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The eye for an eye rhetoric will leave everyone in the region blind


Usually at this time of year, our esteemed editor asks us for articles which have at least, some small connection to the festive season. It’s to his great credit that he shows extraordinary levels of patience with some of us who sail close to extremely tenuous when it comes to those connections.

To that end, I was, a few short weeks ago, racking my brains to try and come up with something which would at least allude to the season, and may even provide some festive food for thought. And then the middle east exploded. And every single notion that I had toyed with to try and bring joy and some warmth as we approach the end of 2023 quite literally, burst into flames.

It is not my job here to try and summarise the historical and political background to the intractable conflict in the region, but what I will say is that if you care to investigate it, you will see that Britain was particularly culpable in bringing about a situation which persists in ever increasing cycles of violence and horror to this day.

I defy anyone who woke up to the news on 7 October that Hamas militants had breached Israeli defences and slaughtered hundreds of civilians not to have been shocked to the core and stunned that such a massive breach of one of the most sophisticated security and intelligence systems in the world had led to such terror.

It’s estimated that more than 2,000 men entered Israeli territory by hang gliders and through 29 breaches in the security barrier which surrounds the Gaza strip. The most recent figures show that 1,300 Israelis were killed, over 3,000 injured, and more than 150 were taken hostage, most of whom are still being held in Gaza. I was shocked, but my revulsion was also tempered by the knowledge that this attack, as heinous as it was, did not, in the words of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, happen in a vacuum.

For decades now, successive and mostly hard-right, Israeli governments have overseen what can only be described as an apartheid system against Palestinians. They have sought to control almost every aspect of daily life for Palestinians; deciding when and where they can pass through checkpoints for work, travel, or prayer.

Controlling access to food, water, electricity and medical supplies. The suffocating system of oppression and the denial of basic human rights to people based on their race would be unacceptable anywhere else in the world, so why do governments across the world allow such a system to persist here?

Again, it’s not my job to try and unravel the geopolitical shenanigans at play, but it’s fair to say that major western leaders have consistently turned a blind eye to the actions of those Israeli governments which are in clear and direct breach of international law.

So, was the attack carried out by Hamas on 7 October justified in any way?

My own personal view is that if Hamas was conducting an operation against the Israeli military and the Israeli government, then why slaughter innocent men, women, children and babies? The response from Hamas would likely be that the Israeli military and successive Israeli governments have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Palestinians over the decades, and with no prospect of intervention by the international community, are they simply supposed to bow down and accept that Palestinian lives are worth less than Israeli lives?

The Israeli response to the 7 October attacks has been total, brutal, and horrifyingly indiscriminate. To date, estimates show that over 10,000 Palestinians have died in Gaza so far. This includes 4,237 children. Israeli attacks have targeted hospitals, refugee camps and schools.

Israel’s justification for this is that their sophisticated intelligence and security systems which failed so spectacularly just over a month ago, have shown that Hamas militants have been hiding out in tunnels below these buildings. The United Nations-run school in the refugee camp at Jabalia in Gaza has been bombed three times. Attacks have also resulted in 88 United Nations workers in Gaza being killed.

So, is Israeli’s response to the 7 October attack justified in any way?

It quite clearly breaches international law which states unequivocally that the commission of a war crime in any conflict does not justify the commission of further war crimes in response. The Israeli military and government state that they are simply targeting Hamas militants who hide amongst civilians and that any collateral damage is on Hamas’ hands not theirs.

It’s plain to see that the eye for an eye rhetoric which has poisoned the protagonists for so long will simply leave everyone in the region blind.

And who suffers most? Men, women and children like us, who want nothing more than peace and an end to the killing. Is that too much to ask? ■


International law states the commission of a war crime does not justify further war crimes in response


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