Thursday, January 8, 2009

250 dead children

I have never seen a dead child. There is something about life foreshortened that makes the incidence of death more powerful. As a parent, I try not to imagine the impact the death of one of my children would have on me. I know that I would probably, for a time at least, not want to live. Death would feel like a warm escape.

Which is why this week's news bruises the heart so much. Children should not die in war. They are not `agents'. They do not even vote. Yet here they are, piled up under rubble, maimed in ambulances.

I am not a flag-waver for the Palestinian cause. As a people they are poorly led. And Political Islam has, in effect, led the world to wash their hands of their cause. As Michael Portillo said this week, it is clear that there is only one solution: two states. The problem is getting people, particularly on the Palestinian side to accept this position rather than seeking to drive Israelis into the sea.

Coupled to this, I have always supported the state of Israel. Its energy, alchemy (turning desert into a homeland) and its ability to defend itself like a cornered boxer have always impressed me.

So this week's action, like that in Lebanon a couple of years ago, leaves me with a heavy heart. I just can't support what they are doing right now. It is callous and unstately. Yes, I don't think we would tolerate missiles raining down on us from Northern Ireland or whatever. But, even at the height of Republican violence, we would never have done to Derry or West Belfast what is being done right now in Gaza.

I don't want to sound like a naive dove on this. I know that states have to take some tough-bastard decisions at times. I am glad I not the person actually having to make those kinds of calls. Yet I think Israel diminishes itself through this action. It is a cliche now to say this but the next generation of suicide bombers was recruited this week by the Israeli military. Indeed if I were 15, full of anger and testosterone, I am sure I would be putting myself forward there right now. Its what happens.

One's big hope, of course, is Obama. Naively perhaps as his advisers will, I am sure, want to steer him away from where Clinton, Bush and so many others have failed. Obama will, as is his gift, be able to see both sides. But even he cannot force others to do this. This is a war over land, religion and between two ancient tribes. And it is long from being over.


ChrisB said...

Craig your candidness about your discomfort with the current Israeli actions is applaudable. Sadly however, I feel that as long as people like yourself restrict their critique to 'normally I support Israel except when they are bombing civilians on a scale I can't ignore', then the Israelis will feel that their state of war is in some way appropriate state behaviour.

Also think about this: more civilians in the UK died from the actions of Irish terrorists IN LONDON ALONE than have died as a result of Palestinian rocket fire into Israel during the last 8 years.

Yes the rockets or missile as they are often laughably called are terrible. Yes Hamas are cynical b*stards, but what exactly is the Israeli political and military establishment if not very cynical indeed - scared, mentally ill, self-serving, perhaps a mix of all-three but probably also pretty goddam cynical too.

And by the way Jaffa wasn't a desert in 1947 it was a multiracial coastal city.

Finally my reflection is this: until the Israeli's cease the notion of an inalienable right for Jews to live in Israel, while many of its former residents are denied that right; the notion that Israel as a state is different to other states and plays by different rules; there will always be a sense in which the very existence of the state of Israel in some peculiar manner vindicates prejudice against jews around the world. Its a bit like the unspoken first half of a fascist statement that ends 'well if you don't like it go home then'. Providing the answer to that question might seem the logical answer to the Holocaust but it is also in a sense an invitation to create another. As long as Israel contends that it is that 'home' for some [jews, regardless of persecution or nationality] but not for others [palestinians] then there will always be someone to say 'so you think you're special', or worse still in the case of Hamas or Hizbollah 'we're more special than you'.

In a sense the very notion of a state based on a holy right to occupy a specific area of living space promised by God, is as aberrent a notion to the secular as is the notion of destroying it.

Israel is a paradox but it is also a historical reality, however in order that its future can be one that is bright it must cease living out the mantras of its past and seek not only peace but a new logic as a state which is something other than defensive. Israel must be a place of life and birth first and not a place of refuge where the first defensive resort is disproportionate force.

Israel's reaction to Hamas 'terrorism' is like Guantanamo Bay's approach to justice in the War on Terror. You cannot protect freedom through sacrificing it - you cannot deliver justice unjustly. Those of us who claim to be better than terrorists must BE better than terrorists and part of that strength is moral and spiritual as well as military.

eg said...

sad sad sad ..............