It’s almost 30 years since an IRA no-warning bomb exploded in the Grand Hotel, Brighton, killing five people. Its primary target, British PM, Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, escaped serious injury.
Thatcher defiantly responded by saying that “all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail”. Her composure in the immediate aftermath of the blast won admiration even from among her critics. Just over a year after the attack, Mrs Thatcher and Dr Garret FitzGerald met in Hillsborough Castle in November 1985 to sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Imagine for a moment that the British government had instead chosen to respond to this brazen terrorist attack in the style of the Israeli cabinet under prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. First off, air raids batter Dublin city. Large areas are leafleted, telling terrified citizens to flee. As they abandon their homes, some are blown to pieces
in the streets. Others, unable or unwilling to leave, die under the rubble of their houses.
The brutality generates a reaction. More bombs explode across British cities, killing civilians. An army barracks is also targeted, while an effort to drive a lorry bomb to the House of Commons is foiled. This time, a massive wave of British armour sweeps over the border. Dundalk, then Drogheda, are pounded by 155mm mobile artillery pieces, while jets scream across the skies. Tens of thousands of refugees clog up the roads as they flee south.
The RAF cripples Ireland’s airports while the Royal Navy imposes a blockade on our ports. Goods can only enter or leave the country with direct British oversight. Food piles up and rots at the ports while officials refuse to allow it to be shipped. Imports are reduced to a trickle.
A police station in Manchester is blown up. The British retaliate to this ‘vicious act of terror’ by bombing Dublin’s main water treatment facilities. Next, they target power stations, permanently disabling Moneypoint in one air raid; the Aghada and Tarbert stations are next to be destroyed. The Whitegate oil refinery in East Cork is also bombed. Most of Ireland is in darkness, with no clean running water and a growing health crisis as a result of untreated sewage.
International observers are shocked when British ground forces begin shelling UN-run schools and hospitals, where thousands had crowded for shelter as the attacks intensified. A British army spokesman explained how their military were the most moral in the world, and went to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties. Who knows, the attacks on hospitals and schools may have been IRA mortars that mis-fired, he explains.
British army howitzers pound Dublin’s Beaumont hospital, killing 18 and wounding 60, mostly patients and medical staff. “The civilian deaths, if they were as a result of our measured response, are regrettable, but the IRA terrorists bear the full responsibility for operating near a hospital”, the British army spokesman adds.
The above vignette may seem fanciful, but it’s one way to try to bring home the savagery of the ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign waged by the world’s fifth most powerful army against a defenceless enclave.
Rather than cowering in shame for his army’s criminal rampage into Gaza, Israel’s prime minister instead took the time to ridicule the “telegenically dead” Palestinian babies and children being piled up just to try to make his army look bad.
And it certainly does look bad, and not just for the Israeli army. Former US president Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson jointly penned a devastating critique of the latest Israeli incursion in early August. What is not widely reported is that Israel’s brutal assault was both tactical and entirely premeditated.
“This tragedy results from the deliberate obstruction of a promising move towards peace, when a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinian factions was announced in April”, wrote Carter and Robinson. Hamas had in fact made a huge concession, agreeing to open Gaza to joint control under a consensus government with no Hamas involvement.
The likelihood of reconciliation among the Palestinian factions leading to a peaceful framework for resolving conflict in the region with international approval and oversight was clearly a step too far for Israel, which prefers its own ‘open prison’ policy, where it keeps a semi-starved, humiliated and terrorised population on the edge of despair, presumably in the hope that they will eventually just beg to be deported from their own homeland.
“The new (Palestinian) government also pledged to adopt the three basic principles demanded by members of the International Quartet (UN, US, Europe, Russia): non-violence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to past agreements. Tragically, Israel rejected this opportunity for peace and has until now succeeded in preventing the new government’s deployment in Gaza”, they wrote.
While Israel’s latest attack on Gaza is entirely illegal under international law, its conduct went even further this time:
“There is no humane or legal justification for how the Israeli Defence (sic) Force is conducting this war, pulverising with bombs, missiles and artillery large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools and hospitals, displacing families and killing Palestinian non-combatants.
Much of Gaza has lost its access to water and electricity completely. This is a humanitarian catastrophe. There is never an excuse for deliberate attacks on civilians in conflict. These are war crimes”, wrote Carter and Robinson, who also called for international judicial proceedings “to investigate and end these violations of international law”.
The appropriate channel for such an investigation should be the International Criminal Court (ICC) but neither Israel nor its sponsor-in-chief, the United States, accepts the jurisdiction of the ICC, conveniently keeping their personnel beyond the reach of the law.
Within Israel, the mood is increasingly hawkish, with some 90% of Jewish Israelis fully supporting the attack on Gaza, and just 4% feeling the slaughter indicated the IDF used “excessive firepower”. A popular view in Israel is that since the people of Gaza voted Hamas into power, the entire population is somehow culpable and therefore subject to the war crime known as ‘collective punishment’.
In a terrifying escalation, some politicians are now openly debating the ethnic cleansing of the entire population of Gaza. Martin Sherman of the Israel Institute of Strategic Studies published the following in the Jerusalem Post on July 31st: “To prevent an even more brutal and extreme successor from taking over, Gaza must be dismantled and the non-belligerent population relocated”. The ICC regards “incitement to genocide” as a crime against humanity.
The delusional Sherman continued: “As counter-intuitive as it might sound, the policy of restraint fuels orgies of delegitimisation and demonisation of Israel across the world”. To his mind, the slaughter of 1,800 people, wounding of 10,000 more, the levelling of entire neighbourhoods, the repeated bombing of hospitals and UN-run schools, the destruction of vital civil infrastructure such as water, power and sewage treatment plants and the killing of 400 children all result from a “policy of restraint”.
Knesset member Ayelet Shaked took this ethnic hatred to its logical conclusion when demanding the deliberate slaughter of Palestinian mothers and their “little snakes”. She explained: “They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists”.
Meanwhile, back in Ireland, our Foreign Minister is a proud member of a group known as the ‘Oireachtas Friends of Israel’, along with minister Leo Varadkar, former minister Alan Shatter and Labour’s Joanna Tuffy. Catholic columnist David Quinn, reflecting on the deaths of some 1,900 Gazans (85% civilians, including 400 dead children) for the loss of around 65 Israeli troops and three civilians, explains: “Israel has the right to defend itself against brutal foes that are hell-bent on destruction”.
Ireland has to date pledged only 1500,000 to help rebuild Gaza ahead of the next Israeli blitz.
A far more useful support anyway might be to offer the Palestinians some of the US-made Javelin anti-tank missile systems that the Irish military, at enormous expense, purchased. These compact weapons can destroy Israeli Merkava main battle tanks at a range of up to 2.5km, and would be ideal as a purely defensive weapon – and deterrent – against any future armoured assault on Gaza. When violence no longer pays as state policy, Israel may be forced to resort to politics. •
John Gibbons is online @think_or_swim