Labour is tying itself in knots over Gaza

by Rob Marchant

Britain, it is perennially noted, is an island nation and often behaves accordingly.

It is a feature of modern British politics that, unlike some other countries whose very existence depends on their relations with larger, closer neighbours with whom they share a land border, foreign policy counts for little in the calculations of Westminster life. Elections are certainly not won or lost on it, mainly because polling shows that it features so low on the list of voters’ priorities.

So, a strange phenomenon occurs: since a governing party is chosen to govern based on everything but their foreign policy, one can find that, as the new tenants arrive at No. 10 and the FCO, what results in practice is a bit of a lucky dip. One can equally find the shrill nationalism of a Thatcher; the shameful isolationism of a Major; the strident interventionism of a Blair; or the “I want to, but I can’t” of a Cameron.

It’s a shame, because the world is clearly undergoing one of its most dangerously unstable periods since the cold war. Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and now Gaza underline how the West is facing two serious threats simultaneously: the rearrangement of geo-political powers into a multi-polar world, its most notable feature the re-emergence of Russia as a foe rather than a friend; and the seemingly ineradicable virus of jihadism.

Nowhere is that lucky dip truer than in today’s Labour party. If Cameron’s foreign policy has been paralysed by cuts to military resources and political support, Miliband’s has seemingly been by its lack of ambition and often, well, coherence. Dan Hodges, formerly of this parish, quoted a Miliband observer last week: “he’s got next to no interest in foreign policy”. While this is just one opinion, it is one that resonates.

Certainly, last year’s Syria vote is something best forgotten for Labour. But as an example of how disjointed is the policy of a party which could conceivably, in just over eight months, have a seat at the top table in world politics, we need look no further than its recent moves over Gaza.

The long-suffering people of Gaza are participants in a tragedy; a legitimate cause, combined with perennially dire political representation.

It is hard to take a rational position when modern media is filling our screens with footage from bodies and bombs from Gaza. But that same media can also distort. Today’s message is big bully Israel “shooting fish in a barrel” (the BBC with its Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen, who bizarrely claims not to have seen any instances of Hamas’ human shield tactic – which they openly admit to using – hardly helps). Would that public opinion were mobilised with equal vigour against 170,000 deaths in Syria or 500,000 Iraqi Christians currently fleeing ISIS.

What calmer observers note is that there actually three participants in the Gaza tragedy, not two: Israel, Hamas and Gaza’s inhabitants. Hamas have shown how they consider the latter to be expendable, their deaths a just sacrifice.

But it is not the abhorrent human shield strategy, Hamas’ medieval oppression of women, of dissent, or even its suicide bombing – a strategy not abandoned for moral reasons but because it was losing them support – which rankle the most. It is its treatment of the children of its own people. It indoctrinates them with its uniquely disturbing children’s TV, and turns them into child soldiers. It is a simple equation: in an environment where you expressly bring up your children to hate, peace is unlikely ever to be seriously on the agenda.

The truth is that Israel was faced with two simple choices. Endure rocket attacks indefinitely, while Hamas sacrifice their own civilians when you try to stop those attacks, and build their own tunnels under the border to murder Israeli civilians; or do something. It is not surprising that they chose the latter. If you are the only grown-up in the room, you try and do what will ultimately minimise civilian casualties, including – wherever possible – those on the other side. Hamas’ twisted logic is that it clearly wants to do the opposite. The more civilian casualties – on their own side – the more weight for their cause.

So where does Labour now stand on all this? At first, we defended Israel’s right to defend itself. Because when someone is throwing rockets at you, you can hardly sit there and do nothing.

But one cannot help but feel that Labour’s change of heart and condemnation of Israel’s Gaza incursion comes down to a few basic things. An instinctive wish to differentiate ourselves from what the Tories are saying, perhaps. Also the knowledge that the party’s soft left has for a long time been in sympathy with the Palestinian cause, without looking too hard at its leaders’ methods (not to mention the hard left, who are largely quite comfortable with their methods).

