Saturday, 19 July 2014

What I think about the situation in the Holy Land

I unequivocally support the right of Israel to exist within secure borders

BUT I know that the creation of Israel involved the dispossession and exile of the many thousands of people who lived there before 1948, and that Israel now holds territory that was not part of the original lands granted to it in 1948

BUT most of those territories are only occupied by Israel because they were captured in defensive wars against neighbours who wanted to wipe out the Jewish state, and their surrender would compromise Israel’s ability to defend itself

BUT that doesn’t mean that those territories are Israel’s, either legally or morally

BUT Israel is the historic homeland of the Jews and where else could a Jewish state be created?

BUT even that was based on wars of conquest in the early part of the first millennium BC

BUT if we go back far enough no country or people really has a secure title to land

BUT that doesn’t solve the problem of what to do with Arab refugees from pre-1948 Israel – both Christian and Muslim

BUT we can’t allow an unqualified right of return for the dispossessed of 1948 and their families because it would completely undermine Israel’s status as a Jewish state and a haven for the Jews from the violent hatred that the world often turns against them

BUT where does that leave those people and their descendants, who are often the victims of monstrous injustice and who have seen their land and people further crushed by Israeli settlement and have special reason to hate Israel?

BUT Israel is one of the most successful and admirable states in the world and basically a free liberal democracy

BUT the Israelis often behave extremely badly e.g. in building settlements in the West Bank and not taking sufficient care to avoid civilian casualties

BUT Hamas place weapons launches and ammo stores near or in schools and hospitals

BUT that doesn’t entirely excuse the IDF from responsibility for the consequences of attacking such locations and killing women and children

BUT what would you have Israel do in response to Hamas rocket attacks?

BUT Hamas rocket attacks, while dangerous, cause relatively few casualties in Israel, which is much more sparsely populated than Gaza and has much more sophisticated defences

BUT these attacks still cause massive disruption to ordinary life in Israel

BUT the Israeli occupation of the West Bank also causes appalling disruption, oppression and indignity in the lives of Palestinians living there

BUT Israel lives in a very tough neighbourhood and faces an existential threat not just from Islamist extremists but even from relatively “moderate” Muslims who do not accept its right to exist and hold violently anti-Jewish views

BUT Israel has its own share of religious chauvinists and extremists and has a very patchy record of looking after the antiquities and holy sites of other faiths

BUT that record is pretty good compared with most other countries in the Middle East

BUT that’s damning with faint praise, surely?

BUT if you’re going to take a side in the Middle East surely you have to side with the one country that has the rule of law, freedom for minorities, a free press, and due process?

BUT do those things give a country carte blanche to behave recklessly and violently against people under their control?

Etc. etc. etc.

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