It’s the moral equivalence which is so devastating. When Egypt this week proposed its ceasefire in Gaza, a BBC presenter asked whether both sides would now conclude that there was no point carrying on with the war. From the start, restraint has been urged on both sides — as if more than 1,100 rocket attacks on Israel in three weeks had the same weight as trying to stop this onslaught once and for all.
Israel has been bombing Gaza solely to stop Hamas and its associates from trying to kill Israeli citizens. But for many in the West, the driving necessity is not to stop Hamas but to stop Israel.
Moral equivalence morphs instantly into moral bankruptcy. People have looked at the casualty count — around 200 Palestinians killed at the time of writing, while only a handful of Israelis have been injured or killed — and decided that this proves Israel is a monstrous aggressor.
No concern at all for the Israelis who have only a few seconds to rush to a shelter when the sirens start to wail, car drivers flinging themselves to the ground at the side of the road. No concern for the elderly or dis-abled Israelis who can’t get to a shelter, the hospital patients left helpless while the rockets slam into the ground nearby.
Just imagine if the Scots, for example, had for years been firing at England volleys of rockets that were now putting 40-50 million people within range. Unimaginable? Of course it is. No country would tolerate it. But that’s the equivalent situation in which tiny Israel has found itself. Yet it is simultaneously having to fight another war: against a West determined to demonise it with accusations of deliberate atrocities, lack of restraint or an attempt to conquer more land.
To these people, whatever Israel does to defend itself is bad. Killing Gazans is bad, warning them to flee so they won’t be killed is bad, the Iron Dome missile defence system is bad because, while Palestinians are being killed, Israelis are not. Ah yes, that’s the real outrage, isn’t it? Not enough dead Jews. How dare they defend themselves so effectively!
And so the West does Hamas’s dirty work for it. Hamas cannot defeat Israel militarily. Its strategy is not just to kill Israelis and demoralise the population, but also to de-legitimise Israel so that the West, too, will work for its destruction. Hamas’s rockets have failed in the first two objectives — but the third is a runaway success.
In its hundreds of tunnels, Hamas has built an underground infrastructure of industrialised terror the length of Gaza. As a Fatah spokesman blurted out, it has situated its arsenal among civilians, underneath schools and hospitals and mosques, for the infernal purpose of using its population as human shields and human sacrifices.
It has urged Gazans to make themselves the target of Israeli air strikes. It has ordered them to ignore the Israeli warnings to evacuate, which are delivered by leaflet, phone, text and warning shots.
Doesn’t the Israel-atrocity brigade ever pause to wonder why Hamas has provided no air-raid shelters for its people, while Israel has constructed a national shelter system? Gazan civilians are dying in order to maximise their numbers killed in the war, so that Hamas can incite against Israel in both the Muslim world and the West.
And it openly games the PR system. Hamas social media guidelines instruct Gazans not to post pictures of missiles launched from ‘residential areas’ and always to add the term ‘innocent citizen’ to any casualty’s name. So the figures it issues for civilian as opposed to terrorist casualties, re-circulated by the UN, are worthless.
Israel is waging this war in accordance with international law, which states that when houses are used for military purposes they may become legitimate military targets. But as Ibrahim Kreisheh, the Palestinian delegate to the UN Human Rights Council, admitted in a remarkable TV interview, while Israel’s killing of civilians is considered in law merely a mistake, Hamas is committing war crimes by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians. Indeed, given its use of Gazan human shields, it is guilty of war crimes twice over.
All civilian casualties, however, are deeply to be regretted and to be avoided wherever possible. And so Gaza presents Israel with a hideous dilemma. Either it inescapably kills a lot of civilians as a by-product of destroying the infrastructure of mass murder, or it leaves that infrastructure at least partly in place to spare the civilians. Until now, it has chosen the latter.
It is also allowing food and fuel into Gaza; its offer of blood supplies was turned down by the Palestinian Authority. When a Hamas rocket downed a power line supplying electricity to 70,000 Gazans, workers from the Israel Electric Company braved Hamas rocket fire to restore power to Gaza — en-abling it to fire more rockets at Israel.
Yet it is Israel which is said to be ‘out of control’, guilty of indiscriminate slaughter and even — as ludicrous as it is obscene — ‘genocide’.
Those who demonise Israel in this way should realise just what they are supporting. Palestinian society, both through Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah (whose military wing has also been firing rockets from Gaza), brainwashes its children that glory lies in killing Jews. It routinely pumps out Judeophobic incitement straight from the Nazi playbook.
A few days ago, Yahya Rabah, a member of the Fatah Leadership Committee in Gaza, recycled the medieval blood libel when he wrote in Al-Hayat al-Jadida that the Jews offer sacrifices during Passover ‘made from the blood of our children’.
Every western supporter of the Palestinian war against Israel is also tacitly supporting such anti-Jewish derangement. This psychotic bigotry is the true driver of that war, as well as the Islamist war against the West. Yet astoundingly it is never, ever mentioned. The intractable problem of Gaza has been exacerbated by the meddling incomprehension of a western world that just doesn’t grasp how Islamist fanatics play by entirely different rules.
The West insists on moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians, as if the century-old conflict between the Arabs and the Jews were simply a squabble over the equitable division of land. It is not. It is a war to destroy the Jewish national homeland by people driven into frenzy by forces immune to reason.
Israeli parents are now steeling themselves for the nightmare of their sons in the Israel Defence Force being deployed in a Gazan land war to stop the rockets. Some of those boys will be killed. But it will be the Palestinian casualties, the Hamas war crime, which will be used once again to blame the Jews for their own destruction.
Melanie Phillips is a columnist for the Times.