Sheffield Leaving the conference in Manchester, we walked by people moving quickly to join a march in the city over Gaza. Reports came in throughout the evening of huge demonstrations in London, Paris, Rome, and elsewhere. Similar to any march or protest, there are always signs and sentiments held by people that attach themselves to a crowd seeking to raise voices for one issue, cause or another. In the midst of all the horror in Gaza, the main chant and demand seemed to be for peace. Peace has always been a universal demand. In a country and world marked by divisions, that doesn’t change the fact that it is always right for people to demand peace and an end to war. The problem of peace is always whether the warriors will listen.
Why would demanding peace be taking sides in a conflict? Isn’t the demand for peace a call for all sides to stop war, and an effort to force all sides in a conflict to set their weapons down and stop the killing? A demand for a ceasefire, whether in Gaza or Ukraine or anywhere else in the world, is a demand for peace, not a preference for one claim or another. My answer to both questions is that demanding peace takes no sides but seeks justice through negotiation rather than blood. When countries and combatants substitute power and bloodshed for justice and fairness, it produces war. The call for a ceasefire is a simply a plea for warring parties to stop fighting. Demanding peace is an attempt to negate power with a universal recognition of the fundamental human right of all people to live in peace.
These arguments seem quaint in the midst of body counts and the roaring shouts of grievance and blame. The claims of “just” wars disappear, when they are only used as a rationale for everything being fair in war and the exercise of complete impunity. There is no rule of war or treaty that justifies targeting civilians by any side in a conflict. The fact that countries throughout the world have used their differential strength and power to render the United Nations impotent despite the lessons of global conflicts in the 20th century has now opened up the gates for war everywhere. The only calculation for warring countries and groups now is the strength or weaknesses of their alliances. The failures of diplomacy are tragic and ubiquitous. We now are reaping the whirlwind.
No matter. Despite the cries of the warriors and their political enablers, the demand by all of us for peace has to be the loudest.