Saturday, 24 January 2009

The ceasefire in Gaza

How quickly the news agenda moves on: Gaza already gone from the headlines and Zimbabwe (where things continue to worsen) all but forgotten.

Many supporters of the Israeli actions complain that those who so vociferously condemn Israel's recent conduct are reluctant to criticise Hamas whose firing of rockets into Israel is what sparked the crisis. Not me, I regard Hamas as an exceptionally unpleasant organisation who disregard all the basic values of human existence when it suits them to do so. But I do have higher expectations of Israel, a country which shares the democratic and broader ideals which mark the post-enlightenment West. However difficult their position, resorting to actions which indiscriminately harm Palestinian civilians simply means they sink into the same moral cesspit already occupied by far too many in the Islamic world.

Israel has the greater problem in that she is a small country surround by neighbours harbouring various degrees of hostility. Should the situation move to all-out war, any victory she achieved would be worth little since it would just harden attitudes among the other Arab nations. While her immediate neighbours may not yet possess nuclear weapons Pakistan certainly does, along with a volatile political landscape and an Islamic population not totally averse to terrorist action.

There is a depressing spiral of blame where each side in the current dispute claim the other is the instigator. It serves no purpose, sooner or later the two sides have to find a solution acceptable to both and that can only be achieved by diplomacy not by bombs.

The West should have been playing a far more prominent role in finding a settlement than it is but its hands are too tied by its dependence on oil sourced from countries with which it would otherwise have no truck politically. Britain and the US have the additional problem of severely tarnished reputations post-Iraq.

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