Dear Mr Cameron,
As an expatriate British citizen now living in Israel, I feel the need to write to you to express my feelings about the on-going crisis between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Life in much of Israel is, in many ways, almost identical to life in Britain. People get up in the mornings, send their children to school, go to work, try to earn a living and give their families as comfortable a life as possible. Much like your government, the Israeli leadership comes in for regular criticism on a whole barrage of issues, from the cost of cottage cheese to the number of hours a week forced on newly qualified doctors and the general state of healthcare provision. All this sounds familiar to you, I’m sure, although cottage cheese is probably not as high on the staple-diet list in England and Wales but you get the idea.
We even complain about the cost of fuel.
We have a society that is finding its feet socially and becoming more open and accepting of people from all walks of life. All religions are respected, there is a freedom to choose any religion or none and there are representatives thereof in every single walk of life, including the higher echelons of political power. This too, I’m sure, sounds familiar to you.
Equal rights for all, the backbone to an open, accepting and tolerant society, is the mainstay of Israeli society too. Colour, creed, gender and sexual orientation all comfortably find their place within our society, as they do in yours.
We are also both at war.
Britain is fighting a war against a shadowy enemy whose main goal is the destruction of the British way of life. Israel is fighting a similar war.
Britain is fighting to keep terror away from its shores and its people - so is Israel.
Britain is fighting a war thousands of miles from its own borders - Israel is not.
It is the one ‘luxury’, if one can ever describe any aspect of war as a luxury, which Israel does not possess. Our war is on our very own border; our enemy sits within spitting distance of our towns, villages and civilians and directly threatens not only our way of life but our very lives.
Israel is battling not only for its identity, but for its very survival. It is fighting to allow its citizens the ‘luxury’ to live their lives without having to spend time thinking how far away they are from the nearest bomb shelter; not to have to worry about whether they will finish their important phone call before yet another air-raid siren shatters the air; not to have to keep the children at home for yet another day, as sending them to school is just too dangerous.
War is evil, at least in the eyes of any person who respects life more than he dreams of death. No right-thinking person wants to go to war. No normal society wants to go to war. Yet war has been thrust upon this tiny land time and time again over the past decades. Israel does not seek war – it seeks peace, however, just as in Britain, if war is forced upon us, then we must fight.
We must fight because our very existence depends upon it. You and your government are doing the same. The war in Afghanistan is a war which you claim is just, is defensive and is necessary to protect your way of life thousands of miles away.
Britain and her allies use aerial bombardment of enemy forces, inflicting casualties not only on the militants, or, if you prefer, terrorists, but also on civilians. According to United Nations figures, over 3,000 civilians have been killed by coalition forces in Afghanistan and this, in a country where the enemy hides and is engaged in mountainous, sparsely populated areas.
Israel, while fighting a similar enemy with similar ideology, is fighting in a densely populated area where civilian casualties are almost totally unavoidable. This is particularly true as it has been proven time and time again that Hamas and the other militant, or, again, if you prefer, terrorist organisations, specifically hide behind human shields in order to raise the tally of those killed and use them as ammunition in a propaganda war.
William Hague, your Foreign Secretary, issued a rare statement placing the blame for this latest escalation squarely on the shoulders of Hamas. That recognition is appreciated. It is proof that someone is hearing our voice for a change. However, as if to soften the blow to Hamas, an organisation that Britain, the United States and the European Union have all placed on a blacklist of terrorist groups, you have told Israel that not only do you not support a ground offensive, but that Israel in so doing would lose any worldwide support it currently, for want of a better word, enjoys.
What is it, Mr Cameron, that gives you the right to dictate military policy to Israel, to decide what is or isn’t acceptable to the rest of the world, whilst your troops are carrying out identical operations (and with far worse civilian casualties) in a land thousands of miles from your borders?
Why is it, Mr Cameron, that you feel that Israeli operations must come to a halt after days, whilst your troops are fighting a similar war for years?
How is it, Mr Cameron, that you feel you can allow for only a partial victory against terrorism in Gaza, whilst striving for complete success in Afghanistan?
It’s easy to call for Israel to sit down for talks with Hamas. It isn’t so easy to defend that position. There have never been calls for talks between Britain, the USA and Al Qaeda, neither have there been calls to show restraint towards them. There has never been condemnation from any part of the Western world for the assassination of Osama Bin-Laden. In all likelihood, there never will be such a call or condemnation. One cannot discuss peace arrangements with a foe whose entire dogma is based around the very destruction of one’s way of life or of life itself.
Mr Cameron, I can guarantee that Israelis do not want a ground offensive. We would rather know that there is no need to risk the lives of our soldiers as well as the lives of the innocent civilian population in Gaza but we have to end the risk that the terrorists pose to our very own people. If it can be done by agreement, then so be it. However, if a ground offensive is what is required to destroy that threat, then I’m afraid that not only will it go ahead but it will do so with the blessing (and no small amount of fear) of the vast majority of Israel’s population. It will happen despite your hypocritical threats of a loss of world support; support for following a course of action identical to the one in which you are yourself equally as guilty.