And then there is the elephant in the room: that Miliband is a Jewish-born leader in a country with a far higher Muslim population. There is not much sympathy for Israel out there in Labour’s inner-city heartlands, it is easy for him to be seen as taking sides and there is a somewhat baser political calculation to be made.

You can imagine the slightly embarrassed conversation with the party aide: “well, not to put too fine a point on it, there’s an election coming, chief. I’ve heard rumblings, we should pay attention.”

And so we end up with a party supporting Israel’s right to defend itself – not hard when rockets are raining down on their country – but then losing the courage of our convictions when the body count rises. Well, what did we expect?

Now, there are respectable, differing views; after all, Israel-Palestine is hardly a problem with a simple solution. Maybe the incursion into Gaza will turn out to have been a terrible mistake. Maybe it will ultimately bring some kind of pause in hostilities, at least. Who knows?

But what is disturbing is the hesitant, “left a bit, right a bit” approach to not just this, but foreign policy in general, which leaves us with an uncomfortable feeling about what a future Labour government might actually do if things ever got serious outside our borders.

In reality, electors do not usually mind leaders doing things they might disagree with from time to time. But they tend to be alarmed, rightly, by what they see as dithering.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left


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37 Responses to “Labour is tying itself in knots over Gaza”

  1. swatantra says:

    I’m afraid the Jewish lobby is working overtime not only in the USA but GB.
    Its a disgrace that Labour is prepared to accept civilan casulties of 2000+ without a murmer.
    Israel has overstepped the marks of human decency and is on a muderous policy of revenge attacks. This is Israel’s Mi Li moment and probably the begining of the end for a Jewish State in the ME. I should add that the Arab States are pretty hopeless at governing too.
    We neded to rethink the ME and redraw the Maps, whether they like it or not.
    And the tool is economic sanctions and boycotts, and suspension on arms sales to both Arab and Jew. Bring both Arab and Jew to their knees.

  2. bill says:

    Mistakenly equating one’s own personal opinions with wider opinion at large is the strategy of fools and tyrants. If you have an unpopular opinion by all means articulate it but don’t pretend that it has fallen from the lips of wise and respected statesmen or that it reflects historical truth. It seems to me that the only people currently tying themselves in knots about the situation in Gaza are those within the commentariat that are starting to wonder for how much longer their position is going to be tenable.

  3. Brian Capaloff says:

    ‘last year’s Syria vote is something best forgotten for Labour’! Forgotten by whom? Intervening in Libya went well, didn’t it! Labour’s role in last year’s Syria vote is one of few things we can be thankful for!

  4. steve says:

    “Would that public opinion were mobilised with equal vigour against 170,000 deaths in Syria or 500,000 Iraqi Christians currently fleeing ISIS.”

    Public opinion is already mobilised against an increase in unnecessary deaths. This is why the public rightly oppose military intervention.

    We have an intervention produced failed state in Iraq. An intervention produced (supported by Miliband) failed state in Libya. And a near-failed state in Afghanistan.

    Before New Labour-supported intervention commenced, Al Qaeda, and ideologically affiliated groups, controlled only a few ramshackle outposts, now they have control of vast, nation-sized tracts of the middle-east and north Africa.

    Military intervention? Forget it. We don’t need the disasters it often produces and we don’t want the blowback.

    If you’re addicted to madcap schemes why not try something harmless, like selling sunscreen to potholers.

  5. Dan says:

    “This is Israel’s Mi Li moment and probably the begining of the end for a Jewish State in the ME.”

    Piffle. How would it be the end of Israel FFS? The chance of Hamas winning by force of arms is exactly zero point nothing, and there is a big chunk of Western opinion that will never, ever accept the Israelis defending their country. And, to be clear, I think the Israelis are acting harshly, as they normally do in these situations, but the blame for this latest round of scrapping lasting so long can be firmly laid at Hamas door.

    I’m tempted to rebut your stupid fling at the ‘Jewish Lobby’ but frankly, can’t be bothered to get into another internet slanging match on this subject.

    Also, its My Lai.

  6. Madasafish says:

    I think Ed Miliabnd is correct on both Syria and Israel.

