Opinion: For the sake of Israel, the attack on Gaza must stop!

A true friend is someone who’s prepared to tell you when you’re wrong or you’ve made a mistake – even when they know that message may not immediately help your friendship. With its current massive attack on Gaza, Israel is clearly wrong. Worse still, it’s in danger of making a historic mistake.

In criticising Israel’s bombing, no-one is making light of the rocket attacks its civilians have endured for months by Hamas – even during the ceasefire. Nor do I question Israel’s right to defend herself. Yet the rationale for the attack put forward by the Israeli Government – that it will change fundamentally the security situation in the south of Israel – repeats one of the classic errors of too many modern military tacticians, in supposing that populations, be they terrorists or civilians, can be defeated this way. The truth is, this attack plays into the hands of Hamas, as it will rally support for it within Gaza and across the Arab and wider Muslim world.

Some commentators have suggested that Hamas’ Palestinian rivals, Fatah, could benefit from the damage being done to Hamas, and that this will therefore bring a peace settlement closer. Quite the contrary. The Palestinian Authority on the West Bank could be seriously undermined by this carnage, and its negotiating team may find it more difficult to return to the table without risking its own credibility and remaining legitimacy, even when the dust has settled. The ferocity of the Israeli assault could result in the radicalisation of more moderate Palestinians.

After all, despite real progress behind the scenes with the current peace talks, as I found during a visit last November to the West Bank, the Annapolis peace process has in public delivered little, with illegal Jewish settlements increasing in the Occupied Territories and with economic and security gains for West Bank Palestinians only modest to say the least. No-one on the streets of Ramallah or Nablus had yet placed any hope in the strenuous negotiating efforts of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. Now fewer people will think they should be negotiating anyway.

So why has Israel attacked now? For the same reason that successive sensible Governments have failed to stop illegal settlements on the West Bank: the fragility and fragmentation of Israeli politics. Just as religious parties crucial to Knesset coalitions have been bought off with subsidies and inaction on settlers, so with an election just a few weeks away, the current Government felt compelled to act now, in the face of Hamas’ Qassam rockets. Behind in the polls before the bombardment began, the signs of a electoral bounce are already there. Kadima’s diplomatic strategy, including impressive restraint in the face of provocation, has switched to military tactics, in the fear of voter rejection.

Indeed, the question of timing is critical to understanding this current outbreak of killing. Israel will argue that their attack was forced upon them now, as after the ending of the recent ceasefire, the rocket attacks on their towns increased. And they have a point. Yet, without for a mili-second condoning the latest wave of rockets, surely there was an inevitability that a terrorist organisation like Hamas would do that, especially with the Knesset elections set for February. Surely true political leadership – as Tipi Livni showed in rejecting impossible conditions for continuing Kadima’s governing coalition demanded by Shas, one of the religious parties – now required a diplomatic facedown of the rockets, with demands to the international community to back that political courage.

By provoking an attack now, Hamas has copied Hezbollah’s tactics in Lebanon, and may end up winning a similar tactical victory, with rocket attacks continuing and the IDF looking fallible once again. Since the Israeli Government is too smart not to have predicted this, the truth must be that they were compelled by electoral calculations. No other explanation fits the fact that this assault is almost certain to prove counterproductive for Israel.

So that’s why Liberal Democrats are right not just to join in the widespread calls for ceasefires, but to seek action to bring that about. With the US hobbled by their Presidential transition, we need the EU to flex its muscles, and suspend the proposed new EU-Israeli co-operation agreement. How could the EU “upgrade” its relations with Israel at this moment? And we need the UN Security Council to debate a resolution, under Chapter VII, instructing both sides to ceasefire. Given the US agreed to a UNSC press statement calling for such just three days ago, there is even a chance that the US may not veto a resolution requiring Israel to stop firing.

Tuesday night’s EU proposals for a ceasefire and a delegation to the region are helpful. Yet in the face of this type of self-delusion, we need more teeth.

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33 Comments

  • In 2005 Israel withdrew from every last centimetre of Gaza, withdrawing both troops and settlers. Within days rockets started being fired from Gaza into Israel.

    Last June, Israel agreed to a six month cease-fire (“period of calm”) proposed by the Egyptian Government. On Friday 19 December, the Hamas Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades officially declared that the six-month calm was over. Over the next few days rockets were fired from the northern Gaza Strip at Sederot and Ashkelon. These are not directed at any military targets but solely at civilian populations including a local community center which was full of children enjoying Hanukkah activities.

