We westerners set the precedent when it comes to "collateral damage", now the Israelis are reeling out the same tired excuses
By Robert Fisk
By Robert Fisk
Enough is enough. Now we have even “National Infrastructure” Minister Uzi Landau – one of my favourite dogsbodies in the Israeli government – talking about “collateral damage” and the justification for bombing Hamas’s broadcasting station. It could be used for transmitting military instructions, he said.
But wasn’t that exactly what our own beloved Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara – now, I suppose, Lord Blair of the Holy Land – said after Nato bombed the Serb television station in Belgrade, when Nato, too, was blathering on about “collateral damage”?
We Westerners set the precedents in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq – trains, bridges, TV stations, wedding parties, blocks of civilian apartments, you name it – and now the Israelis can trot along behind and produce, whenever necessary, the same tired list of excuses we invented for Nato.
It’s odd, the way they all get away with it. Lord Blair, whose 92 Business Class trips to the Holy Land have produced a peace beyond all peace, is now talking about how it’s in everybody’s interest to have a truce – is his face getting a bit skeletal, or is that my imagination? – and a truce, I suppose, we shall have, well over 100 Palestinian and three Israeli dead too late. But is it all worth it? Was the murder by Israel of Hamas’s military leader Ahmed al-Jabari in fact not staged to provide an excuse to bomb all those new missiles that Hamas has acquired?
That wise old Israeli owl Uri Avneri – he is 89 years old – thinks this is just the trap that Hamas fell into by launching its preposterous “Gates of Hell” rocket attacks in revenge for Jabari’s death. The whole Operation “Pillar of Defence” was about destroying Hamas’s weapons – not about the largely ineffective missiles themselves.
Isn’t this why Israel gave its operation the name it did? For, despite our constant repetition of “Operation Pillar of Defence”, Israeli friends tell me that the correct Hebrew translation of this sick war is Operation Pillar of Cloud. Which makes a lot more sense. For this comes from the Book of Exodus (13:21) – “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way.”
I wonder, indeed, if the ridiculous William Hague realised he was doing God’s work when he gave his support to this bloodletting?
But this leads me to another little matter. One of the new Israeli lines on the war runs like this. Israel kills “terrorists” by the score along with a handful of “collateral damage” innocents – and the world rages against Israel. Yet isn’t the Syrian regime killing Syrian innocents by the thousand every month? Where are the mass protests, the venting of wrath at Bashar al-Assad? What hypocrisy! But of course, this is in itself a hypocrisy. We know the old “Hama rules” of Syria; no one asks us to support them. And comparing Israel’s brutality to that of the Assad regime is playing the old Lord Blair game: we weren’t perfect in Iraq – but we weren’t as bad as Saddam.
No. Israel claims to hold the same values as the supposedly moral West. It says that it is fighting “terrorism” in our name as well as its own. It says it is fighting like us. It is playing by our Western rules. We are all Israelis now; that is what we are meant to say. Hamas is our enemy, as well as Israel’s. And so – for this is the effect – we too must be contaminated by the war crimes of Israel’s pilots. That, I believe, is why we protest against Israel. Operation Pillar of Cloud must not be committed in our name.