    On Syria, he was correct: any intervention would have been a disaster.. See the Libyan aftermath And Iraq. And Afghanistan…

    And on Israel, what can we practically do? Via the UN? Nothing – the US will veto it.
    On the ground? Bad joke.

    Both sides want to fight. Let them. They will eventually tire of it. Until then, nothing will change. It might be like NI and last 300 years.

    Whilst I think Mr Miliband is unsuitable to be a PM – not least because he cannot run an Opposition (so what of Government?) – he is right on this issue – as on Syria.

    Nothing we say or do will make any changes to two participants who want to kill each other. A plague on both.

  7. Henrik says:

    @swatantra: we get it, you don’t like Jews. No need to keep saying it. Not all Jews are Israeli and not all Israelis are Jews. Deal with it. When you type, for example, “Bring both Arab and Jew to their knees”, you really are showing yourself up.

    Rob, the chances of Labour evolving any sort of coherent foreign policy based on promotion and defence of UK national interests are zero. The vanishingly few folk in Labour who have any grasp of geopolitics tend to be on the hard Left, which, amazingly, feels itself aligned with militant Islam, anyway.

    I know this stuff’s important, you know this stuff’s important. The party? Not so much.

  8. Mick says:

    Hamas is Israel’s creation. And though it is culpable it is Israel which wreaks atrocities on a trapped civilian population. Israel is supposed to stand for far better than this, and those of us who have supported it are appalled.

  9. I think I’m with Dan on this one. Sorry, folks. But interested to see the debate shaping up on this. Would also observe that it’s interesting – for better or worse – to see a left-right convergence on non-interventionism that would have been quite at home in the 1930s. Although I’d also note that that didn’t work out too well, either.

  10. @Hendrik: it’s a good point, there currently seems an extraordinary lack of grasp, or even interest, in geopolitics among politicians. I suspect the professionalisation of the political class (i.e. lack of people who have worked abroad or actually done a proper job) has a lot to do with it.

    @Mick: I ask only this: if someone is shooting at me and I put my kid in front of me to stop the bullet, who is guilty of murder, me or them?

    Even if you think the answer is the person shooting, what kind of person does that make me, that I sacrifice those I am sworn to protect?

  11. Madasafish says:

    I see Swatantra says “And the tool is economic sanctions and boycotts, and suspension on arms sales to both Arab and Jew. Bring both Arab and Jew to their knees.”

    Given that Arab countries produce more than half the world’s oil ( and Russia a big chunk of the rest), economic sanctions on “Arab countries” are just not going to work.. As anyone who thinks about it for twenty five seconds will see…

  12. Tafia says:

    Israel need telling to get back to the original 1947 borders it was given or we will not only place them under sanction but we will also breach the blockade of Gaza and trade with them.

    There is absolutely no reason for any Palestinian organisation to stop attacking israel until it withdraws to the territory it was given.

  13. Tafia says:

    An open letter to Guto Bebb MP, a North Wales Tory, member of Conservative Friends of Israel and currently on a visit to Israel. Is very well writtin nd currently doing the rounds in North Wales. No one from Labour has stuck their head above the parapet round here yet but if they do they know what to expect now.

    An Open Letter to Guto Bebb MP

    Guto Bebb,

    You are one of Israel’s staunchest supporters in Parliament. As I type this letter, you are in Israel on an official visit to Israeli military installations [1], showing your support for the current attack on Gaza. Your constituents deserve to know the truth.

    Israel has killed over 1,200 Palestinians in the past month [2]: the United Nations says 80% of the Palestinian dead are civilians [3]. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calls Israel’s recent killing of 16 sleeping children and women “shameful” [4], “outrageous”, and “unjustifiable” [5]. Israel has violated more United Nations resolutions than any other nation [6]. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai recently said: “We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads & water” [7].

    You have received thousands of pounds from pro-Israel sponsors, Guto Bebb [8]. In March 2014 alone you received £5,000 from Alexander Temerko, a man noted for generous donations to pro-Israel MPs like yourself [9]. The Jewish Telegraph wrote a flattering story about your commitment to Israel, entitled: “Welsh MP Guto Bebb claimed he is the example of what lobbying politicians on behalf of Israel can achieve” [10].

