Monday, 29 December 2008

'100% support' - so one-sided as to be totally wrong?

. Iain Dale has wrote a thoughtful and considered piece on the current situation in the Gaza Strip which deserves a considered response.

Firstly, it has to be established that nobody in this debate is here to defend Hamas actions in rocketing Israeli towns. I am not here to play the body count game either; it is a fact that Israeli's have been killed and injured by these rockets just as it is a fact alot more have been killed by Israel's actions. Making simple points about the comparative ratio of the dead is tempting because it tends to amplify the case of those who see the Israeli response as disproportionate. However, it doesn't really lead us anywhere other than into a meaningless 'my body count is bigger than yours' kind of debate.

Iain's analysis is however totally one-sided so, for example, he criticises Israel for allowing itself to be persuaded into a truce which Iain claims Hamas had no intention of honouring. All true but neither did Israel Iain as the posting below actually illustrates. Furthermore, Iain says;

"Israel is a democratic ally, while Hamas are nothing more than an Iranian backed terror group, which is subjugating the people of Gaza in order to radicalise them."

I am sorry but Hamas won a democratic election. Following it's electoral success Israel did everything possible to subvert the democratic process and exclude Hamas from government. An opportunity to draw Hamas away from terroristic means and incorporate them into the democratic process was missed. Dialogue could have opened up fissures within Hamas; split it between a moderate and militant wing and led to the eventual abandonment of violence and it's commitment to 'destroy Israel'. Incidentally, only the military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is listed as a terrorist organisation in this country.

All of this does not mean I think Hamas are genuine freedom fighters but they are certainly more complicated than Iain suggests and I can say in total certainty they have a wider social base than his comments imply. This social base means, whether we like it or not, they have to be dealt with and talked too for the prospects of peace to be realistic. It beggars belief in a climate which it is being seriously suggested that we talk to the Taliban that the same basic logic and sound common sense cannot be applied to this situation.

Iain says;

"People blame Israel for the terrible state of living standards in the Gaza Strip. They are wrong. Hamas is to blame for keeping its people in abject poverty. Israel handed over the governmental administration of the Gaza Strip in 2005 to the Palestinian Authority. They had an opportunity to run it themselves. Instead, since Hamas took power, they have done everything in their power to keep their people in poverty and use it as an excuse to radicalise those who are inclined to believe their propaganda. But even despite this, Israel was providing huge amounts of humanitarian aid to Gaza - more than 4,000 truck loads a month as well as fuel and electricity (despite the ongoing rocket attacks)."

Notice, the complexities of how exactly Hamas took power are missed out, leaving the reader to assume they just rolled-in one day and decided to start running the show. This completely one-sided account of events beggars belief; it is as if Israel has never economically blockaded Gaza, as if it wasn't the first to step-up and call on the international community to stop aid to Gaza to punish it's people for voting the wrong way. Iain quotes a UN source to 'prove' that people are not starving; that this 'humanitarian crisis' is a myth; two can play that game. Reuters reported last month;

"The U.N. humanitarian chief urged Israel on Friday to end what it called the "unacceptable" closure of border crossings with Gaza, as the United Nations stepped up its criticism in the latest exchange with the Jewish state.

"Measures which increase the hardship and suffering of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip as a whole are unacceptable and must cease immediately," U.N. Undersecretary-General John Holmes said in a statement."

Whether Iain likes it or not; our 'democratic' ally has wilfully flouted international law on a regular basis; has regularly engaged in unacceptable practises which amount to collective punishment and through it's own inflexibility missed an earlier opening to establish a long-lasting peace. In conclusion Iain says that Israel is right because "The trouble is that any Hamas backed ceasefire isn't worth the paper it is written on". Even excluding the blockade which arguably constitutes an act of war in itself let's rewind to November 4th 2008. The Guardian of that day reports;

"Israeli troops crossed into the Gaza Strip late last night near the town of Deir al-Balah."

So, not so clear-cut now is it?? I will leave the last words to a commenter on Iain's blog for they sum-up the problem with Iain's 100% support very succinctly;

"Any one who says they support either side "one hundred per cent" is being naive and simplistic".

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