As the bombs continue to fall, and the rockets continue to fly the people of Shropshire have joined in a call for peace.
There is much muddle and confusion around the whole problem of the Middle East in general and this current crisis in particular. Much of this confusion is understandable and some, I fear, may be deliberately promoted.
The demonstration in Shrewsbury Square today has been described variously as protesting against Palestine, against Israel, or against what is happening in Palestine. Let us be clear that this was a Peace Vigil. This was a gathering of people from a wide range of backgrounds. There were Christians from many different churches, people of other faiths and groups and individuals of no particular faith. They expressed their concern in dignified silence, and I was glad to be with them.
The Foreign Secretary has been reluctant to describe the Israeli bombing of Gaza as disproportionate. Ed Davey for the Liberal Democrats has no such reluctance.
Those who love peace, and value life can have little difficulty in saying that Hamas is wrong to have killed 4 Israelis. Equally the Israeli governement is wrong to have killed over 400 Palestinians in Gaza. I would say that Hamas are wrong to have said that they wish to destroy the state of Israel, and I would say that Israel is wrong to have blockaded Gaza causing unemployment of nearly 50%, shortages of food, and stopping the work of the UN Development Programme.
Clearly Israel has inflicted far more damage on Gaza, than Hamas has on Israel, but that can be no surprise. Israel is rich and powerful. Gaza is poor (see footnote1) and the densly populated (see footnote 2). On average an Israeli has 48 times the income and over 12 times the available land compared with someone living in Gaza. We need to remember that with power comes responsibility.
However, it is easy and unhelpful to try to point the finger of blame. Both sides can claim that the other started it. This conjures up the undignified picture of two children fighting in a playground; each protests to the schoolteacher that the other started it.
As Jonathan Freedland writing today in the Guardian says “perhaps a more useful exercise – especially for those who long for an eventual peace with both sides living side by side – is not to ask whether the current action is legitimate, but whether it is wise.”
I would conclude that continuing the bombing is unlikely to reduce the support for Hamas, or to bring peace.
I would say also that there is a more important question than to ask who started it. The question that I would ask is “Who will have the courage to stop it?”
1 Gaza 600$ GDP per capita, Israel 28,800$ per capita
2 Gaza 4,118/Km, Israel 325/Km2