When GlobalPost co-founder Charles Sennott was the Middle East Bureau Chief for The Boston Globe, one place he always brought visiting foreign editors was to the checkpoint between Israel and the Gaza Strip. As journalists, they had access to an exclusive entrance that would allowed them quick, hassle-free passage. Instead, Sennott says, “I would take them through the way Palestinian laborers would have to come into Gaza, through the barbed wire, with the bomb-sniffing dogs, Israeli soldiers barking orders."
Today, that Israeli-Palestinian border is the geographic center of a new wave of violence in the region that has already claimed the lives of 695 Palestinians, 32 Israeli soldiers, and 3 Israeli civilians. Israel, on one hand, is deeply concerned about the weapons and militants passing underground through underground tunnels from Gaza to Israel. On the other, the ferocious level of Israeli retaliation against Palestine, especially Palestinian civilians, has raised concerns in the United Nations Human Rights Council that international law is potentially being violated. “This feels an awful lot like collective punishment,” Sennott says. (Hamas and other Palestinian militants are also suspected of breaching international law.)
Secretary of State John Kerry, bucking a Federal Aviation Administration ban on travel to Tel-Aviv, flew today into Israel as part of his continuing efforts to forge a peace between the two warring parties before violence escalates even further. But since negotiations broke down in April, peace has been an elusive goal, requiring constant travel back and forth between Israel, Gaza, and potential peace-broker Egypt (“shuttle diplomacy," Sennott has dubbed it.)
Yet, despite the grim realities on the ground, Sennott is cautiously optimistic that progress can be made. “A ceasefire, a very clearly focused attempt at a ceasefire is possible and needs to be done," he says. "Kerry has the kind of dogged diplomacy and attention to detail that’s required to get it done. I think he will get it done.”
“But,” he adds, “it won’t get done as quickly as he wants it to.”
To hear more from Charles Sennott on the conflict in Gaza, as well as his take on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 and its implications for US-Russian relations, tune in to his full interview on Boston Public Radio, below.