THE BLOG

Gaza Shelling Has To Stop

25/07/2014 12:28 BST | Updated 24/09/2014 10:59 BST

Apart from noting the distinctly OTT behaviour of some pundits, and the questionable behaviour of others, I had not thus far ventured into discussing the unrest in Gaza. My mind was forcibly changed yesterday afternoon when a UN school being used as a shelter by hundreds of already displaced Palestinians was shelled, with the deaths of at least fifteen people.

As I have told on more than one previous occasion, I've visited Israel twice - and, on both occasions, flown El Al, three hour check-ins, double security grilling, check-in areas with armed guards, and all the rest. Even the Cypriots were unhappy at letting me in after that. And it's a measure of the state of discourse regarding anything Israel-related that I have to keep re-stating that.

I have no problem with Israel's right to exist, and in a state of peace. However, and here there is a significantly sized however, I also have no problem with the Palestinians having a right to also exist in a state of peace. Both these objectives need not be incompatible with one another. And save me anything even going near the puerile "they threw something first". I don't want to know.

Gaza is home to approximately 1.8 million inhabitants. Right now, none of them can leave the area. So if they are fleeing from military action, their scope for travel is limited to other parts of Gaza. And the Gaza strip has that name for a reason: it may be 41km (25.5 miles) long, but at its narrowest point is less than 6km (well under 4 miles) wide. And Israel is pushing them all at least 3km from their border.

More than 800 Palestinians have died in the recent unrest, of whom it is estimated that at least 77% are civilians - well over 600 people. The idea that high-explosive munitions can be loosed off in such a crowded area without what dispassionate military observers call collateral damage is ridiculous. And no-one should be impressed with the antics of the Israeli Prime Minister.

Yes, hello Bibi, I do indeed mean you. Just pack in trotting out the "It's Hamas' fault" when more Palestinians get killed. Whose weaponry is doing the killing? Who's giving the orders? Who pulls the trigger, presses the firing button? That would be your commanders, and your military. You don't pretend that anyone attacks a steel toecap with their groin. So don't blame your decisions on your targets.

It takes very little effort to stop the killing. You just stop firing and withdraw from Gaza. So some rockets might be loosed off? They'll stop. And in any case, you've got that Iron Dome gizmo to shoot them down. Nobody disputes Israel's right to self defence. But this is beyond ridiculous. Start behaving like grownups - and that means treating those in Gaza as you would expect to be treated yourselves.

Israel is making its friends ashamed to stand alongside it. Yes, it's that bad.