    In the interests of Israel, you have asked Parliamentary Questions [11], cast House of Commons votes [12], and repeated Israeli government messages [13]. You voted to send Britain’s young men to war against Syria [14] – a country Israel calls its ‘strategic enemy’. In a 2012 letter to the Daily Telegraph, you parroted Israel’s official position by urging the British government to reject any peace process involving Gaza’s elected government [15].

    You visited Israel in 2011, 2012, and 2014, as the guest of its government [16], paid for by foreign pro-Israel donors [17]. These trips cost many thousands of pounds. You stayed in luxury hotels, and received secret briefings from Israel’s military and intelligence agencies: briefings that you keep secret from your own constituents.

    You were an honoured guest at the 2013 gala conference of AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee [18]: yet your own constituency website never mentioned that you were attending, and listening to speeches from the Israeli Prime Minister and Defence Minister. Why did you hide your all-expenses-paid trip to Washington DC, as the guest of foreign lobbyists?

    Guto Bebb: do you think you know better than the human rights groups ‘Jews Against Genocide’, ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’, ‘B’Tselem’, or ‘Neturei Karta’? They think a Palestinian’s life is every bit as important as an Israeli’s. Why don’t you?

    Guto Bebb, I am ashamed that you seem to spend more time in Israel than your own constituency. I am ashamed that the answer to “Where’s Guto” is: “he’s gone to receive another top-secret briefing from the Israeli government and its shadowy lobbyists”. A better answer would be: “We have no idea where Bebb is. We kicked him out of office, first chance we got.”

    Sincerely,
    C. Thomas

    1 http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/30/tory-mps-visit-israel-condemned-bad-timing
    2 https://news.yahoo.com/gaza-death-toll-passes-1-200-amid-latest-215250541.html
    3 http://rt.com/news/172900-israel-gaza-civilians-un/
    4 http://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2014/jul/30/gaza-another-un-school-hit-in-further-night-of-fierce-bombardment
    5 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/30/us-firm-condemnation-shelling-un-school-gaza?guni=Keyword:tag-news%20main-2%20Lead%20story:Lead%20trailblock:Position1
    6 http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2009/09/26/israel-nation-has-violated-more-un-resolutions-all-other-countries-mid-east-put-toge
    7 http://www.globalresearch.ca/israeli-interior-minister-the-goal-of-the-operation-is-to-send-gaza-back-to-the-middle-ages-destroying-all-the-infrastructure-including-roads-and-water/5391144
    8 http://www.searchthemoney.com/profile/46
    9 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/contents1415.htm
    10 http://www.jewishtelegraph.com/bigtent_11.html
    11http://www.gutobebbmp.co.uk/content/israel-foreign-and-commonwealth-affairs-written-answers +http://www.gutobebbmp.co.uk/content/uk-exports-oral-answers-questions-foreign-and-commonwealth-office-commons-debates
    12 http://thebackbencher.co.uk/how-did-your-mp-vote-on-syria-find-out-here/
    13http://www.gutobebbmp.co.uk/news/iran-nuclear-threat
    14http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/welsh-conservatives-fuming-after-david-5817511
    15http://chrisdkelly.conservativesintouch.com/news/334/
    16http://www2.cfoi.co.uk/Delegations/RecentDelegations/
    17http://www.theyworkforyou.com/regmem/?p=24736
    18http://www2.cfoi.co.uk/Events/PastEvents/

  14. John reid says:

    What about the 7 day war, Palestine, behaved badly they lost land then they have themselves to blame

  15. Henrik says:

    @Tafia: I’m sure you remember that the 1948 borders were what the Israelis could hold against a concerted invasion by their neighbours more or less immediately the Mandate ended. They weren’t given anything, they held. Had they not, their Arab brethren would have driven them into the sea, which was the declared intent.

    The Israelis hold the West Bank and the Golan Heights (taken in 1967 and defended in 1973) as they’re strategically vital to the defence of Israel. Absent some pretty high confidence that they won’t be attacked again, there’s no compelling reason for the Israelis to quit those locations and, frankly, an Israeli government which attempted to do that would be turfed straight out of office. That can happen, of course, because Israel is a democracy, the only one in the region.

