John Prescott: Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is a war crime – and it must end

August 23, 2014 11:06 am 0 comments Views: 806

The former Deputy Prime Minister says the reaction to Hamas’ rockets is brutally disproportionate and grossly indiscriminate

 

Imagine a country claiming the lives of nearly three times as many as were lost in the MH17 plane tragedy in less than three weeks.

A nation which blasted a hospital, shelled and killed children from a gunboat as they played football on the beach and was responsible for 1,000 deaths, at least 165 of them children, in just two weeks.

Surely it would be branded a pariah state, condemned by the United Nations, the US and the UK. The calls for regime change would be ­deafening.

But these howls of protest are muted. The condemnation softened.

For this is Israel.

Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trots out the same excuses. Hamas “militants” in Gaza fired their rockets first. Israel has a right to defend itself. It needs to protect its citizens.

And he’s right on all three counts – but as always with Israel this is not the full story. The military action supposedly targeting Hamas is so brutally disproportionate and so grossly indiscriminate that it makes it impossible not to view Israel’s actions as war crimes.

 

Those who live in Gaza are kept like prisoners behind walls and fences, unable to escape the bombings, and an Israeli economic blockade has forced Palestinians into poverty.

Israel’s Iron Dome defence system easily intercepts missiles launched from Gaza. Three Israeli citizens have died from these ­primitive rockets, with 32 soldiers killed fighting Hamas.

Compare that to the toll in Gaza. Of the 1,000-plus to die, more than 80 per cent were ­civilians, mostly women and children.

But who is to say some of the other 20 per cent weren’t ­innocent too? Israel brands them terrorists but it is acting as judge, jury and ­executioner in the ­concentration camp that is Gaza.

And Israel flouts international law by continuing to build illegal Jewish settlements. Why? Because it knows it can get away with it.

What happened to the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis is appalling. But you would think those atrocities would give Israelis a unique sense of perspective and empathy with the victims of a ghetto.

Netanyahu says the Israeli Defense Forces phone Gaza civilians to warn them to move out when missile attacks are expected. They even send smaller missiles to “roof knock” ahead of the big bomb that’s to follow.

But where can these people escape to? They’re hemmed in to a densely populated strip of land by the sea with no means of escape. When Israel is blasting hospitals and even UN schools acting as ­shelters, where exactly is it safe to flee to?

Hamas is wrong to continue its rocket attacks and must ­recognise ­Israel’s right to exist. But as Channel 4’s Jon Snow said this week: “If you strangle a people, deny them supply for years, extreme reaction is inevitable.”

Israel’s attacks will not solve this dispute. They will just create another ­generation of hate-filled Palestinians determined to fight against the ­injustice of being occupied.

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