Israel and The Gaza (1)

Early last year, my wife and I made a fascinating trip to Israel in the company of our close American friend Eric Lee who lived on a kibbutz in Israel for 18 years before moving to London. In the course of the journey, we had some interesting political discussions because, while I am a friend of Israel, I am more critical of the country than Eric. You can read my account of the visit here.
Roll forwards to today: New Year’s Eve. Now, for eight years, we’ve had a traditional of seeing in the New Year with Eric. The trouble is that Israel has just launched its assault on Gaza, almost 400 people have been killed in the last four days, and Eric and I don’t see this the same way at all. He has made his views very clear in a passionate piece published on the blog Harry’s Place which has attracted lots of comments.
And my view? In brief:
I support Israel’s right to exist and its right to defend itself and I accept that there is a lot of double think on the Left as elsewhere about Israel, but the current action is massively disproportionate by any reasonable numerical, military or political measure and we are entitled to hold Israel to different standards than the likes of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq because it is a friend of the West, it is supplied by the USA, and it is a functioning democracy.
Clearly Hamas provoked this action – and probably wanted it – by the repeated rocket attacks on the civilian population of Israel. But, equally clearly, the timing and nature of the massive over-reaction by Israel is conditioned by electoral calculations rather than a calm reflection on what would best promote security and peace for Israel beyond the coming election.
What is Israel is doing is not simply wrong, it is wholly counterproductive. It is undermining support among its friends around the world, it is giving Israel’s many opponents a wonderful propaganda weapon, and it is actually strengthening the resolve of Hamas and aiding its recruitment efforts.
As for tonight, I think that Eric and I will have to agree not to talk about the war.


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