    No one has satisfactorily answered the question what would be a proportionate response to that? Which country in the world would not take military action againts a neighbour persistently firing missiles at its territory. And the timing is nothing to do with Isreal’s forthcoming elections but all to do with Hamas’ decisiosn to end the cease fire.

    Israel’s ait attackes have bene targeted as precisely as possible on Hamas targets. Rgerttable, Hamas has bene using the Paklestinian poultaion as human shields by deliberatly kloacting missile launches and stockpiles amongst civilain populations. There are many records of missile sbeing fired from school play grounds. In one incident, a mosque was used both to launch and store missiles. When it was attacked by Israel, the damage was exacerbated by secondary explosions from the explodiung sotred munitions.

    In the meantime, humanotarina aid is continuing to pass theorugh the border and some Palestiniana have been adnmited to Israeli hospitals. Ninety three trucks, with approximately 2500 tons of humanitarian aid, medical supplies and medication have been conveyed through Kerem Shalom cargo terminal. The World Food Programme has informed Israel that they will not be resuming shipment of food commodities in to Gaza due to the fact that their warehouses are at full capacity and will last for approximately two weeks.

  • Jonathan Davies 1st Jan '09 - 11:08pm

    In 2005 Israel withdrew from every last centimetre of Gaza, withdrawing both troops and settlers. Within days rockets started being fired from Gaza into Israel.

    Last June, Israel agreed to a six month cease-fire (”period of calm”) proposed by the Egyptian Government. On Friday 19 December, the Hamas Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades officially declared that the six-month calm was over. Over the next few days rockets were fired from the northern Gaza Strip at Sederot and Ashkelon. These were not directed at any military targets but solely at civilian populations including a local community centre which was full of children enjoying Chanucah activities.

    No one has satisfactorily answered the question what would be a proportionate response to that? Which country in the world would not take military action against a neighbour persistently firing missiles at its territory? And the timing is nothing to do with Israel’s forthcoming elections but all to do with Hamas’ decision to end the cease fire.

    Israel’s air attacks have been targeted as precisely as possible on Hamas targets. Regrettably, Hamas has been using the Palestinian population as human shields by deliberately locating missile launches and stockpiles amongst civilian populations. There are many records of missiles being fired from school play grounds. In one incident, a mosque was used both to launch and store missiles. When it was attacked by Israel, the damage was exacerbated by secondary explosions from the exploding stored munitions.

    In the meantime, humanitarian aid is continuing to pass through the border and some Palestinians have been admitted to Israeli hospitals. Ninety three trucks, with approximately 2500 tons of humanitarian aid, medical supplies and medication have been conveyed through Kerem Shalom cargo terminal. The World Food Programme has informed Israel that they will not be resuming shipment of food commodities in to Gaza due to the fact that their warehouses are at full capacity and will last for approximately two weeks.

  • Jonathan Davies 2nd Jan '09 - 9:24am

    On 4 November Israel discovered a tunnel crossing 250 metres from the border and intended for the abduction of IDF soldiers within Green Line Israel. It therefore carried out a precise operation close to the border to destroy the tunnel, and then withdrew.

    Since the beginning of the current operation “Cast Lead” some 6500 tons of aid have been transferred to Gaza at the request of the international organizations, the Palestinian Authority and various governments.

  • [Post moderated – Stephen Tall, 16/1/09]

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '09 - 7:29pm

    The rockets from Gaza were launched with the sure knowledge that the retaliation that has taken place would take place. I agree the retaliation is cruel and disproportionate, but I put every bit as much blame for what has happened on those who launched those rockets from Gaza as I do on the Israelis. Jonathan Davies is right to the extent that the Israelis did take a reconciliatory step in withdrawing from Gaza, and that the response from Gaza to use this in order to launch pointless rocket attacks is contemptible and shows no interest in arriving at a peaceful solution. If they are not interested in peace, why should we feel sorry for them when they don’t get it? Anyone who is interested in peace knows that if your opponents do something that steps towards it, you also take a step towards it.

    What we need to realise is that those who launched those rockets WANTED what is now happening. They wanted to spark a big bloodbath so they could moan and weep and get the rest of the world to feel sorry for them. What they actually want is for the Arab world to feel so sorry for them that it joins in some massive war on their behalf and wipes out Israel.

