A moral distinction in the Gaza conflict

21 November 2012

Hamas have claimed responsibility for a bus-bombing in Tel Aviv earlier today. It is worth watching this video, which went out a few hours ago on Hamas’s ‘Al-Aqsa’ TV.  Over the presenter’s response are shown the first photographs of wounded Israelis being carried from the scene of the bus-bombing.

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The presenter is saying:

‘These are the scenes of the casualties. God willing, we will soon see black body bags. I pray to Allah the exalted that we see body bags in a short while. These are scenes of the Zionist casualties so far.’

Right now in these moments, the mosques in the Gaza Strip – their minarets are loudly sounding cries of “Allahu Akbar” and cries of joy, and the residents of the Gaza Strip are bowing down to Allah for this offering. The morale of the Gaza residents is in the sky right now, and is rising just as the rockets of the Resistance.’

I know a lot of people have trouble making any moral distinctions in this conflict. Can anybody find an Israeli television channel, let alone a government-run one, in which the presenter prays for the deaths of innocent civilians in Gaza?

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  • Safdar Shah

    “A moral distinction in the Gaza conflict”
    Here’s the moral distinction. Israel is killing for more land the Palestinians are trying to defend what little they have left. Israel kills thousands of civilians Palestinians kill a few.

  • Bob

    With people like Gilad Sharon around, Israel looks as if it will be self-sufficient in the kind of approach that you rightly attack for some time. His assertion that Israel should deal with Gaza as the Americans did Hiroshima or Nagasaki takes some beating. And he’s not alone.

    The moral argument here involves a heavily-armed state that ignores UN resolutions and international law, builds illegal settlements in order to cement its hold on illegally-held land, builds a wall that separates Palestinian farmers from their fields, regards shelling of a densely built up area from the sea as precision targeting, collectively punishes the residents of Gaza by a blockade and considers that a death rate of somewhere between 30 and 100 Palestinian civilians to each dead Israeli civilian is justifiable. I abhor war and violence, but I struggle to understand how, in those circumstances, the Palestinians can reasonably be expected to remain passive. That is not (emphatically) to condone their rocket attacks, merely to understand them.

    And whilst there are no doubt racist or bigoted Palestinians and Israelis, it is necessary to dispel the nonsense that anyone who criticises Israel is anti-semitic or that the problem is too complex for outsiders to understand. There are plenty of people of the Jewish faith who are appalled by the Israeli government’s approach – for example, just Google Jews for Justice for Palestinians. There are many people like me who would defend to the death Israel’s right to exist within agreed boundaries but who are utterly appalled by the way in which a nation born out of the most desperate circumstances seems to want to visit permanent tragedy on its neighbours.

    The solution lies in a just land settlement, producing viable and secure states of Israel and Palestine and – vitally – the insertion of a long-term UN peacekeeping force. That would bring huge benefits to Israel and to the US. It would remove one of the central causes of conflict in the Middle East.

    I wish I could believe that Israel is sincere in pursuing peace. Sadly, all the evidence points to their determination to frustrate peace processes, even when it embarrasses their US sponsors and undermines the superb work that wonderful people like Daniel Barenboim have done in trying to build bridges. Instead, it looks all too often , as though they’d prefer to rely on US political and military support to divide and humiliate the Palestinians. Ultimately, I rather suspect that the west may end up having to save Israel from itself.

    • Teddy123Bear

      You wouldn’t know a ‘moral argument’ if it hit you in the face, judging by the view you express above. Picking and choosing when to apply ‘morality’ but making sure it’s never in Israel’s favour when you do.

      I’ll paste something I wrote a few days ago that seems pertinent to what you wrote here.

      Let’s see – the UN granted the Jews their own land, and the Arabs of
      the region their own. Unlike when countries like the UK just used
      military force to dominate another country and take over. But the Arabs
      didn’t agree to it, so were unable to claim a specific territory
      according to the UN. Instead they tried to push all the Jews into the
      sea, but they lost, losing even more territory in the process.

      However, whenever an Arab State made a genuine peace treaty with
      Israel they were given land back. To this day, the Palestinians still
      maintain that they will not live side by side with a Jewish state, and
      do their best eradicate it. Since the Western media is so keen to
      appease the militant Islamic forces, they go along with the pretence
      that it is because of settlements, or any excuse really that the media
      will readily point without thinking too hard about it, but will succeed
      in making Israel the villain.

