international calls for restraint, the crisis escalated earlier this month after Israeli police fatally shot a Palestinian teenager in the West Bank, triggering retaliatory rocket attacks on Israel. Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza, leading the UN General Assembly President to lament “How much carnage is enough?” (1)
Non-Aligned Movement’s Response
The Non-Aligned Movement, representing 55% of the world’s population, took the opportunity during its once-every-three-years summit to make its voice heard on the Gaza crisis.
In the summit’s final Kampala Declaration, NAM explicitly called Israel’s military actions in Gaza “illegal” and amounting to “war crimes” that required investigation. NAM further characterized the actions as a “barbaric aggression” and “systematic act of ethnic cleansing and genocide”. (2)
|Israeli airstrikes in Gaza (Source: BBC)
India’s Minister of External Affairs, S Jaishankar, speaking at the summit, advocated for a “two-state solution” for Israel-Palestine as the only way to ensure justice and peace in the region. Jaishankar also called for NAM’s support in urging respect for international humanitarian law during the conflict. (3)
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki pressed NAM members to leverage their influence in enforcing Security Council resolutions against Israeli occupation. Al-Maliki called Israel’s actions “war crimes” that turned Gaza from “the biggest open prison on earth” into a “mass grave”. (4)
Calls for Immediate Ceasefire and End to Occupation
The Kampala Declaration urged the international community, particularly the UN Security Council, to pressure Israel to immediately cease all military actions in Gaza. The declaration also demanded a complete end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land captured in 1967. (5)
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa called for the “unconditional and immediate release” of two Israeli citizens held hostage by Palestinian militants in Gaza. The militants have threatened to kill the hostages if Israel does not meet demands that include releasing Palestinian prisoners. President Ramaphosa asserted that the hostage situation further complicated efforts for a ceasefire and peace negotiations. (6)
With the Non-Aligned Movement adding its voice to growing global demands, pressure is mounting on Israel and Palestinian militant groups to end hostilities. However, previous attempts at ceasefires and negotiations have quickly broken down due to deep distrust between the parties.
If the crisis continues to escalate, there may be increased calls for international intervention, perhaps through a UN peacekeeping force. But the odds of the UN Security Council authorizing such an action are slim given the complex politics involved.
For now, the best hope is that continuous diplomatic efforts from the US, Arab states like Egypt and Qatar, as well as regional bodies like the Non-Aligned Movement can convince the warring sides to give negotiations another chance. The alternative is a return to full blown war with devastating costs for both Palestinians and Israelis.
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