    I am sorry, but causing death and misery to yourself and your families and your neighbours in order to get people to feel sorry for you is NOT a tactic that should be encouraged. Therefore our reaction to this should be:

    “When you renounce forever violence, when you agree those rockets were stupid and dangerous and should never have been launched, THEN we will feel sorry, for you. THEN we will march in protest at the way you are being oppressed. THEN we will defend your right to a homeland. But until then, Gazans, sorry you brought it on yourself, so shut your weeping”.

    Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Here, being kind is being cruel. Being kind to the Gazans will just encourage them to believe the tactic of launching missiles and sparking bloodbaths is working so they’ll do more of it.

  • Matthew,

    On what basis do you say it is the Palestinians who are to blame for the Middle East conflict?

    Was it the Palestinians who invited Europeans to settle in their region? Did the Palestinians ethnically cleanse themselves? Did the Palestinians corral themselves into an overcrowed ghetto with no economy or any hope of escape? Do the Palestinians blow up their own houses and give up their own land for illegal settlements?

    And why do you insist that the Palestinians “renounce violence”? Are you calling on Israel to renounce violence, too? Or the United Kingdom or the United States?

    The Israel/Palestine conflict probably cannot be “settled”, but it may be possible to “freeze” it, in much the same way that the Lebanon and Jugoslav conflicts were “frozen”. But that would require Israel to make major concessions, which won’t happen until the Americans force them to do so.

    If the Palestinians meekly “turned the other cheek”, as you demand of them Matthew, do you seriously think that Israel would moderate its policy of subjugation and expropriation one iota?

    And Moha, it is the Israeli and American GOVERNMENTS that are to blame for the dismemberment of Palestine, not individual Israelis, Jews and Americans. Most Jews emigrated to Palestine, not because they were religious fanatics, but because they had nowhere else to go. Indeed, there are plenty of Jews who don’t support Israel’s policies. Do you want to kill them too?

  • Ed Davey’s and Nick Clegg’s position is at best confused in its logic and its only practical suggestion a disgrace.
    In so far as it seems to be based on any rational thought process two claims are made
    a) According to Nick Clegg “no terrorist organisation was ever bombed into submission” clearly bollocks, sorry, factually inaccurate. The most obvious example being the IRA who only started negotiations and a cease fire after they realised they weren’t going to win. He might also like to ask Lord Ashdown whether his time in the Malaysian jungle was successful. We Brits, rightly or wrongly, were doing just that all over the empire for centuries. In fact we virtually invented aerial bombing of insurgents in a place called Mesopotamia, what ever happened to it? Whether it’s the best method is another matter but don’t say it can’t be done it just makes us look stupid.
    b) “It will be counter productive because it will just turn the Palestinians against the Israelis” Well Ed perhaps you hadn’t noticed but Hamas (like Hezbollah in the Lebanon) is already against not only the state of Israel but also the Jewish people in general and they’re the ones in control in Gaza.
    If taken to its logical conclusion this argument, such as it is, would mean no country would ever defend itself. After all bombing German soldiers, let alone cities, didn’t exactly enamour the population to us. Pacifists regularly come up with these arguments, practical politicians know better.
    And what amazing new method of self defence have we come up with for the Israelis? Well none actually, instead proposing action against Israel and rewarding Hamas the logic escapes me.
    If we haven’t got anything sensible to say perhaps we should wait until we do.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '09 - 9:53pm

    Sesenco,

    You ask

    “On what basis do you say it is the Palestinians who are to blame for the Middle East conflict?”.

    I didn’t say that, and you thereby illustrate one of the major problems trying to get any constructive debate on this issue. Anyone who utters any criticism of one side is assumed by its uncritical supporters to be a fanatical and unquestioning supporter of the other.

    In fact the line I gave in my article is very similar to the line given by a senior Fatah spokesman quoted in the Observer today, and also by Saudi spokesmen.

    Now try reading what I wrote instead of jumping to conclusions.

  • No popular guerrilla insurgency will ever be bombed into submission by the massed ranks of an invasion force.

    Wherever an invasion has occurred (be it Ireland, Aghanistan, Vietnam, Iraq, Palestine etc) resistance to the invasion has been motivation for recruitment.