      A good example is the fence/wall that Israel had to build to stop
      terrorists blowing them up, was used as ‘imprisoning poor Palestinians’
      without considering the causes for it. Seem to recall Arafat being
      offered over 90% of their original UN grant as a start to peace
      negotiations, but instead Arafat elected to launch an intifada, thus
      making sure there would be plenty of ‘poor Palestinians.

      As for Gaza, Israel pulled out every Jew, some who had been living
      there for hundreds of years, to give the Palestinians their own
      territory to begin to build their future. Even left them operating
      greenhouses to begin new businesses of their own.

      Instead of launching a business, they used the area to launch mortars
      and rockets back into Israel, just to prove the quote by Abba Eban –
      ‘The Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an

    • T. Botham

      Ah! another moral middle-grounder who sees it all so clearly. What do you propose the “west” will end up doing to save Israel from itself? What does this absurd statement mean? Israel will either defend itself and survive as a Jewish state, or it will not. The best it can hope for with a Hamastan is a long-term truce, but at what cost? Allowing free land, air and sea access to arms? The same applies to Fatahland – only a blockade is more difficult. Why do you – knowing what is best for Israel – not take the Palestinian nationalists at their word concerning their long term goals? Why do you think they lie about that, yet are sincere about the peace process? Or if you believe they tell the truth about the end of the Jewish State, why do you accuse the Israelis of bad faith in negotiating their own death by stages? By some outrageous irony, the Palestinian case for sovereignty lies in their continued terrorist attacks (the “resistance”). The sincerity with which they seek to destroy and delegitimize Israel is never doubted and legitimizes their cause. Israel, on the other hand, for whom peace means recognition and a secure existence as a Jewish State, is scolded for bad faith in wanting peace because the Palestinian nationalists have refused to accept a state of their own which must also accept Israel. (Hence Palestinian attempts at unilateral declarations, UN recognition of “observer status” etc.)

      Don’t forget that Israel has given land for peace with Egypt. But that was after a resounding military victory. Since the rehabilitation and installation of sordid Marxist and Islamic mobsters (all to show good faith) several Israeli governments have been prepared to call the bluff – Barak with Arafat, Olmert with Abass, Netanyahu’s insistence on explicit recognition of a Jewish state, and most telling of all, Sharon’s unilateral exit from Gaza (as an implied exchange for Judea). The Arabs merely refuse the deal – on some pretext – the land deal isn’t good enough, the presence of Jews makes the land unviable, the Arab refugees must be allowed back – but pocket the concessions, and wait for the world to pressure Israel back to the table to begin negotiations again with the concessions as a starting point. What is shocking is how all Israeli governments accept this ratchet. Netanyahu has done all he can to stop this irreparable erosion of Israel’s negotiating strength: he has not gone back to the table when Abbas has demanded ceasing all settlements as a precondition for more talks, which will only erode Israel’s position further. He has accepted the necessity for managing a continual war – until its enemies can be rooted out – but that is becoming increasingly more difficult as the asymmetrical war is refereed by the world which thinks it knows what is best for Israel and wants to save her from herself. The only meaning this can have, is that Israel gives up the idea of being a Jewish state. Thanks, Bob.

    • Augustus

      Before Israel re-conquered the West Bank it had belonged to Jordan since 1948. It didn’t ‘belong’ to the Arabs who had lived in pre-Israel Palestine at all. You talk about dividing and humiliating the Palestinians. Well, the person who did that the most was Arafat. He and the PLO started a civil war in 1968/69 and tried to get rid of King Hussein while terrorizing the country. Hussein tried many times to come to an agreement with Arafat, who refused repeatedly. He was even offered the premiership. So why did he refuse? Because he knew that by accepting he would have to stop his terrorist activities against Israel, and that was too high a price to pay. The ‘Palestinians’ whom you feel so sorry for have been led up the garden path even since about 720,000 of them were driven out of Israel during its battle for survival in 1948 when the armies of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq all attacked it to try and kill it at birth. As with the Holocaust: Never, ever, again!