    Note here also the amazingly benevolent activities of the Arab neighbours on behalf of their Palestinian brothers. Except for Jordan, of course, which did make efforts to look after Palestinian refugees and was rewarded with subversion and a planned coup d’état by the PLO.

    Just being an oppressed minority doesn’t make you a good guy. Just like Former Yugoslavia, good guys are a bit thin on the ground in the Levant.

  16. HCollins says:

    Rob Marchant is right. Labour’s foreign policy is indeed incoherent. First Miliband rightly supports Israel’s right to defend itself, then backs off by opposing the ground campaign. Had they not gone in on the ground the terror tunnels would never have been discovered. Hamas is a genocidal terrorist outfit which believes in exterminating Jews and Gay people. And it really isn’t good enough to blame Israel for it. Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Harem? Is Israel to be blamed for all of them? Only by weakening Hamas to the point where it can no longer threaten Israel with terror will there be space for moderate elements to emerge and the possibility of real peace – not least for the people of Gaza, who have been oppressed and betrayed by Hamas for far too long.

  17. Delta says:

    Hendrik is correct; Laboour is irrelevant except for its disturbing association with the less attractive parts of Islam and having seen how women are generally treated in the Party by misogynistic brainless thuggish dinosaurs its easy to see how the Party has become a lumbering irrelevant zombie.

    Utter shame the events in Gaza mostly for the innocents caught up in a conflict not of their choosing, because they are all Gods children, Jew or Arab alike. I only wish we could separate out the selfish numb-nuts who placed their dogma before the lives of their own people…the ones who had equally valid dreams and hopes and whose silence in life and death shames us all.

  18. Left leaning Britons feel powerless when faced with the carnage in Gaza.
    I propose something practical that we can all do.
    The leader of the Labour Party has ruled out sanctions against Israel under all circumstances.
    That gives Israeli politicians a blank cheque from the British Labour Party to do whatever they want.
    Israelis are quite thick skinned enough to totally ignore even the most strident criticism, but they wouldn’t ignore economic sanctions and travel bans.
    If the Labour Party wants my vote at the next General Election then it needs to make clear that sanctions and travel bans are an option against any country that flagrantly ignores international law and commits war crimes. I do not ask for Israel to be treated as a special case, it should be subject to the same rules of behaviour as any other country.
    Ed Milliband supports sanctions against Russia and Syria but opposes sanctions against Israel in all circumstances that is inconsistent and reeks of double standards and it has to end.

  19. Dan says:

    “There is absolutely no reason for any Palestinian organisation to stop attacking israel until it withdraws to the territory it was given.”

    Yes there is. There’s a bloody good reason. And that reason is that the IDF will swat aside any attacks on them due to their over-whelming superiority in soliders, equipment, training, tactics, logistics, etc,etc.

    I don’t want to straw man your argument, such as it is, but it’s easy for armchair warriors to cheer on *INSERT YOUR FAVOURITE FACTION OF CHOICE HERE* from the comfort of our nice, stable country. Some poor bugger in Gaza who’s got armed Hamas knuckleheads shooting off rockets from his back garden might not be so keen eh? If you object you get lobbed off the side of a building, concede and theres a good chance an Israeli jet will dump something explosive on your head. Which is exactly the point from Hamas point of view.

    Also, 1947 borders? Nope, never in a gajillion years. 1967 is what the non-crazies on each side are broadly agreed on. Unfortunately I don’t think a proper peace is going to happen any time soon.

    @ Rob – I can’t think of a single labour bod who seems to know anything about the region – although I’m happy to be proved wrong. They just aren’t interested in foreign affairs at the moment are they? I think the headbangers on each side put ’em off — if you’re a career politician looking for a promotion why would you wade into such a shitstorm, when you can say something bland and innocuous.