    So unless hearts and minds can be won over to the political process offered by the authority behind the invading army it WILL be resisted and the cycle of violence WILL continue.

    Israel’s inability to keep the Palestinian militias successfully engaged in a process of political negotiations indicates the limitations of the political strategy on offer and necessarily limits the effectiveness of any military strategy.

    As this conflict drags out and the sides polarise further it is clearer than ever that the interests of peace and security no longer coincide and are now merely incidental to any temporary advantage that can be won.

    It all reminds me of the history of the Hashmonean period in this region. And we all know their fate.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '09 - 10:29pm

    Geoffrey,

    It is precisely because I am considering what is the end game that led me to write what I wrote.

    I am asking what is the end game from a position of launching those missiles from Gaza. The end game seems to me, and it is confirmed by what I have read from Hamas spokesmen today, to spark up a big conflagration so they can die heroically and kill lots of Israelis while doing so, and maybe cause other Arabs to feel so bad about what is happening so they all join in and there’s a great big war and the whole of Israel gets wiped out.

    To say that this is a stupid and cruel plan, which I am saying, is not to say that the Israelis have never done any wrong, it is not to say that the Israelis are justified in what they are doing, it is not to say that the Palestinians aren’t entitled to a viable state, it is not to say that the Israelis aren’t psychopathic bullies. It’s to say it’s a stupid and cruel plan, and that’s it.

    Now, if we want to join in with Hamas’ cruel plan, we can do it, we can weep and moan with them, and they’ll see it’s working and they’ll carry on. It will lead to nastier treatment for the Gazans, death and misery for many maybe most of them.

    Or, we can decide not to play along with Hamas’ plan. Suppose those missiles hadn’t been launched, than what? So the Israelis carry on with their cruel oppression? Yes – and we don’t remain silent, we react with rage (peaceful rage, but rage, nevertheless) against Israel because in renouncing violence the Gazans have cut off all justification the Israelis had for their cruelty. Now the Israelis are exposed for what they really are – psychopathic bullies. Or – hallelujah – they step back a bit and peace starts breaking out.

    Now isn’t that a bit nicer game plan?

    You accuse me of saying “people as a whole in Gaza should accept collective punishment”, no I am saying we should not encourage anyone to do things that will, inevitably lead to that collective punishment. Joining in with the shroud-waving game will cause them to do more of it, because that’s their game plan. Saying “you are acting stupid, don’t do it, then we’ll support you” stops that.

    I am very much aware of the macho pride element in launching those missiles, but if the line is “they can’t help it, they’re treated so badly they have to do it even though it’s pointless”, well then, I despair, because exactly the same line can be used by the Israelis; in the immediate situation they are stronger so their macho pride enables them to do a lot more killing but there’s no real difference. If the game plan is that macho pride can’t be argued with, well, the killing will go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and … It might end up with the Gazans being completely wiped out, it might end up with World War III.

    If the game plan is that the Gazans are loonies or children, so can’t be argued with, so just have to be left doing whatever their macho pride leads them to do, but the Israelis are sensible people with whom we can argue by logic and humanity to get them to stop doing what their macho pride tells them to do, well, er, isn’t that racist or Islamophobic or something?

  • The “Vice”-President of the United States (the guy who makes the big decisions here) has just said on prime-time TV that there must be no ceasefire until the Gazans lie down in the dust and beg foregiveness (or words to that effect). Clearly, the military-industrial-petrochemical complex wants the killing to on on for as long as possible.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jan '09 - 11:07pm

    “Moha”

    “I will encourage all to kill as many Jewish or and Americans as they can, so somebody can wake up and stop this massacre”

    Isn’t it sad how there are these people who are so anti-Muslim that they adopt pretend Muslim names or identities and then say or do something so profoundly stupid that it is obvious they are just trying to send up Muslims and make them look really, really stupid?

    I mean, take that bloke who when the Pope quoted something about Muslims being violent who stood outside Westminster Cathedral with a placard reading something like “Apologise for calling us violent, or we’ll behead you”. He couldn’t have been for real, could he?

    I am sure no-one could really say “I will encourage the massacre of loads of people in order to stop the massacre of loads of people” and mean it seriously.