  • Tamz
  • Teddy123Bear

    I think Golda Meir encapsulated this theme best with 2 phrases she used:
    1. ‘There will never be peace until the Palestinians love their children more than they hate ours’.
    2. ‘We may forgive you for killing our children, but it will be more difficult to forgive you for making us kill yours’.

    • Daniel Maris

      That’s one thing I’ve noticed this time round – the mass of Israelis appear to have moved into phase two. They realise they are fighting for survival and the long term odds are not good. Hence the popular wish to pursue a ground invasion. But what use is such an invasion if you then withdraw and Iran, Egypt and Qatar help you rebuild in a year or two. One fears Israelis are being drawn into the logic of Islam.

      • Teddy123Bear

        The ‘drawn into the logic of Islam’ element is via the western nations, instead of confronting this ‘logic’, appease it. They are simply postponing the inevitable, and by doing so will mean the eventual casualties, cost, and suffering will be a lot greater than if they would act now. So Israel is doing its best to ‘go along’ with the West, fully aware that this is really no solution – between a rock and a hard place.

  • Daniel Maris

    Well said Mr Murray. That pretty much sums it up. For all Israel’s faults (and there are many) – apart from a very few nuts among its people – its media doesn’t indulge in this sort of genocidal, blood-craving warrior delight. In Hamasland and Egypt this sort of thing is quite mainstream.

    • Marcus

      Israel`s media may not indulge in genocidal blood letting but its army does. If I was a Palestinian I know which policy I’d prefer Israel to follow.

  • alex

    Except, of course, Palestine isn’t even a Sovereign State and if it were, Hamas would not be its Government. How about this from the Israeli DEPUTY PM (ffs): “We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water.”

  • DavidDP

    An Israeli minister called for Gaza to be bombed back to the Middle Ages. That’s not exactly edifying behaviour.

    • AY

      when the next war breaks – he will call for gaza to be bombed even to the cave age!
      Britain should demand his extradition, and prosecute this warmongering Zionist for hate speech.

      • DavidDP

        Don’t be an idiot.

    • Kevin

      Many a true word is spoken in anger?

      Does this imply that Gazan Arabs are currently living in modern Western conditions, contrary to anti-Israel propaganda?

    • Ilana Walsh

      I agree. Unfortunately, Israel really is a democracy and there are some people here who think like that (often those who originated in Arab countries and therefore believe they understand the Arab mentality better than those from western countries) and vote for people who reflect their views. Incidentally, I find it interesting that those who excuse Palestinian hatred of Israel as understandable due to what they have suffered, would never “understand” Israeli hatred of Palestinians in the same way.
      Anyway, Mr. Murray’s question specifically relates to a state broadcasting company. Israel’s TV channels will report what any politican says (i.e. not censor them), but there is absolutely nothing equivalent to this cheerleading for deaths. On the contrary, official spokesmen repeat until they are blue in the face that Israel regrets civilian deaths but feels it has no choice. None so deaf as those who will not hear…

      • DavidDP

        While the question specifically relates to state broadcasting, the tenor of the issue is one where leading figures on either side are acting in rather dodgy ways, if I can put it euphemistically. Absolutely Israel media doesn’t tend to do this, but it’s not really much comfort when a minister does something in the same ballpark.
        If he wanted to mak a point about morals, he’d be better off taking the approach you do at the end, which is to note the absence of any regret from Hamas et al about civilian deaths compared to regrets continually pumped out by Israel(although one coudl say talk is cheap…).

        • Ilana Walsh

          I think you are slightly missing the point. What the Israeli minister said was reprehensible, but I don’t think he said it in any spirit of glee, perhaps anger, perhaps misguided desire for revenge. And why should one person’s remarks outweight those made by dozens of others?
          Another point, yes, talk is cheap, but it does affect how people think – and act. If Gazans are fed a continual media diet of how terrible Israelis are and how wonderful it is when they get killed, this will surely have an effect. Israelis are fed a continual diet of many differing views, but I don’t think you will find anyone (apart from the usual fanatics) expressing joy at Palestinian deaths,

          • Safdar Shah

            “What the Israeli minister said was reprehensible, but I don’t think he said it in any spirit of glee”
            There will only be glee amongst the Palestinians when the Israeli occupation ends and they get a chance to live with the dignity and independence that we all take for granted.

