Israel and Gaza
Israel has launched massive strikes against Gaza, leading to many deaths and injuries. Hospitals and other public services in Gaza were already struggling due to lack of supplies even before these latest attacks.
An editorial in the Observer on 28 December says that talking and not force is the solution to the conflict. Gaza is so densely populated that attacks on Hamas militants also kill and injure innocent civilians. The article also says that Ehud Olmert was forced to withdraw forces promptly because of international outrage when Israel attacked Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006.
Thank you to the people commenting and debating the issue below. I cannot agree that Israel is entitled to do anything, no matter how destructive, because some of its citizens have been attacked. It is a good legal principle that self-defence should use force that is proportional to the attack.
It may seem naive to say that talking is needed but many conflicts that looked as if they would go on killing and harming people for ever have eventually been resolved by talking and by compromise. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been going on for as long as I can remember and I think since before I was born but it would be better for Arabs and for Jews if it could be sorted out. Two peoples who both feel that they have a right to live on the same area of land does make it a very tough nut to crack but there will have to be some give and take. Maybe there are lessons in the way that the conflict in Northern Ireland eventually lost its viciousness and was settled amicably, or so it seems from my side of the Irish Sea.
Israel is being criticised for the attacks on Gaza which have caused many deaths and injuries to civilians. Israel's claim is that the rockets that have been fired from Gaza into Israel justify their action. I try to be fair and I admit that the rockets from Gaza do endanger civilians in Israel and must make people there fearful even if so far relatively few Israelis have been killed by them.
Both the states, Israel and Palestine, need to exist and have security. The people of both states need to feel safe from attack and need to have trust but in the present war trust on both sides is in short supply.
Going back in history is often a good idea, especially when a conflict has roots that go back a long way. Israel was founded in 1948 when the atrocities of the Nazis against Jews had horrified the world. Let us rewind further to 1917 when the UK's Foreign Secretary made a commitment of support for a home in Palestine for the Jews. His letter reflected the views of the Cabinet and it is known as the Balfour Declaration. Part of the letter reads: "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
Update, 4 Jan. 2009: The UN's Security Council could not agree on a statement about the conflict and it seems that it was the United States, siding as usual with Israel (and a major arms supplier to Israel) that blocked agreement.
I do not claim to be expert on international law, but I can tell when one side in a conflict is killing and seriously injuring far more people than the other. My word for that is disproportionate.
Update, 6 Jan. 2009: Israeli armed forces have now killed dozens in attacks on United Nations schools in Gaza. The UN had provided exact details of where these facilities were and displayed UN flags (lit up at night) so that the Israeli forces could avoid hitting them.
Update, 12 Jan. 2009: The Security Council of the UN has voted to urge both sides to agree to an immediate ceasefire. Of the 15 nations on the Security Council there were 14 in favour of the motion and just one nation abstained. Yes, that one was the United States.
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