  • La Cumparsita 6th Jan '09 - 6:48pm

    It is a great shame that when Mr Davey visited the region in November, he did not go to Sderot & other areas in the South that have been attacked for the past 8 years. Barack Obama did visit & said “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing”

    Nor does Mr Davey have any alternative idea as to what to do about the rocket attacks. If around 13% of the UK population were under threat from random missiles, then I’m sure that he & other polticians wouldn’t be as restrained as Israel has been. Why does no-one condemn Hamas for hiding behind civilians & storing munitions in mosques, schools etc? I should also like to know how is it that Hamas is able to bring in through its tunnels an enormous quantity of rockets, land mines and missiles, but inadequate quantities of food or medical supplies, and that it is able to build concrete-reinforced tunnels for smuggling, but hasn’t built bomb shelters for its citizens. Seems to me that Hamas manufactures humanitarian crises for public relations purposes, in complete disregard of the wellbeing of the Gazan civilians.

  • There are numerous examples of western democracies facing serious terrorist threats that dealt with them in a much more proportionate way than Israel is doing.

    They included attempts to assassinate the heads of the Government (Brighton and Downing Street attacks), indiscriminate attacks on the public (Harrods, Enniskillen, Warrington) and organisations which were committed to the violent overthrow of the government (RAF).

    Despite clear evidence of a link to Pakistan of the 7/7 bombers which is likely to involve the tacit knowledge of local government in Pakistan the UK government has responded in a very different way.

    Whilst Israel has withdrawn from Gaza it seems it still maintains very tight controls. These controls are sufficient to prevent banks transferring money into Gaza http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28088679// According to the BBC reporter on R5L the Israeli’s are “not allowing reporters into Gaza”

  • La Cumparsita


    ” If around 13% of the UK population were under threat from random missiles, then I’m sure that he & other politicians wouldn’t be as restrained as Israel has been. ”

    We were. I was in close enough proximity to several IRA bombs to be left thinking “I could easily have been caught in that”. When I was a councillor, one of my constituents was killed by the IRA bomb in the Docklands.

    So I don’t want any lecturing from Americans on this issue. Because we know damn well how USA public opinion would have been had we done to the parts of Ireland where the IRA hung out one hundredth of what Israel has done to Gaza.

    In fact there was a high proportion of Americans who regarded those terrorists as heroes, who invited their spokesmen to lead St Patrick’s day parades and the like.

  • A few points as people have doubted the relevance of comparision between Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine.

    The IRA once detonated 18 car bombs on the streets of Belfast on a single day.
    The total casualties from “the Troubles” equate to 1 in 500 of the population.
    It was the equivalent of one person being killed every 80 hours between 1969 and 2001 (according to Wikipedia).

    There are similarities in that in both countries people previously high on the wanted list as terrorists have ended up holding high political office (McGuiness/Begin/Shamir). I reckon the difference between a terrorist and a statesman is about 35 years.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '09 - 10:22pm

    That last Anonymous was me

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jan '09 - 10:37pm

    Hywel,

    What you need to remember is that before the terrorist becomes a stateman he has to denounce the more moderate people of his cause as traitors who advocate Stoop Down Low Please for not participating in the violence. The moderates have to be thoroughly vanquished by the terrorist posing as the saviour of the oppressed from the backlash to his own terrorism before he can emerge as the statesman. The terrorist has to watch his back to make sure there aren’t even more extreme terrorists waiting to play the same game on him. That is why even when he becomes the man of peace, he has to have his own private army to use against his own side.

  • David Allen 7th Jan '09 - 11:05pm

    I think we need to understand that the division between Hamas and Fatah has essentially been created by the West.

    The West (mainly the US, but without enough dissent from the EU) have repeatedly said: We will broker the peace, on our own terms. It will be hugely biased in favour of our client state, Israel.

    This has left the Palestinians with two choices, both bad. One is “Let’s make the best of a bad job then, and sue for peace”. That’s Fatah. The other is “No, let’s go on fighting, even if it seems to be taking us nowhere. Something might turn up, if we do: and in any case, it would be craven to give in to the bullies.” That’s Hamas. It is only a natural reaction that the Palestinians should be split between these two bad alternatives.

    Matthew, you make a very logical case against Hamas, but it has one flaw. That is, you have accepted the Israeli version of the sequence of events. The Israelis are saying “These evil guys from Hamas started it all, by firing those rockets. It is only reasonable that we retaliate, to deter this unreasonable Arab aggression.”

