Today, I thought I would send a letter to write greetings for Christmas and the start of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights. But my thoughts were interrupted.

Unfortunately, I had browsed earlier through the news and was horrified to learn that a German tourist had been stabbed and two other people injured near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Islamist motives are suspected, which has not yet been confirmed.

Such violence against innocent people, whatever the motives, is simply intolerable! Unacceptable! Violence must not be viewed as the “norm” or somehow as a justifiable means of political expression. No matter what the motive happens to be,. Is violence against innocent victims not to be mourned, rejected, and condemned that occurred during the many conflicts of our time, such as in Ukraine, or before that in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Sudan, and others? Violence begets violence. It causes hundreds of thousands of deaths, injuries, and homelessness and must be condemned!

Similarly, so must hatred that fueled violence, such as in the Middle East. On October 7th, Hamas, whose covenant calls for Israel’s destruction and annihilation of all Jews, committed an unspeakable massacre and kidnappings in Israel. As was to be expected, this caused Israel to defend itself, leading to war, which led to further cruel deaths, injuries, and homelessness of the masses. Once again, innocent people became the victims. In particular, those who had been used by the terrorist Hamas leadership as “human shields” in specific locations, from which rockets were fired, just as they had constructed an intricate tunnel system below schools, mosques, and hospitals that served as military centers, weapons storage, and fighters. Israel said about 500 Gaza tunnels were destroyed during its offensive, and more than 800 tunnel shafts were located and are believed to be in “civilian areas and inside civilian buildings.”

This strategy placed civilians at risk. Hundreds of thousands had to flee from the north to the south, where they sought safer areas, only to be again at risk when the fighting spread.

The ceasefire, which has now been suspended, must be renegotiated, with renewed attempts to reach a peaceful solution. Mutual respect for human beings must be the focus.

Can the two-state solution ever be implemented that the November 1947 Resolution 181 had passed at the time? It had been accepted by Jews but not by the Arab states. Wikipedia reported that the military and political defeat of the Arab side in the 1948 war, as well as the conflicting goals of the Arab states, prevented the emergence of an Arab-Palestinian state. After the UN passed the Partition Plan in 1947, five states (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq) invaded Israel the day after its founding, a new state ill-equipped with weapons or a trained army. Contrary to expectations, Israel emerged as the victor. This was not the end. Other wars followed a ceasefire during the decades. Further wars and peace efforts through the decades were accompanied by more widespread hatred and disinformation.

Could this have been avoided? Why had the many Arab states not absorbed the approximately 700,000 refugees at the time?

To quote Wikipedia: “Arab states sometimes refused to integrate Palestinian Arabs into their societies. These remained stateless for decades, sometimes in refugee camps to this day.” Only Jordan took in Palestinians at the time. In Israel today, descendants of the Palestinians who remained at that time, i.e., Muslims and Christians, live with legal and political rights, and Arab parties are represented in the Knesset. These are about 20% of Israel’s population. At the same time, it is often forgotten that some 800,000 to 1 million Jews were subjected to persecution, including pogroms and expulsion without their possessions from Arab countries that had been their home for centuries. They fled mainly to Israel or France.

These Jewish refugees received no help from the special UN status, such as Palestinians. Thanks to the Arab states that were UN members, the latter were given a separate refugee status after the UN founded UNWRA in 1949 after the end of the war. Defined as permanent refugees because return options dwindled, their number continued to grow, reaching around 7 million today, who are cared for by UNWRA, including 500 schools in Palestinian territories. In 2022, this organization’s budget amounted to US$1.17 billion, half of which was donated by EU countries. In January 2023, the organization requested an increase to $1.63 billion. This must now be increased because of the increasing destruction of Gaza due to the current war!

To make it clear, I fully support the right of the State of Israel to defend its citizens against the declared intention of the terrorist organization Hamas to destroy Israel and the Jewish people. At the same time, however, Israel should take the utmost care to protect civilians in the Gaza Strip, even if this is not an easy task, given Hamas’ perfidious and cynical war tactics.

Israel must ensure that the lives and human rights of the 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are preserved and protected, given the current war. Innocent people—many of them women, children, older men, and women—must not pay for crimes they did not perpetrate. Hamas’ atrocities have to cease. A political, peaceful solution for the Palestinians must finally be negotiated to enable them and Israel to co-exist in peace, freedom, security, and mutual respect, shedding all hostility.

This year, good wishes for Channuka are more necessary than ever!

For Israel, the many still kept by Hamas as hostages, their release is a priority. On December 7th, the first evening of Channuka,  Jews apart from those in Israel, while lighting the first candle, will think of the hostages and pray and hope for their return. The days of Hanukkah will certainly be quieter than usual. May a new ceasefire agreement and negotiations begin to stop further suffering?

My good wishes fly to you from a freezing Jutland for a contemplative, quiet Christmas with family and friends, with the firm hope of a swift and just end of the conflict to ensure a new beginning and a better, truly peaceful New Year!

Warmest regards to you and yours from