Thursday, 7 August 2014

A few things I have learnt

Despite Hamas' claims that they will recommence firing tomorrow morning at 8am when the current ceasefire is due to end, I remain optimistic that we may see an end to the fighting for now. With that optimism in mind, I thought I would write a few things that this most recent conflict has taught me.

1. Hamas really are really quite evil aren't they?

From human shields to indiscriminate rocket fire to terror tunnels to storing rockets in schools and firing them from Mosques, they really have shown their true colours once again. What a horrible, disgusting organisation.

2. My Mum is completely mental

As if this needed confirming. My mother took the opportunity to go to Israel at the height of the conflict, which I thought was crazy enough. Whilst I was in Barcelona I was informed that she had gone to Gaza with her hairdresser and had been allowed to hold a rocket. She was told, "Don't drop it or it will explode." Nervy stuff.

3. There is no military solution

Combined with this, Israel is not the entity to destroy Hamas. On her travels my Mum was informed that any operation to destroy the tunnels would take upwards of a year and reports from cabinet meetings is that it may be closer to five years. This would obviously be at the risk of thousands of lives, both civilian and those of Israeli soldiers. Hamas cannot be destroyed militarily.

4. Thousands more Palestinians will die needlessly

The reason does not matter. The sorry, sad fact remains that they will die and they will die in their thousands and people will pretend to care only insofar as they can blame Israel or Hamas. Their deaths won't bring about the end of Hamas nor the end of the conflict nor does proving Israel is responsible or Hamas is responsible actually achieve anything. This blame culture is almost as predictable as the cycle of violence and whilst it is not as destructive, it is as pointless and futile.

5. Anti-Semitism is growing

And growing fast. My old History teacher remarked that Russia's incursion into the Crimea gave his history students a unique opportunity to relive the events of the Crimean war of the 19th Century. Unfortunately, the latest escalation in Israel-Gaza has given Europeans a unique insight into what 1930's Germany was like. Synagogues were blockaded and destroyed, Jewish cemeteries vandalised, swastikas appeared on Jewish owned homes and property and just randomly, Jews were boycotted and the whole sorry affair is beginning to look eerily familiar to any European of a certain age. When you cry Free Palestine but harass a Jewish woman in Oxford Street; weep for dead Palestinians but draw a swastika on a home in Hendon; or scream anti-Zionism whilst throwing bricks through the windows of a synagogue you are an anti-Semite. Pure and simple.

6. People are ignorant

People accuse Israel of a disproportionate action when they have no idea what that actually means. People scream war crimes when their knowledge of international law is non-existent. People talk about human shields as if it makes a gram of difference to the Palestinians whose lives have been ended and destroyed. People tell Israel to stop complaining about harmless rockets conveniently forgetting they have no idea what living under rocket fire would be like. People call for Israel to flatten Gaza as if somehow every Palestinian should pay for the crimes of Hamas. Frankly, I'm sick of it all.

  • Israel's actions may or may not be disproportionate but let me tell you one thing, it has virtually nothing to do with numbers.
This is offensive to Israelis, blaming them for not dying but also suggesting that somehow if they did, killing Palestinians would be less bad. I've said it before and I will say it again, if you reduce proportionality to numbers, suggest Israel is disproportionate because it has killed more Palestinians, you advocate some sort of barbaric eye-for-an-eye Bible style justice. Let's be clear, if more Israels died this would not make the Palestinian deaths any less tragic. Crying about numbers suggests it would.

  • War crimes is a very serious accusation
Israel may or may not be guilty of war crimes but I can be sure as hell that everyone that accuses her of them has no idea what a war crime constitutes and certainly would never dream of accusing Hamas of anything anywhere near as serious. Firing petty rockets is the worst ever leveled at Hamas.
  • Palestinians die
This is tragic. End of. Stop justifying. Stop making it less bad. 
  • Rockets do kill
This is a simple one. I won't even bother discussing the impact of rockets on the lives of Israelis. They do kill and they do injure and there is no defence for them. End of.
  • As I have said before, there is no military solution in Gaza
Sure as hell flattening Gaza would not achieve a solution. It is a horrific thing to suggest and just as Jews are rightly horrified when people chant death to the Jews and incite genocide against them, so we should be when our very own do the exact same. 

People are ignorant and horrible and stupid and just wrong. It's offensive and counterproductive. Proving Hamas is to blame brings peace no closer than proving Israel is to blame. 

And finally, 7. There is still hope.

Despite everything I am still hopeful. Despite anti-Semitism and Western commentators suddenly finding moral compasses they can use to bash Israel and the persistent justification of death and everything else I have mentioned, I still have hope. I am moved by groups on Facebook that I have recommended before - Israel loves Palestine and Palestine loves Israel. I still read updates on those groups and believe that peace is possible, that the majority, even if they don't love Palestinians or Israelis, just want to get on with their lives and give their children a world free of shelling and rockets. I am moved by the Mayor of Sderot who tells me he wants to test peace with his neighbours. I am moved by pictures drawn by a boy in Sderot. 

I remain hopeful that we can move beyond the past as two peoples and reach out to our common humanity. When you realise the other side is just the same as you, maybe with a different favourite film or sport or whatever, you realise there is no 'other side'. When you realise there is no other side, there can be peace. Let's pray for that.