Between a rock and a hard place

By Melanie Phillips

In Israel, an enormous call-up of reservists suggests that a ground invasion of Gaza is imminent – and this morning’s further attacks on Tel Aviv make that more likely still. The prospect of a ground invasion fills Israelis with dread. A ground invasion means that Israeli soldiers will go into Gaza street by street and house by house to destroy the rocket launchers, rockets and ammunition dumps where they have been stored. Many have been situated in residential neighbourhoods, for two reasons: first, to deter the Israel Defence Force from attacking them for fear of killing civilians as a consequence; and second, to ensure that many Gazan civilians are indeed killed, thus guaranteeing an international outcry so that Israel will be forced to stop its operation to destroy these weapons.

Such a ground operation, where from past experience many of these places have been booby-trapped, carry the certainty of a high casualty rate among the Israeli soldiers.

That is why Israel today waits in dread. People in Britain and elsewhere who have the luxury of living in a country that has not been under existential attack for six decades have absolutely no idea of the extraordinary pressure under which so many Israeli families live. Their children are conscripted into the armed forces because Israel is under permanent threat of attack by an Arab and Muslim world which is determined to wipe Israel off the map.

And so these young Israelis are sent to fight and some of them — maybe many of them — will die, in a country where every such life that is lost is a national tragedy because the Jewish people was almost wiped out half a century ago, and their families will be torn apart – all because millions of murderous fanatics who believe the Jews must not be allowed to live in their own historic homeland continue to try to destroy that homeland and murder as many Jews as possible. And many more of Israel’s children will die if the Israel Defence Force starts a ground war in Gaza. Yet Israelis also know that if the rockets and missiles from Gaza are to stop, a ground war may be the only way to destroy these weapons since there is a limit to what can be achieved by aerial bombardment.

This is the kind of rock and very hard place indeed dilemma under which Israelis live week in, week out – and have done for more than sixty years, all because a bunch of fanatics are bent on their annihilation. Yet none of this is acknowledged by those in Britain, whose hearts bleed for the Palestinians who are the aggressors in this conflict but never for the Israelis who are their victims – and whose motives in mounting such a military operation must therefore be assumed to be malevolent or evil.

Among western leaders, the hypocrisy is particularly odious. Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague, who has been saying Israel has the right to defend itself against attack, nevertheless also says :

‘Israel does have to bear in mind that it is when ground invasions have taken place in previous conflicts that they have lost international support and a great deal of sympathy around the world.’

In the US similarly there are reportsthat Obama is telling Israel not to mount a ground invasion –because the likely toll of civilian casualties would benefit Hamas. So according to these leaders, Israel absolutely has the right to defend itself — but not actually to take the action that will defeat its attackers! And just whose international support might Israel lose by such a casualty toll? Why, the support of leaders like Hague and Obama!  What hypocrisy, furthermore, from those who have been bombing the living daylights out of Afghanistan but impose a totally different standard on Israel.

Of course, no-one in Israel imagines that even the most successful operation in Gaza will defeat the Hamas. The most they hope for is to degrade its capabilities for mass murder so that Israelis can have a few years free of attack before they have to do the same thing all over again.

The reason why this conflict goes on and on in this interminable way, leaving Israel in a state of permanent siege, is quite simple. It is that the so-called civilised world, for all its empty pledges of support for Israel, actually leaves it to swing in the wind.

It persists in casting the conflict entirely falsely as a fight over land boundaries. It totally ignores the Judeophobic incitement to hatred and murder of Israelis with which the Palestinians indoctrinate their children; it totally ignores the Nazi-style (and yes , it is straight from the Nazi lexicon) deranged racist demonisation of the Jews as cosmically evil people responsible for all the ills in the world and controlling everything that moves in the west; it totally ignores the statements made even by so-called moderates such as Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinians  will never accept Israel as a Jewish state, thus committing them to permanent war against it; it totally ignores the fact that this is a religious war against the Jews (read the Hamas Charter); it totally ignores the gross inversion and misrepresentation of history by which the Arabs have concealed the fact that it is only the Jewish peoplefor whom Israel was ever their national homeland.

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