        • Hugh

          It might be in the same ball park, but gung-ho militant rhetoric in the face of rocket attacks is plainly not the same as explicitly celebrating particular civilian casualties.

    • daz

      did they do it then?

  • Laurence

    Douglas, To this you might also add the motorcycling thugs who shot and then dragged the bodies of those whom they had arbitrarily deemed ‘spies’ through the streets of Gaza. I doubt very much whether that incident will make the BBC news or the Op-Ed pages of a newspaper whose title begins with ‘G’.

  • Augustus

    The notion that there ever can or will be something called a ‘demilitarized
    Palestinian state’ is complete nonsense. The Gaza experience has shown that if given a state (or in the case of the
    Hamas, when they grab a state), the Palestinians inevitably develop their own
    foreign and defense relationships and arm their state to the teeth. All
    international guarantees and so-called ‘security arrangements’ are worthless. Nobody has stopped Gaza from becoming a client state of Iran and part of the
    Iranian army. Nobody has prevented Hamas from developing strategic partnerships
    with the radical Islamic governments of Egypt and Turkey. Another myth is the inane intellectual argument that religiously extreme, anti-Semitic
    radicals (like Hamas) can be co-opted into peace (or at least long-term
    diplomatic cooperation) by giving them power. This argument posits that the
    holding of sovereign power and the assumption of day-to-day responsibility for
    the welfare of a people willy-nilly moderates a radical movement. That Western
    recognition and cooperation, Israeli respect, economic aid, open borders and
    peace-minded Western educational efforts will massage the jihadists into
    becoming pragmatists. No way. The evidence shows that jihadists like Hamas are willing to sacrifice all of the above on the altar of
    permanent holy war against Israel. Only the naive can continue to make the
    co-option argument. Only appeasement-minded diplomats would dare try to impress this notion yet again upon Israel. And isn’t it wonderful for some to think that Israelis are exhausted and have no strength for their continued national
    struggle. Not true. Their national resilience and spirits are strong. Because most Israelis understand and accept that they must still fight for their sovereignty and security, and they are determined to do so.

  • Mack

    Thank you, Mr. Murray, for standing against the vile anti-Semitism that disgraces discourse in the UK and here in the USA.

  • EV

    Thank you for this human and honest observation

  • victor67

    Murray is not a serious journalist. He is just a cheerleader for the IDF. Even Bright and Massie offer more nuanced commentries on the conflict while still being pro Israel.

    • John Welsh

      Al ad-hominem criticism. Which part of the article do you disagree with?

      Incidently, Hamas has just broken the ceasefire barely an hour after 9pm.

      • victor67

        The part where he didn’t condemn the revenge strikes by Israel. How does that square with moral distinction. My point is that Murray love affair with Israel blinds him to their bloody excesses.

        • Victor is an Ignorant Fool

          Victor67 learn your history. Every “Middle Eastern State” is an “occupation.” Most were “created” in the 20th century after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. There was no “Palestinian cause” under Jordanian rule (most of the era pre-1967). Arabs rejected ’48 partition – which was done legally in the UN – because they thought they’d wipe out Israel at the get-go. The “occupation” excuse is a “justification” for villifying Israel and is a clever guise for anti-Semitism. If you don’t know that that is true, you are a blind fool. In any other circumstance in the world, the Arabs would have no excuse but to “assimilate to a culture” and make their own way without blaming their neighboring country for all that ails their own pathetic existence. If the Arabs cared about making a life for their citizens in Gaza, I guarantee Israel would be championing and supporting the effort. The fact that they prefer to shoot rockets and send suicide bombers into Israel shows how pathetic they are. They are in the Middle Ages. Time to wake up and take care of your own. Israel would not stand in their way (except by virtue of the existence of Israel – which should not be a factor in Palestinian initiative and progress). You are a sad uninformed case of liberal bias. Good luck to you.

    • Baron

      victor67, you tosser, it ain’t about a journalist, any journalist, it’s about what the journalists say, why don’t you address the rejoicing of the followers of Allah over the dying Jews, ha?

      You wouldn’t know morality if it kicked you in the head shouting ‘I’m morality’.

