The wrong stance on Gaza

On 17 June this year Ed Miliband was the keynote speaker at the Labour Friends of Israel annual lunch. He delivered a rousing speech, drawing on his recent visit to Israel. But he also spoke about the security challenges that Israel face and he mentioned his visit to Sderot, which has suffered terribly from Hamas rocket attacks, for many years.

Miliband said: ‘We must ensure Israel’s security and right to protect itself’. He also mentioned Isis and compared it with what Israel has to face on its borders whether Hezbollah in the north or Hamas in the south. These were strong and impressive words but the key test is whether they translate into action.

Miliband has issued a number of statements during the Gaza operation. Their theme is very disappointing. While he reiterated Israel’s right of self-defence against Hamas’ terrorism he also said he could not support any ground incursion into Gaza and has indeed condemned Israel’s action. The problem is that in order to deal with Hamas’ terror tunnels Israel had no choice but to mount a ground operation in Gaza to eliminate these tunnels – this in addition for the need to respond to rocket attacks. Hamas has fired over 3,500 rockets, and hundreds if not thousands of lives could have been lost if it had not been for the Iron Dome. How exactly Miliband expects Israel to protect itself is a question that he has not answered. While Israel used the Iron Dome to intercept rockets, sitting idly by, knowing that these terror tunnels exist and that Hamas could use them to transfer weapons and to kidnap and kill Israelis, is not an option.

Astonishing too has been Labour’s attempt to score points off the back of the resignation of Sayeeda Warsi. While she declared her resignation was because of the government policy on Gaza, it was noted by different Conservative commentators that the real reason  was internal party politics. Sadly, the consequences of Labour’s handling of the situation are that former LFI director and adviser to Jack Straw, Kate Bearman, decided to leave the party after 20 years, claiming the party has ‘chosen to disregard the culpability of Hamas’.

Meanwhile, foreign journalists who have recently left the warzone have confirmed how Hamas threatened journalists from reporting, and how Hamas was using human shields and were firing rockets from schools and hospitals. We also know that the ‘disproportionate’ debate is based only on a number of casualties, which is the wrong logic. First of all, disproportionate use of force relates to how and which force is being used and since there was no investigation into this operation, Israel cannot be accused of using disproportionate force, as it is doing everything it can to minimise the loss of civilian life. Second, the BBC and New York Times looked into data and came to conclusion that the IDF did not kill indiscriminately. In fact, the vast majority of casualties are men between the ages of 20-29, the age group most applicable to Hamas fighters, which confirms what many think about Hamas inflating numbers and misleading the media. Third, the reason why Israel has fewer civilian casualties is because of the successful Iron Dome system, while in Gaza, Hamas leaders hide in bunkers while they sacrifice their civilians (Hamas could have spent money it got on schools, hospitals and even shelters, but it decided to spend it on terror tunnels and rockets).

Israel may have made mistakes during this operation and mistakes do happen during wars, despite Israel’s attempts to make its response as surgical as possible. Let us not forget that the main reason for civilian casualties in Gaza is because Hamas uses civilians as human shields and is not even afraid to admit it live on television, while the ‘urban warfare’ manual of Hamas explains the benefits of its human shield strategy. Despite having all this evidence available, and despite Hamas’ genocidal strategy, Miliband, together with shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander chose to continue to speak out against Israel and are highlighting the issue of arms export licences to Israel. If Israel ‘has a right to defend itself’, why are they pressing the government to review arms licences to Israel? Do they want to weaken Israel so it is unable to defend itself? Do they think that pressing Israel into ceasefire without eliminating the terror threat and demilitarising Gaza will achieve lasting peace?

Once this military operation ends, Israel has to sit down with Mahmoud Abbas and negotiate an agreement which will lead to the two-state solution. The people of Gaza want peace and the people of Israel want peace. It is Hamas which does not want peace, it is Hamas which breached all the ceasefires agreed during the operation, and Hamas whose charter calls for destruction of Israel. Hamas refuses to meet the conditions of the Quartet and therefore cannot be a partner in peace negotiations. Therefore what Miliband has to push for is the demilitarisation of Gaza with Hamas disarmed – once these conditions are met, negotiations for peace can really begin.

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Photo: Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

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Comments: 10...

  1. On August 11, 2014 at 3:31 pm alex_bjarnason responded with... #

    Well said.

  2. On August 11, 2014 at 4:04 pm ZdonS responded with... #

    Well said, and well brave to stand against your party leader and his short-lived advisors.
    As previously said by many, we are all sorry that it is not the right (David) Miliband leading the labour. Whilst David had the capacity to understand the delicate situation in the middle east, Ed is just a populist who made a clear choice – get me the Muslim voters, I don’t care about the Jews.