  20. swatantra says:

    Tafia makes a good point about the blockade and people seem to conveniently forget that Palestine is still under Israeli Occupation, has been for 50 years Its rather like as if the Germans were still occupying Jersey and their U Boats were still patrolling the Channel taking out our Merchant Fleet so no supplies of essentials like bananas could get through to Britain.
    As predicted the ceasefire is blown away. Somebody please come up with a solution so that we I don’t have to suffer another 50 years of this nonsense between Jew and Arab Islamist. And here I’m speaking as a Hindu, who doesn’t want these wretched people intruding into my private space thank you.

  21. Madasafish says:

    Realpolitik is simple.

    The USA supports Israel. After the streets of Palestine were filmed full of people rejoicing about US deaths in 9/11, there is minimal support for Palestinians in the US.

    And without USA support for a peace deal, nothing will happen.

    Hamas exists to destroy Israel… NOT to create a smaller Israel. Period. (read its charter).So anyone calling for a smaller Israel as a solution ignores realpolitik.

    Anyone seriously think the USA will support a smaller Israel?

    Whilst teh killings go on, and armed uprising is teh choice of Hamas there will be no peace. Ever.

    I am not aking sides: just reiterating what both sides to teh conflict have stated over the past half century. And guess what? There is no peace and no realistic prospect of a lasting peace whilst those attitudes remain.

    The UK can do nothing. And is wasting its time trying to do anything. We will not convince Hamas and until Hamas changes its mind, the USA will support Israel – virtually whatever Israel does.

    The 1980s (30 odd years ago) saw the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The resulting civilian death toll made the current Palestinian one seem small. And guess what? .. the USA supported Israel throughout that war despite the massacres.

    I see no reason for anything to change in the next 30 years..

  22. Tafia says:

    Henrik, the 1948 borders are bigger than the 1947 ones – which incidentally are the only legally recognised borders for Israel. They are illegally occupying land that belongs elsewhere. They should be asked to move back, told to move back and finally forced to move back – but move back they must and personally I couldn’t give a toss what the Palestinians do to them or how many of them they kill – they have no complaint until they are back inside their own legal borders.

  23. Tafia says:

    Hamas exists to destroy Israel… NOT to create a smaller Israel. Period. (read its charter).So anyone calling for a smaller Israel as a solution ignores realpolitik

    Hamas will negotiate and has done in the past. It will not however accept Israel occupying illegal territories, territories that the UN does not recognise as Israeli, then why should it change it’s position.

    Either a country’s legal borders are sacrosanct or they are not. Israel is – under international law and UN diktat, illegally occupying the territory of another nation. There is nothing about creating a smaller Israel. Israel only has one legal border – the one it was given in the 47 settlement. It’s about restoring Israel back to it’s legal place.

    If you justify Israel seizing and illegally occupying land then you justify Argentina invading the Falklands, Russia seizing Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, Saddam invading Kuwait, Turkey invading Cyprus and even Hitler invading Poland etc etc

  24. John Reid says:

    Blimey, I agree with madasafish, for once

  25. Welsh Borderer says:

    The blank denial of war crimes by apologists for the ultra-Right, Israeli government should not really be a any kind of “knot” for the modern Labour Party. The deliberate massacre of civilians using weapons which are specifically designed to kill or maim as many human beings as possible, particularly children, is not an issue for an “on the one hand, on the other hand” debate. Attacks by self-styled revolutionary or resistance groups, whether Hamas, the IRA, the ANC or the WWII resistance do not, ever, justify or excuse retaliation by governments against civilians. We hanged or imprisoned Nazis after WWII for directing war crimes akin to what the IDF is committing in Gaza. Did the UK, ever, seriously consider shelling the Irish border areas where IRA terrorists hid after they committed mindless and wicked atrocities against civilians and military targets in UK ? No – because it would have been illegal, wrong and ultimately counter-productive. You did not get down in the gutter if you are a Government.

    Hamas are a product of the terrible injustice against the Palestinians – the theft and occupation of their land in defiance of the United Nations by a country which is armed to the teeth by the US and other developed countries. Almost 50 years ago Israel illegally occupied and then systematically colonized Palestinian land in the West Bank and beyond . Israel’s politics have deteriorated – its progressive voices including part of this Labour Party, drowned out by a settler/colonist populism which is expressed in openly racist terms by too many Israeli politicians whose utterances are rarely condemned by Western media and politicians.

