Comment: Israel, Gaza and Palestine – the latest on Panorama
I caught Jeremy Bowen‘s report from Gaza last night on the BBC‘s Panorama programme. Occasionally I am worried that the BBC’s news coverage and editorials are either too careful or too emotional in their content. Bowen’s documentary on the the plight of ordinary people in Gaza – as a result of the latest conflict between and Israel – was indeed shocking. I was deeply upset but what struck me most was the absolute intransigence of it all. I am not sure if this was his point but the sheer horror of the losses to families was more than simply moving. Do we – sitting in the UK – really understand what it is like ? These are largely ordinary people who simply want an ordinary life. They do not care about Israel – in any aggressive sense. Gone is the seventies and eighties evil ethos where Israel was an entity to be erased from the map. If Hamas are to be believed they (as representatives of the displaced Palestinian people) simply want to exist. In other words, for the Palestinians, they want what Israel fought for 20 years ago. To exist in safety and security in well-defined and respected borders.
For me, Israel’s position – and its support from and by the Western democracies – has always depended on its occupation of the moral high ground. As guarantors of Israel’s political security, the US and Europe were (relatively) comfortable to hold the line in the UN, and to assist where allowed in ensuring Israel’s physical security. Surely Israel’s disproportionate response to the rocket attacks put this in jeopardy ? Certainly the media is shifting towards the Palestinians, and ‘ordinary’ Western voters will continue to be angered by their plight. If the objective of the Hamas rocket attacks is to provoke this shift then it is working. Israel need to think about how quickly they are falling into this apparent trap and find another way.
I cannot pretend to have a magic formula to resurrect Palestine and protect Israel here. I don’t think Bowen was attempting to offer one either. Israel has justifiable defence concerns. The Palestinians have demonstrable human-rights concerns. The West is losing any credibility to act as mediator. Our War on Terrorism could, and has been, compared by Israel to their policies in Gaza. Maybe the UN should attempt to take up the gauntlet that was dropped into a bomb crater. Could they police the borders, prevent arms transfer and ensure adequate food and provisions to the beleaguered Gaza people ? With world economies in meltdown, the sad truth is that desire for a solution may take a back seat to other priorities. Someone needs to step in and restore some hope and maybe break the cycle of hate that merely serves to create another generation more likely to reach for an AK47 than a microphone.