A Brief Reply

20 Jul 2014

JERUSALEM, Israel — The Israel-Palestinian conflict is one of the most emotive issues in world politics today.

So when Rory Claydon writes, “The Israeli-Palestine [note the phrasing] question has been one where I’ve not quite been able to take sides,” I completely agree.

And when he says that he has now been “caused” to “firmly plant myself, for now, with the Palestinians” I absolutely understand.

Yet, in this war, there is one group of people that has been suffering over anyone else: civilians.

 

Yes, there are far more casualties on the side of the Palestinians — Israel must do more than it already is doing to avoid at all costs civilian casualties. I do not want to see more dead children lying on the beach, their limbs twisted, their faces colourless, their relatives grieving. 

That is truly “unforgiveable”, and I hope the international community presses for an independent investigation, just like an enquiry should take place for any possible war crime.

The country must also not write to journalists: "Israel is not in any way responsible for injury or damage that may occur as a result of field reporting." Most journalists are in Gaza to find out the truth about the situation and to balance the heinous propaganda in this war.

But to say that “it isn’t Israel that’s suffering, nor are they the victim right now” is contemptuous and wrong. 

Israeli civilians are suffering — and the only reason they are not dying in vast numbers, just as they have before, is because Israel, unlike Hamas, has invested in defence systems like the spectacular Iron Dome and, more simply, bomb shelters.

Hamas fetishizes dead Israeli civilians.

In Haifa for example, two days ago, I met a father and his young daughter who had moved from Tel Aviv to avoid the rocket fire. She had not been able to sleep — just as Gazans have not been able to do — since the firing started.

Tel Aviv is not Gaza — that would be a perverse comparison of course — but what would you want your government to do if you had to move from rocket fire and your child was suffering? 

In Sderot, citizens have fifteen seconds to run to cover from Hamas rockets, each time aimed directly at civilians — a war crime, may I add. 

In Jerusalem, we have ninety seconds — and when one air raid siren went off and I was in the shower, and then unable to close the shelter, I needed that precious minute and a half. 

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry here told me: “We’ve been using missiles to defend our civilians; Hamas has been using civilians to defend their missiles.” It is not that clear-cut, but he makes a legitimate point.

What the article is really missing is a realisation of the heinous crimes of Hamas.

This is an organisation which has been firing missiles at Israel and has broken multiple ceasefires. They do not care for their civilians — they are hiding themselves and their weaponry under hospitals, homes, mosques and schools.

This is an organisation which has been buying weapons instead of medicine and using concrete to build tunnels instead of schools and hospitals. (One Palestinian yesterday told me in a refugee camp just outside Bethlehem that “there is blame for Hamas and how they handled the situation. They didn’t build any shelters for the people.”)

This is an organisation whose leaders dine in five-star hotels in Qatar as Gaza burns.

I have been in Israel for the past three weeks and I have met many figures on both sides of the conflict.

One man stood out — Abu Ali Awwad. Once a political prisoner — whose brother was killed by Israelis and who was shot in the knee during the Second Intifada — he is now a peace activist. He told me:

“You cannot speak peace without understanding others.”

Come here and speak to those people on both sides who are affected by the conflict; only then will you properly understand them.

Having been here for three weeks, one thing is clear: taking sides will only lead to more battles. We need to be pro-conflict resolution not pro-conflict; pro-solution and pro-peace, not pro-Israel or pro-Palestine.

And if we do not take the right course, rockets will continue to fall on Israel and children will continue to die on beaches.

Yes something must be done — a just peace and a victory for the moderate voices on both sides.

Israel has to answer for some of the things it has done. 

But it is not the only one to blame. War is more complicated than that.

By Tom Fenton


(This article is merely a reply to the article cited above. More to follow…)

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Want to respond? Submit an article.

SUPPORT BACKBENCH

We provide a space for reasoned arguments and constructive disagreements.

Help to improve the quality of political debate – support our work today.