    Israel has deliberately sabotaged every single attempt made by the international community to secure a peaceful resolution because it would involve giving up these illegal territorial gains (or taking other land as a compensation). Israel, in a stance of chronic hypocrisy, absurdly claims that it is wrong for the people whose land is occupied to resist even though they live in prison camps blocked by the Israeli army and cut off from trade and contacts with the outside world. The fact that resistance has now degenerated into the blind defiance expressed by Hamas’ rockets is predictable,and does not give Israel any further moral high ground, especially as their civilian casualties are so light. In fact it was Israel that created Hamas and the Intifadas by refusing to negotiate a peace statements with the PLO who have recognised Israel’s right to exist as a neighbour for many years.

    I would like my own country to show solidarity with international justice and the Palestinian people by breaking the illegal Israeli naval blockade and ensuring that medical supplies, food and other essential non-military supplies flow into Gaza, together with a significant number of international observers. I would also like to see a UN military force sent into Palestine to return the land to its rightful occupants, and ensure that all Israeli military and civilian authority is exercised behind their pre-1967 UN-approved frontiers. Once confronted by a UN force, the Israelis would act as all bullies do and beat a hasty retreat to ensure their own survival.
    Why is that policy too much to ask from our own Labour Party ? No doubt the answer is yes because Blair’s legacy of aggression in Iraq, pro-Israeli bias, and fawning support for the right wing of the Republican party still exerts influence. It is truly depressing to me as a Labour member for more than 40 years that the most reasoned and balanced statements about the crisis are coming from Conservatives like Peter Bottomley, rather than our own front bench, particularly the lamentable Alexander.

  26. Danny says:

    “What calmer observers note is that there actually three participants in the Gaza tragedy, not two: Israel, Hamas and Gaza’s inhabitants. Hamas have shown how they consider the latter to be expendable, their deaths a just sacrifice.”

    Whilst Israel apply such applaudable value to the lives of Gaza’s inhabitants.

  27. Blair says:

    If anyone is interested in understanding the realpolitik and the stance of the US, then I would recommend reading “The Israel Lobby: And US Foreign Policy”, by Mearsheimer and Walt, published by Penguin.

    You will then understand the political power Israel imposes on the west via its various support organisations the US.

    Both fascinating and alaming at the same time.

    This will answer many questions as to why the US and west in general does not take a firmer grip on Israel. Its about power, money, influence, subversion and more. Better than any spy novel.

  28. Tafia says:

    BBC reporter Jeremy Bowen has had to be removed from Gaza by the BBC following a complaint by the Israeli government. The Israeli government say that because he said on air he had not personally seen any evidence of Hamas using civilians as human shields this meant he was pro-Hamas.

    Meanwhile Moshe Feiglin, the deputy speaker in the Israeli Knesset posted on his facebook page that Gaza should be completely conquered, concentration camps established and the entire population rounded up thrown out and every country on earth taking a share.

  29. Henrik says:

    @Tafia: to the extent that any body of international law exists and is recognised, you’re legally not wholly incorrect – where do you draw the line, however? I challenge anyone, for example, to find any native speakers of Greek, Aramaic, or Old Hebrew anywhere in the Levant – the Arab invasions of the 7th Century rather moved those populations out of human history.

    The Israelis’ 1948 borders were a function of how far and how fast their attackers retreated when they found that driving the Jews into the Mediterranean was a little over-ambitious.

    The Israelis have had a very tough hand to play for a very long time. They’re shockingly bad at PR, but, in the final analysis, they’re a democracy – the only one in the region – and they’re not paranoid, everyone *is* out to get them. While we shouldn’t necessarily give them carte blanche, we should recognise the reality of their situation and also that there isn’t necessarily a tidy, negotiated compromise available today which would allow them to feel secure.

    No Israeli government is going to do any deal which in any way increases the existential risk to the State of Israel or its population and, to be fair, the Israelis have no particular reason to trust any of the actors around them, either.

