Not all Brits have lost their minds: Dominic Lawson reflects

Although evidence suggests that England may be the country most heavily hit by the wave of anti-Semitism that’s swept Europe since 2000, that doesn’t mean that all Englishmen have fallen prey to the antiglobalism of fools.

No, we are not all Hamas now
Dominic Lawson
The Sunday Times
January 11, 2009

I was startled by the monument that stands at the entrance to Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s memorial to the Holocaust. One side of Nathan Rappaport’s diptych is what looks like a caricature of Jews. The hunched, twisted figures, with hooked noses and heavy-lidded eyes, seem devoid of physical energy. The other panel displays a group of heroic young men and women who are heavily muscled, standing tall, weapons at the ready.

It turns out that the first group is meant to depict Jews being marched to their deaths, while the second is the leaders of the Warsaw uprising; the whole monument is constructed of granite imported from Sweden by the Nazis for the construction of what was meant to be one of the Third Reich’s victory towers.

The message is in fact close to the view expressed with brutal clarity by Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion: “That masses of exiled Jews walked to the death trains . . . silently, stupidly . . . is a decisive, embarrassing and painful statement of the disintegration of spiritual-ethical strength. What is their place among us?” Ben-Gurion envisaged that “new Jews”, with the security of their own nation state, would erase what he saw as the shameful memory of a “submissive, lowly camp of strange creatures . . . who know only how to arouse pity”. Indeed, so anxious was Ben-Gurion to obliterate such memories that he opposed any memorial to the Holocaust. That was one battle he lost.

A Briton entering Yad Vashem might do so in the hope that he would see a compliment to his own nation’s fight against the Nazis. He would be disappointed. Instead, there is footage of a long dead emissary to London recording how Britain’s wartime foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, told him the plight of the Jews was not an important consideration in the war effort. Later, he would see pictures of British soldiers dragging Jewish immigrants from ships on the shores of Tel Aviv and of Holocaust survivors behind the wire of British camps in Cyprus, prevented from reaching the promised land. The message here is equally clear. No one will protect the Jews except themselves.

That remains the position. After all, there was no great perturbation within the UN building in New York during the month upon month that Hamas rained rockets on southern Israel, still less any international pressure on the government of Gaza to desist. Ten months ago I was in Sderot, 30 seconds’ rocket flying time from Gaza, talking to an Israeli nurse whose home had been hit by one of thousands of Qassam missiles which Hamas had fired without fear of reprisal. She still had shrapnel lodged, irremovably, near her brain.

The nurse said she constantly tells her four-year-old son, who was also injured, that “there are so many good people in Gaza who are not trying to kill us”. Her anger was principally against her own government: “The day Israel withdrew from Gaza, I knew it was a terrible idea, I knew we would be a target. And I know my Arab friends will suffer when the IDF [Israel Defence Force] goes back into Gaza.” Now, they are indeed suffering terribly, as the images on our television screens show all too graphically – and yet infinitely less than the pictures that are too horrific to be shown and are left to our imagination. This is what war means.

All the same, even the majority of those Israelis who passionately believe that the Palestinians should have their own state, and that the West Bank should be handed over to them, are convinced there was no choice for their government but to act as it has over the past fortnight. These Israelis were bitterly opposed to the military campaigns against Lebanon, but see this campaign as much closer to the spirit of the six-day war and the Yom Kippur war. “Ein brera”, they tell me, which is Hebrew for “no choice”.

It was no longer just Sderot which was taking hits from the Qassams, and where parents would not let their children play outdoors. The Iranian-supplied Hamas ordnance was becoming ever wider in its range. Ashkelon (which incidentally supplies all of Gaza’s electricity) and even the city of Beer-sheba are now reachable targets, and more than 800,000 Israelis the potential victims.

It is undeniable that the consequences for the people of Gaza have been far worse, in numbers of innocent dead and in sheer intensity, than anything the people of Israel have suffered. The word “disproportionate” is inevitably used to describe the Israeli response, with the equally inevitable failure to acknowledge that Hamas targets civilians on purpose and with open expressions of bloodthirsty delight when it succeeds.

Those who claim the IDF also deliberately targets civilians don’t have to believe the official spokesman’s denials: they could speak to someone such as Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British Army campaigns in Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, and was most recently senior military adviser to the Cabinet Office. Kemp told me that “Hamas deploys suicide attackers including women and children, and rigs up schools and houses with booby-trap explosives. Its leaders knew as a matter of certainty this would lead to civilian casualties if there was a ground battle. Virtually every aspect of its operations is illegal under international humanitarian law – ‘war crimes’ in the emotive language usually reserved for the Israelis”.

Colonel Kemp points out that if the IDF had no regard for civilian lives it would never have leafleted and telephoned residents in Gaza, warning them when it was about to attack their area: after all, that also gives Hamas notice – hardly the act of an army devoted to military victory at all costs. Similarly, the IDF’s unilateral commitment to a daily three-hour ceasefire to permit the evacuation (to Israel) of casualties, and for the passage of “humanitarian aid”, also allows Hamas time to regroup and redeploy for future attacks.

Of course, none of these arguments can penetrate the brains of the superannuated Stalinists, vicarious jihadists and attention-seeking actors and pop stars who think it’s cool to go on marches chanting, “We are all Hamas now”. Even if these luvvies might not be aware that on Christmas Eve Hamas legalised crucifixion as a punishment for those who “weaken the spirit of the people”, and have been shooting such political enemies in the head when they find them in hospitals conveniently injured by Israeli bombing raids, they still deserve to be dismissed as useful idiots for a depraved death cult.

There are also perfectly sensible people – both inside and outside Israel – who say the IDF’s campaign is worse than a crime: it is stupid. They cite the Lebanon war of 2006 as a dire precedent. Leave aside the terrible casualties – although that’s hard enough – they say it left Hezbollah unconquered and elevated in prestige on the “Arab street”.

Perhaps so, but consider this: since that campaign, no Hezbollah missiles have been fired on northern Israel. Indeed, when on Thursday three rockets were fired from Lebanon, Hezbollah rushed to reassure the Israeli government that it was not involved and that the rockets were not the sort it even possessed.

This is not exactly the classical doctrine of deterrence: it’s supposed to stop people attacking you in the first place. Yet the Israeli attack on Gaza is part of the same policy of delayed deterrence. Paradoxical though this might seem, it is also essential if the process towards an independent Palestinian state is to have a future. For until the people of Israel believe that such a state – including the heights of the West Bank, which overlook Tel Aviv – is not a threat to their own existence, they will never support a government which abandons those territories, won in an earlier war of self-defence.

If you believe otherwise, go to Yad Vashem.

dominic.lawson@sunday-times.co.uk

2 Responses to Not all Brits have lost their minds: Dominic Lawson reflects

  1. abu yussif says:

    notice the protesters don’t say “we are all gazans now” or “we are all palestinians now”. i doubt this is a misstatement. the meaning is intentional.

  2. E.G. says:

    There was also http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article5484881.ece

    And in the same paper columnists D. Aaronovitch and Finkelstein published honest papers as well.

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