Queen Rania of Jordan has accused Western leaders of a “glaring double standard” for failing to condemn the deaths of civilians under Israeli bombardment in Gaza, as Israel’s war on Hamas threatens to destabilize relations between US and Arab leaders.
Israel declared a “complete siege” on Gaza following the October 7 terror attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the coastal enclave, that killed more than 1,400 people and saw over 200 taken hostage, according to the Israel Defense Forces. The siege has resulted in relentless airstrikes on densely-inhabited Gaza, and a blockade on vital supplies – including food and water – to the isolated strip’s entire population.
“This is the first time in modern history that there is such human suffering and the world is not even calling for a ceasefire,” Queen Rania added. “So the silence is deafening – and to many in our region, it makes the Western world complicit.”
“Are we being told that it is wrong to kill a family, an entire family, at gunpoint, but it’s OK to shell them to death? I mean, there is a glaring double standard here,” she said. “It is just shocking to the Arab world.”
Latest figures from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza put the death toll from Israeli strikes at more than 5,000, including more than 2,000 children. At least 35 UN workers have also been killed.
Israel says that it is targeting Hamas terrorists, and has blamed the group for hiding behind civilian infrastructure.
The United Nations and several aid agencies are calling urgently for a ceasefire and for the free movement of humanitarian aid to the increasingly desperate population. Doctors working in the isolated enclave meanwhile warn that power shortages threaten the lives of their most vulnerable patients, including the critically injured and premature infants in need of incubators.
“As a mom, we’ve seen Palestinian mothers who have to write the names of their children on their hands – because the chances of them being shelled to death, of their bodies turning into corpses are so high,” Rania said. “I just want to remind the world that Palestinian mothers love their children just as much as any other mother in the world.”
Growing frustration with the West
Arab leaders have voiced frustration with the perceived unwillingness by the US to try to curb Israel’s siege; Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority pulled out of a planned summit in Jordan with US President Joe Biden last week.
Washington, a close ally of Israel, has remained steadfast in its support of the retaliation on Gaza by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and has rebutted calls for a ceasefire.
“In fact, we don’t believe that this is the time for a ceasefire. Israel has a right to defend themselves. They still have work to do to go after Hamas leadership, we’re going to keep supporting them or giving them more security assistance.”
Speaking in the UN Security Council on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, saying that “humanitarian pauses” should be considered, but notably avoided the phrase “ceasefire.”
However, the US vetoed last week a Security Council proposal for a humanitarian pause in the bloodshed, criticizing the draft resolution for failing to mention Israel’s right to self-defense. The United Kingdom also refused to endorse the resolution.
An earlier Russian ceasefire similarly failed.
Israel is committing “crimes against humanity” in its current campaign, nine independent experts working with the UN said in a joint statement on Thursday. The “unspeakably cruel” blockade on Gaza, coupled with “forcible population transfers” is in violation of international and criminal law, the experts added.
Former Israeli hostage negotiator Gershon Baskin has meanwhile warned that the crisis should be a “wake-up call” for both Israelis and Palestinians and called for a change in leadership on both sides.
Baskin, an Israeli citizen, played a key role in the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured and imprisoned by Hamas from 2006 to 2011. Baskin is the author of “The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas,” and he is now in touch with both the Israeli and Hamas leadership in an unofficial capacity.
“It should be no surprise to anyone that we’ve arrived at such a horrific situation,” he told Amanpour in a separate interview on Tuesday. “It has to be a wake-up call for Israel that you cannot keep another people occupied for 56 years and expect to have peace. You can’t lock two million people in an open-air prison and expect there to be quiet.”
“And for the Palestinians, it should be a wake-up call that if you support radical fanatic leaders and refuse to recognize the other people living in your land as having the same rights that you do, then you’re going to suffer this,” he added, speaking from Jerusalem.
“[These are] the most traumatic events for Israel and Palestine since 1948.”
A growing crisis and fears of displacement
Fears are growing that the conflict could spill into neighboring countries in the Middle East, as Israel urges civilians in the northern part of Gaza to relocate south ahead of an anticipated ground operation.
Forcing Gaza civilians to relocate amounts “to the war crime of forcible transfer,” the Norwegian Refugee Council said.
And Jordanian and Egyptian leaders have raised concerns that millions of Palestinians could eventually be pushed out of Gaza and the occupied West Bank and into Egypt and Jordan, respectively, saying such a move could plunge the region into war.
Jordan’s King Abdullah warned last week that the displacement of Palestinians to Jordan and Egypt would be a “red line,” and said neither Jordan nor Egypt would accept refugees from Gaza. He said that any suggestion of the two countries taking in fleeing Gazans was a plan “by the usual suspects to try and create de facto issues on the ground,” suggesting that the refugees may not be allowed to return to their homes.
Asked by Amanpour about her husband’s position, Queen Rania said the people of Gaza face “two choices.”
“Essentially they’re given a choice between expulsion or extermination, between ethnic cleansing and genocide. And no people should be given, [should] have to face, that kind of choice. The people of Palestine should not, [the people] of Gaza should not, be forced to be moved again,” she said.
More than half of Gaza’s population are refugees whose ancestors fled or were expelled from their homes in present-day Israel by armed Jewish groups during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which Palestinians call the Nakba or “the catastrophe.” Israel has never allowed them to return to their homes and many have lived in poverty ever since.
The queen also emphasized that the conflict in the Middle East did not begin on October 7 when Hamas attacked Israel, highlighting the history of Israel’s occupation and the displacement of Palestinians.
“Most networks are covering the story under the title of ‘Israel at war.’ But for many Palestinians on the other side of the separation wall, on the other side of the barbed wire, war has never left,” she said.
“This is a 75-year-old story, a story of overwhelming death and displacement to the Palestinian people. It is a story of an occupation under apartheid regime, that occupies lands, that demolishes houses, confiscates lands, military incursions, night raids.”
Even before the war with Hamas, tensions were high between Palestinians and Israelis in the occupied West Bank. Following a wave of Palestinian attacks on Israelis last year, Israel launched regular incursions and raids into the occupied West Bank targeting what they said were militant strongholds. The resulting violence left a record number of both Palestinians and Israelis dead, numbers not seen in at least a decade.
Since Israel took control and occupied the West Bank in 1967 from Jordan following the Six Day War, large swaths of the territory, which residents hope will form part of a future Palestinian state, has been settled by Israeli civilians, often under military protection.
Most of the world considers these settlements illegal under international law.
Protesters in parts of the Arab world have flooded the streets in recent days to show support for Palestinians under the Israeli siege and bombardment. About 6,000 demonstrators marched in Amman in support of Palestinians on Friday.
“There can never be a resolution except around a negotiating table … there is only one path to this, and that is a free, sovereign, and independent Palestinian state, living side by side, in peace and security, with the state of Israel.”