An Indian user on Blog Catalogue raised the question of sides in the recent Gaza conflict. Apparently there was some concern in his country over the ‘disproportionate’ Israeli reaction to attacks by Hamas. This is my response.
You conclude your well-argued, balanced and reasonable perspective with a clear statement of principle: "Let's support the innocent people in both Palestine and Israel who wish to live a normal life like all others." How could I possibly fail to agree with those sentiments; how could anyone fail to agree? The latest news is that a ceasefire has been concluded, which hopefully will mean that the innocent people on both sides can get on with their lives, free from fear.
Now for your question itself; let's think about this a little more deeply. Let's imagine we are seventy years or so back in history. It's late August 1939. Germany is preparing to go to war with Poland. Whom do I support? That's easy, isn't it? I support Poland, faced with a nasty, brutal and wholly unprincipled aggressor, one that places little value on human life, not even the lives of its own people.
Now we are back in 2012. For months Israel has been under attack by a brutal and unprincipled aggressor, one that fires rockets indiscriminately at civilian not military targets, one that cynically uses its own people as a shield, so that any Israeli response is bound to involve the death of the innocent.
That's the whole point, the death of the innocent; it has propaganda value; it's had propaganda value among some of the less reflective people in your own country. Whom do I support? Israel of course, an oasis of freedom and human rights amidst a desert of tyranny and ignorance.
Am I comparing the Palestinian people to the Nazis? No, of course I'm not. I am, however, comparing Hamas to the Nazis. Do you know anything of this organisation; do you know anything of its programme? The Nazi analogy is more apposite than you may suppose, because the organisation promotes the world view set out in Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It's not interested in a two state solution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict; it's interested in a no state solution. Hamas is not quibbling over the 1967 borders or the Oslo parameters; it is not even interested in the UN borders of 1948. The organisation wants to destroy Israel as much as the Nazis wanted to destroy Poland.
Now there is the issue of 'proportionality', something the people you allude to are wringing their hands over. Let me put this to you, or rather why don't you put it to them. What if a terrorist organisation, based in Pakistan, started to lob missiles into major population centres on the Indian border? What do you think the reaction of your people would be, what do you think the reaction of your government would be? Do you think it would be to sit back and do nothing just in case the innocent are caught up in a counter-attack along with the guilty?
That's just the thing, there are many soft-headed liberals in the West, and obviously in India also, who think 'proportionality' on the part of Israel is simply to do nothing and let it rain rockets. Israel’s response to these unprovoked attacks is highly targeted, and surely there was no more legitimate target than Ahmed al-Jaabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing.
Yes, civilians unfortunately are killed also but, as I say, that is not the intention. It is not, unlike with Hamas, an Israeli war aim. During a previous conflict, Richard Kemp, a colonel in the British Army, observing the action, said that no army in history has taken such care to avoid harming civilians living in the same areas as the enemy is operating. Did you know that this even extends to warning individual citizens of Gaza by cell phone which parts of the city to avoid and when?
Then there is Hamas. They fire rockets not from waste ground but from the cover of schools, of hospitals and other civilian locations; rockets have even been fired from beside a pram with a baby in it. The murderous cynicism here is nauseating. It certainly nauseates me.
I wish both people peace but I know in my heart that this is but a lull; that once Hamas has gathered its breath and licked its wounds the whole round will start again. I support Israel now; I will support Israel in future. Why? For all of the above and for this, the conclusion of a piece I wrote for the Daily Telegraph readers' website a couple of years ago;
The trial has been held. In seeking to live in peace Israel has constantly been forced to go to war; it has no other choice. No matter what they do they have been judged; they stand forever guilty. The West can no longer stand up for itself let alone this brave oasis of liberty in the Middle East. I’ve never been an uncritical supporter of Zionism. I thought expanding settlements on Arab land was a mistake; I still do. No matter; today I’m an Israeli, which, to paraphrase the speech of JFK in Berlin, must be the proudest boast in the world of freedom.