    I note also with interest that the civilian death toll in Gaza, horrible as it is, is absolutely dwarfed by the numbers slaughtered, some in appallingly mediaeval fashion, in Iraq and Syria.

  30. steve says:

    BTW Rob – As you’re a supporter of ‘humanitarian intervention’ I’m surprised you haven’t called for intervention to protect the Gazans.

  31. Tafia says:

    but, in the final analysis, they’re a democracy

    Really. In which case they will have absolutely no problem withdrawing back to their only recognised borders and leaving the occupied territories.

    Israel will eventually get it’s just cumuppance. ISIS are not going to stop at Syria and Iraq and we are not going to stop ISIS.

  32. Henrik says:

    @Tafia: ISIS may well try it on, but I suspect they’ll find the IDF a rather different proposition to the Iraqi Army, but we’ll see. Bear in mind that the only reason ISIS have any traction at all in Iraq is that the bulk of the actual fighting has been done by Sunni militias, previously Awakening and that ISIS’ strong suit would appear to be atrocities against civpop and putting heads on stakes.

    I’m not sure why being a democracy should cause the Israelis to withdraw to a strategically fragile position – the fact that the pesky electorate will persist in electing governments (well, actually coalitions, they’re that sort of democracy) which have the silly idea that their job is to defend the nation and its citizens is irritating, but just one of those things.

  33. Tafia says:

    I’m not sure why being a democracy should cause the Israelis to withdraw to a strategically fragile position Errm, how about respecting international law – you are not a democracy if you don’t, you are a rogue state. Defending your own nation does not give you the right to seize large parts of other people’s countries and refuse to obey international law. Unless you are Putin. Or General Galtieri. Or Saddam.

    As for ISIS, once they have finished with Iraq and Syria they will drive through Kuwait (another country run by a deeply unpopular regime propped up by a largely mercenary army) and move on Saudi Arabia. Now the daft and uneducated would suggest that Saudi Arabia will be a stiff battle, but what the more enlightened know is that the ordinary Saudis are sick to death of the regime that rules them, and the regime itself is only propped up by a largely mercenary army – exactly the same sort of army that has an unerring habit of melting away when faced with the sort of war ISIS will bring to it. Largely unreported in the western media is the fact that the other day ISIS overran parts of Lebanon in a matter of hours.

    The west don’t care. They are already buying oil that comes from ISIS controlled fields and so long as the west is confident it will be able to buy Kuwaiti and Saudi oil then Abdullah will be hung out to dry having served his purpose.

    Israel won’t be so cocky then as they will be facing attacks from all around it’s borders not just Gaza – and it’s economy can’t support a campaign to stop that. America? Given the choice between buying ISIS-controlled Saudi oil or backing Israel up? They’ll take the oil and they won’t think twice.

    Israel will get it’s just desserts if it doesn’t buck it’s ideas up and it will be no more than it throughly deserves.

  34. Madasafish says:

    Tafia

    Israel won’t be so cocky then as they will be facing attacks from all around it’s borders not just Gaza – and it’s economy can’t support a campaign to stop that.

    If I were Israel and had nucs, I would use them.

    And of course they have…

  35. Tafia says:

    If I were Israel and had nucs, I would use them.

    You can only use a nuke against a country – you cannot use them against an idea.

  36. Madasafish says:

    You can only use a nuke against a country – you cannot use them against an idea.

    You use them against people..

    I would imagine a tactical strike on Hamas HQ is in the Israeli Defence Plans…

  37. Tafia says:

    I would imagine a tactical strike on Hamas HQ is in the Israeli Defence Plans…

    Apart from the fact that Hamas doesn’t have a HQ in that sense, a tactical nuke does a huge amount of damage over a very large area – something that has escaped you I think.. They don’t even make them as weak and irrelevant as those amateurish things that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    I spent 22 years in the military and was trained as an NBC cell controller. If Israel dropped even something as small as a Cruise missile with a nuclear tip, it would damage Israel as well. Not only that, but who suffers most from the damage? A highly advanced country or one that is little more than peasant

    Still, it would solve the problem of the settlements in the occupied territories – they would cease to be..

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