    But Hamas could equally say “No, the Israelis started the war. They penned us in. They starved us. It is only reasonable that we retaliate, the only way we can, to deter this unreasonable Israeli aggression”.

    Now, I’m not arguing that Hamas are “in the right”, any more than the Israelis are. In a sense, I have a mixture of sympathy and contempt for both Hamas and the Israelis. For the West, I have only contempt.

    The West has left the Palestinians with no good options. The West has thereby perpetuated the conflict. The US have the excuse of their powerful pro-Israeli lobby. The EU do not.

    The EU should be clamouring for a more even-handed approach to the conflict. Speaking as no friend of Nick Clegg, I have to congratulate him on taking a courageous lead on this.

    Gordon Brown, will you follow that lead, and do what you can to make amends for Tony Blair’s misdeeds in the Middle East?

  • I begening to feel that the Israeli government is no different than Adolf Hitler him self. This is Genocide.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Jan '09 - 9:36am

    David, you claim I am agreeing with Israel that “These evil guys from Hamas started it all, by firing those rockets”.

    No, I am not, I cannot see anything that I have written which suggests this. Arguing who started the Middle East conflict is pointless because for any one starting point someone suggests, someone else can suggest an earlier one.

    The interesting thing is not who started it, but who can end it. Well, ending it is too optimistic, so let us say who can bring it down to a period of relative quiet.

    I can see the logic in what the Israelis are doing, which does not mean I agree with it. The logic is the use of force so overwhelming that Hamas is shut down. The Israelis have the power to do that. It’s harder to see the logic in “let’s go on fighting, even if it seems to be taking us nowhere” when the fighting really is token, that’s all that Hamas can manage, and the main effect of it is to bring this horrendous retaliation from Israel.

    I’m sorry, David, but I just cannot defend the macho attitude “We will carry on fighting to the death, not just of ourselves but of our wives and children and neighbours”. Of course, this sort of macho attitude is the real problem behind the Middle East conflict.

    The sort of imaginative peaceful protest action of the sort advocated by Gandhi would be far more effective in putting the Palestinian case, and if adopted alongside the cessation of violence, would have a dramatic effect. Instantly, the Israeli case would be destroyed, with their oppression of the Palestinians shown up as cruel bullying.

    Now, we know this is never going to happen because the macho attitudes of the Middle East wouldn’t let it. But knowing it is never going to happen shouldn’t stop those of us who think imaginative peaceful protest far better than violent protest from putting that point.

    I have tried to outline what I think is the real logic of the Hamas line, because it is there and it’s more than the macho “go down fighting” one. It’s the standard terrorist one in which pointless violent action which brings down cruel retaliation on your own people is adopted as part of the power struggle against the moderates on your own side. You can paint those moderates as collaborators, traitors, pansies, whatever. You can paint yourselves as the brave heroes carrying on defending your people against the oppression (which you have actually encouraged to continue by your terrorist actions). Noting the nastiness of this terrorist line does not mean – as you are suggesting now, and in an earlier life when I argued with people about it when I was discussing Northern Ireland, I was accused of – that one is saying the terrorists started the conflict or that the injustices which led to their violent protest did not exist.

    The Northern Ireland example is a good one because it’s the classic case of successive generations of extremists on both sides being outmanoeuvred by the more extreme. Gerry Adams played it with consummate skill. Of course, in the end, he only got what was on offer anyway at Sunningdale in 1975, but the moderates on both sides who were offering it then were destroyed politically, and now it’s the heirs of the extremists who destroyed it who share the spoils. At the cost of hundreds of pointless deaths, and a possibly unrecoverable deepening of community hatreds.

  • David Allen 8th Jan '09 - 11:42pm

    Matthew,

    I don’t claim that you agree with Israel, but I do think you are unduly influenced by Israeli propaganda. I find it hard to see any other reason why you should feel able to preach to the Palestinians that they should follow Mahatma Gandhi and restrict themselves to peaceful protest, while having no similar message for the main killers, Israel.

    In your latest post you have given a new justification for your unbalanced position: that the Israelis have the power to win outright, whereas the Palestinians do not, and so the Israelis can at any rate justify their actions in terms of realpolitik. I just don’t buy that one either. If the Israelis could achieve a knockout blow, why in decades of conflict have they not done it yet? In point of fact, one could argue that the opposite of what you suggest is true. The Israelis will never drive all the Arab nations into the sea: but it is possible that one day, a strengthed Arab opponent might indeed “drive the Israelis into the sea”.