    • On August 11, 2014 at 5:12 pm Josephine Bacon responded with... #

      I agree, Hilary Clinton is almost stating the obvious when she says that the motivation behind all these pro-Gaza demonstrations is a big helping of antisemitism. Especially in view of the fact that there have been no demonstrations at all in support of the Yazidis, the Ukrainians of Crimea, etc. The news has emerged today that Hamas has murdered many of the people who built the tunnels in case they give away any secrets to the Israelis. This is on top of the 150 children who died building the tunnels. So much for Hamas’ not using civilians as human shields! What else can you call it when the tunnels are reserved for the fighters and there are no air raid shelters and no warnings – except from the Israelis, and Gazans are forbidden by Hamas to leave their homes and seek shelter. When this is all over, the Labour party will have egg on its face.

  3. On August 11, 2014 at 5:13 pm Josephine Bacon responded with... #

    As for Baroness Warsi, her outbursts reported in the Sunday papers show that her real motivation for leaving the Tories was bitterness at being demoted and quarrels with the leaders and she cynically used Gaza as the perfect excuse.

  4. On August 11, 2014 at 5:16 pm Richard responded with... #

    Israel has developed a tech solution to rockets (iron dome). Why not a tech solution to tunnels? Should not be that difficult to drill deep holes with sensors around Gaza? And send unmanned vehicles into tunnels to destroy them? Surely better than bombing schools etc. And what positive long term vision is being offered to Gaza?

  5. On August 11, 2014 at 6:10 pm roy steele responded with... #

    “…the main reason for civilian casualties…” [above] is that the Torah does not recognise the concept of ‘innocent civilians’ (Rambam 6:5) and ISIS is a heathen bunch of cretins, and us, the Christian lot, stick to “Thou shalt Not Kill” – little wonder its a bit confusing.to us plebs in UK.
    (Carry on Regardless, Ed, you have an election to win next May – try not to be [too] distracted with the peanuts in the peaNUT galleries.

  6. On August 11, 2014 at 6:43 pm Ray McHale responded with... #

    What complete nonsense. This all came about because the Israeli Government determined that they would blame Hamas for the killing of 3 teenagers. They had no evidence to support this but were intent on collective punishment and the extra-judicial murder of people in Gaza as a response. You claim they went in to deal with the tunnels. They didn’t know the tunnels existed before they attacked. You quote figures from the Times of Israel to suggest that most people killed in Gaza were Hamas fighters. What a joke. The notion of civilians shields is also a nonsense in a war against an enemy with drones, heavy artillery and tanks, who do you carry our resistance? Stand in the open with your rifles and wait to be obliterated. The underlying cause of the killing is Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Arab lands and building of new settlements (seizing Arab lands) all in defiance of UN resolutions and international law. For us to arm Israel in these circumstances is a disgrace – as is the defence of their massively disproportionate attack on Gaza. Let alone a demand that they take over Gaza in order to remove Hamas from power. The real reason for the attack was Hamas’s agreement with Fatah and the threat that this unified Palestinian approach posed to Israel’s continued plans for occupation and expansion,

  7. On August 11, 2014 at 7:09 pm Ray McHale responded with... #

    I think Owen Jones comprehensively responds to the claims of anti-Semitism thrown (as usual) at those demonstrating in support of the people of Gaza. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/11/anti-jewish-hatred-rising-antisemitism-meaning

    Presumably these people will defend the 53 people who have complained to the BBC that it broadcast the DEC Appeal to help Gaza?

  8. On August 11, 2014 at 10:46 pm Ian McKenzie responded with... #

    What a torrent of Israeli apologist tosh. Two state solution? Netanyahu is now on record as wanting a one state solution. Keep up.

  9. On August 12, 2014 at 12:15 pm Clyde responded with... #

    Its the most distorted comment I have read for a long time. The problem in Gaza would never be solved, there is so many inaccuracy and bias against Hamas who was democratically elected by the people of Gaza. I do not trust the report saying that journalists has been threatened by Hamas. If that was true it would of been flash all over our media, to be realistic the problem we are having now was created by Israel them self seizing Palestinian land and the blockage of the Gaza for over seven years. The people in Gaza is living in open prison. We seem to forget that this problem was created by our country with good intentions, what we did we put european jews in Palestine. We seem to forget what the jews did in Palestine, so I can’t see how we would solve this problem. Teo wrong doesn’t make a right.

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