MANY of my constituents, judging from my email inbox, are appalled at Israeli action against Gaza in the last few days. Most of the messages I’ve received have been couched in quite sensible, moderate terms, though the anger and dismay of the writers is no less apparent.
Unfortunately, when it comes to Israel and the Middle East, western writers and demonstrators find it almost impossible to use sensible or, dare I say it – proportionate – language. One of the many demonstrations outside the Commons a few years ago named Blair, Bush and (then Israeli prime minister, Ariel) Sharon as “the world’s greatest terrorists”. When faced with that kind of half-witted rhetoric, there really is no point in engaging, is there?
Someone who can always be relied upon to bring some sense and perspective to recent events is David Aaronovitch. In today’s Times, he pleads lucidly and wisely for some sensible use of language when analysing recent events. And because his knowledge and understanding of Israel and its history is so much greater than my own, I will opt for the lazy option and simply endorse what he says:
When Hamas refused to renew the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ten days ago, and then when it allowed a series of rocket attacks on Israel, what did its leadership think was likely to happen? We know that it was warned by both Egypt and its Fatah rivals that there would be an Israeli reaction, but did Hamas believe such warnings were exaggerated, or did it want there to be such an attack? Unlike the Israeli Government, whose representatives have been all over the media in the past two days, at the time of writing not one Hamas bigwig had put himself up for interrogation.
… the friends of the Palestinians would be best advised to put pressure on Hamas never to launch another of its bloody rockets and to stop its death-laden rhetoric, and the friends of Israel well placed to cajole it into making a settlement seem worthwhile. All else is verbiage.
Last year a constituent – a former member of the Labour Party, as it happens – came to see me at my surgery and asked me to write to the Foreign Secretary concerning Israel. We chatted about the various issues, and at the root of his concerns was the fact that Israel exists at all. He saw the “two state solution” as fundamentally unfair to the Palestinians whose claim to the whole of Israel (including Israel within its pre-1967 borders) he thought should be honoured.
Of course, it’s far too easy – and inaccurate – to claim that all Palestinians and every one of Israel’s western critics want to have Israel removed from the map. Most hope earnestly for a two-state solution.
But it is also true that there is a clear reluctance to condemn Hamas as supporters of Islamist terrorism, or the firing of thousands of rockets at Israeli civilian areas from Gaza over the years.
Aaronovitch is undoubtedly right to predict that the Israeli reaction to the attacks from Gaza will do nothing to secure the elusive long-term peace that most Israelis and Palestinians are desperate to achieve.