    I do NOT support Hamas. I merely point out that just as Hamas’s approach is badly flawed, so is Fatah’s, or Gandhi’s in this situation: the Palestinians simply have no good options.

    I do find it strange to see Westerners advising the Palestinians on how they should pursue their cause, while paying less attention to what the West itself should do. We must not smugly sit back and say “awful how those colonials treat each other isn’t it”. We should recognise that we are ourselves players, we are ourselves at fault, and we are at least partly responsible for the position the Palestinians find themselves in.

  • Israel has been pursuing much the same policy, more or less continuously, since 1967. And that is the dispossession and ultimate expulsion of the entire non-Jewish population from Palestine. A third of the West Bank is now occupied by illegal Jewish settlements, and the land grab continues by the day. Indeed, it has gone on uninterrupted for 40 years. Believe it or not, new settlements continued to be authorised even during the so-called Oslo Peace talks and the setting up of the Palestinian Authority. What remains of Palestine is a collection of overcrowded, poverty-stricken hovels like Gaza City and Khan Younis, and tracts of arid badlands that are considered unsuitable for settlements.

    Take a look at the satellite shot that the BBC News shows every night. Gaza is a tiny strip of crumbling urban rabbit warren, surrounded by low-grade grazing land – the dark dusty green. Then turn your eyes to the Israeli side of the border. It is a patchwork of bright, lustrous greens and golden yellows. This is a land of sophisticated irrigation schemes paid for with American money. Israel is showered with riches, while the Palestinians starve.

    And what is the justification? The religious loonies, and their Christian cheer-leaders, tell us that the land was given to the Jews by God. The Arabs must render unto the Israelis everything they possess and meekly walk into the desert. Those who complain or worse still, resist, are selfish and contemptible. It might sound harsh, but who are we to question the word of God? That’s what I was taught at Sunday School; and that’s the view that seems to be prevalent in North America.

    But hang on a minute. It ain’t that simple. Two of the most belligerent warmongers in Israel’s history, Moshe Dayan and Ariel Sharon, were atheists. They didn’t believe the Old Testament baloney. And a majority of Israelis don’t actually practice the religion that gives justification to their state. Indeed, the place is awash with Russian immigrants who don’t even consider themselves Jewish!

    So what’s going on? The answer is “manipulation by outsiders”. Israel is militarily and economically dependent on the United States. The number of Arabs they can kill, the number of illegal settlements they can build, is limited by Washington. Israel would love to be able to deliver a crushing defeat to Hamas, but they won’t be allowed to go that far, because the Americans want the region to remain unstable (and they don’t want their chums in the oil states overthrown).

    The Palestinians have been manipulated successively by Egypt, Syria, the Soviet Union and Iran; in fact anybody who offers them support, such is their desperation. Hamas’ tactic of targeting secular Israelis makes no sense. It wins no international approval, and hardens moderate Israeli opinion. I really cannot see what their game is.

    There is only one way out, and that is for the Americans to impose a Bosnia type settlement. It will mean the removal of illegal settlements, the physical separation of the factions, and hopefully some kind of economic recovery programme. It means putting the conflict on ice. That’s the best we can hope for.

  • The ICRC have been very critical of Israel today over delays in allowing workers to get to the civilian victims of shelling.
    AP report – http://tinyurl.com/8ew6kw

    It’s incredibly rare for the ICRC to make a public statement criticising a party in this way.

  • That was me above – this not auto-completing of name details is incredibly annoying when you had got used to it! 🙂

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Recent Comments

  • expats
    I gather that Grant Shapps is proposing that they must wear number plates when outside.....
  • Yusuf Osman
    Moving forward it would be really useful to extend the equality act to cover access to technology so that no company can release a TV, Freeview box, radio, cook...
  • Yusuf Osman
    On the negative side of things. Unemployment amongst working age blind people remains stubbornly high. I don't think the 77 per cent unemployment rate has chang...
  • Yusuf Osman
    Thanks Mary for an interesting post, it's always good to hear how other countries provide support. My experience at Gatwick was less positive, on the way out, i...
  • Ann Bailey
    Nonconformistradical 17th Aug '22 - 3:48pm @Ann Bailey “What about the housebound ill/elderly/disabled or single mums with young children, etc., These are a...