Israel’s relationship with her neighbours started as badly as possible when the Arab League led an invasion to destroy the new nation at its birth. In 1967 and in 1973 we again saw an existential threat to Israel with the Six Day War and then the Yom Kippur War.
Over the following years, relations thawed though, even now, we would hardly say that they are warm. Bizarrely, the Arab League banned Coca Cola from its member countries in 1967 because it was caught up in the politics of the Middle East – it was a peculiar angle to the Coca Cola/Pepsi Cola debate… Egypt was suspended from the Arab League when it signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 though Jordan was not when it signed a peace treaty in 1994.
With an acceptance of the State of Israel becoming more established over the years security, diplomatic and trade relations improved with neighbouring countries. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, during August and September, was clearly seen as imminently moving towards signing a deal which would progress the normalisation of relations with Israel.
The attack by Hamas on Israel destroyed this process. Upon the murder of 1,400 men, women and children, over 1,000 of whom were civilians, Israel would counterattack. Hamas knew this would be inevitable as did Iran who are one of the major funders and military backers of Hamas.
Would Hamas trigger this conflict without the approval of Iran who, in turn, is a military and political adversary to Saudi Arabia?
Israel reacted to the attack on her people in the way that Hamas knew she would. Any reasonable judgement would say that Israel is reacting in a way that just about every observer would expect.
There is a question of a ‘just war’ which is an idea explored by St Thomas Aquinas, philosophers, military leaders and politicians over the centuries. My copy of Field Marshall Charles Guthrie’s Just War is useful to me but it is worth reading up on what puts a war or retaliation within a moral framework.
The Jewish Leadership Council and Jewish Representative Council held a peace vigil on Wednesday 11th October in which the Chief Rabbi spoke of the horror of recent events and of the determination to face the challenge of the attack. The Mayor of Greater Manchester spoke, as did I and other MPs. The scenes that had so recently been reported were so fresh and new revelations were still emerging.
British politicians will always have a limited role in any response to global events of this nature but one of the priorities should always be to give what reassurances that can be made to work for peace overseas and to ensure law and order domestically. British Jews always face a backlash when conflict arises between Israel and her neighbours as though they are responsible.
One of the drivers of the toxifying environment in Britain is the nature and content of our media and social media where headlines and clicks matter more than the truth. Grim realities abound in war but the media ought to be cautious in producing reports that will later be used as fact even when it has clearly been shown to be a lie within days or even hours afterwards.
An example is the BBC reporting on an explosion at the Al-Ahli hospital. The BBC used Hamas sources, just minutes after the event, to say that Israel had fired rockets in an airstrike or series of airstrikes upon the hospital which killed 500 people. The BBC reporter even described the nature of the explosion as something that could only come from the Israeli Air Force and he knew enough to say that it could not have been a Hamas rocket.
How can they broadcast this as fact when British intelligence analysed the evidence and concluded, as far as is possible, that it was a misfiring Hamas rocket. Six BBC journalists were taken off air to be investigated following their recent reportage.
These ‘errors’ made deepen the fear of some British people whilst inflaming anger in others.
The horrors meted out to the Israelis civilians and military by Hamas has been returned and amplified by the IDF on the people of Gaza.
The ground invasion, SNP amendment to the King’s Speech and the current pause for the exchange of hostages and prisoners will be the areas that I cover next.