      • victor67

        Today 26 civillians died in Gaza one 18 year old girl and another 80 year old man and his grandson. People aren’t born to hate . It happens for a reason. Its not anti-semitism its the occupation stupid.
        The essence of the conflict is the monumental injustice visited on the Palestinians by the creation of Israel. You and all the other apologists for Israel continue to deny this. Mandela new that peace can only come when the wrongs on both sides are ackowledged rather than claim to entrechnched victimhood.
        History and justice is on the Palestinians side. As Arafat said they are not the red indians and they are not going away.

        • Kirk

          Pallywood propaganda.

        • Goldenboy

          Another numpty. If you take that view then:

          1. If you want to go back in time, then Israel was created long before Islam even existed. I think you will find that the Jewish people were displaced long before the Palestinians.
          2. The Palestinians voted for Hamas in elections. They knew what they were voting for. Read Hamas’ charter.
          3. How do you know 26 civilians were killed today. For all we know they were harbouring terrorists. Be careful what you read and believe in a propaganda war.

          • Roger the Dodger

            I think many commentators would shut up if they read Hamas’ (an acronym of Islamic Resistance Movement) own constitution. Here’s Article 13, for example:

            “From time to time a clamoring is voiced, to hold an International Conference in search for a solution to the problem. There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.”

            Well, that’s peace talks out the window, then…

            • Roger the Dodger

              And further to that, if you don’t understand and accept what Article 1 means, reading the rest is a waste of time:

              “The Islamic Resistance Movement draws its guidelines from Islam; derives from it its thinking, interpretations and views about existence, life and humanity; refers back to it for its conduct; and is inspired by it in whatever step it takes.”

              This is more or less article one of every single charter of every single Islamic organisation on the planet from Hamas, to the OIC, to national governments, the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Muslim Council of Britain. Everything begins and ends with what it says in Islamic doctrine. The doctrine is their operations manual. The Hudna is straight out of Islamic doctrine, as practiced by Big Mo himself. The point is not to ‘talk’ or ‘agree’, the point is the Muslims get to rearm, regroup, and reorganise, then break the ceasefire at the point of their choosing when they feel strong. And that’s exactly what will happen here.

        • anotherjoeblogs

          ” people aren’t born to hate. it happens for a reason ” true but if kids, instead of reading the words on a packet of cornflakes in the morning, are fed memes of hatred constantly like ‘ kill the jew ‘ and sing songs about pushing the jews into the sea instead of singing ‘ all things bright and beautiful ‘ you can expect the memes of hatred to take root.

        • T. Botham

          The occupation is to anti-Zionism what the Protocols were to anti-semitism – a pretext to get Jews, individually and as a collective.
          There was no injustice visited upon the Arabs of the Mandate. They visited war upon the Jews. They have turned their loss in war into entrenched victimhood. They continue to lose in war, holding up aged and young corpses as trophies of their victimhood.
          The Indians got over their loss of dwellings forced by Partition. No monumental injustice there?

          Did Arafat think that the “red indians” went away? Not an historian. A psychopath.

        • Daz

          Yes, and that reason is usually Islam in this case!

  • Human

    This is disgraceful. Similarly is the call for a new Hiroshima or Nagasaki on Gaza (Gilad Sharon before the bus bombing). Can you find anyone who calls for mass genocide?

    We need to call out on both sides. We also need to realise why this conflict started – it did not start with the rocket attacks, but went before that. Why were rockets being sent?

    • Humaner

      Your reading is disgraceful – hysterical. Sharon is not calling for a new Hiroshima. He pointed out that the Americans bombed a second time to bring the enemy to surrender. Sharon says “flatten” whole neighborhoods – not with atomic weapons – to get Hamas out. He is not calling for mass genocide. Hamas is – and would use an atom bomb if it had it. It is Hamas – like the Japanese in WW2 – who hold life cheap.

      The conflict started with the Arab states waging a war of annihilation on Israel.

  • Arnaud

    But Douglas, isn’t it oh so fashionable in many circles to celebrate “Israelis” in body bags? I know you don’t like us naming names, but isn’t a popular British news channel and a financially stapped but still an extremist lefty newspaper not a million miles from here already blaming the “Israelis” for their own massacre? We live in a world where evil rules. Terrorism will always win. Even the God is with them.

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