By Jonathan Hoffman
November 21, 2012
Last Friday’s “Any Questions” on BBC Radio 4 had a vile question on Israel from “Steve Bedford”:
Despite all the foreign aid and support, Israel has spectacularly failed to get on with its neighbours. Does Israel deserve a future?
Unbelievably some (no doubt Guardian-reading) BBC Researcher on the programme thought this a suitable question to pick.
I was the first caller on “Any Answers”.
You can hear me here (until Saturday)(“Anita” is Anita Anand who hosts the programme):
A transcript of what I said is here (thanks to @Akusia on Twitter for transcribing):
I must say I agree with Alex Deane. I was shocked by that question and I'd like to reassure that questioner that not only was Israel there before he was even born - assuming he's under 64 years old - but Israel will certainly be there after he is long gone.
But then I wanted to comment on some of the points made by your panellists. Particularly Hilary Benn made the point about the comparison with Northern Ireland and that is a very good comparison but one has to remember that the Good Friday Agreement only came because the IRA laid down its arms and Hamas is a long way away from laying down its arms
And then Jonathan Dimbleby said to Alex Deane that... he asked if the conflict was "proportional". It's really important to remember that under international law "proportional" does not mean that there are the same number of casualties on each side. "Proportional" means that you can do what's necessary to do the job. In the Second World War there were obviously more German casualties than British casualties but nobody ever says Britain was being "disproportional".
And then Shirley Williams talked about a large proportion of the population of Israel opposing the PM's policies. That's just not the case. Over 90%... if you look at Cast Lead four years ago over 90% of the population supported Cast Lead.
And then finally David Willetts talked about Israel creating a powder keg. No. It's really the Palestinian TV, Hamas TV, that's creating that powder keg. It teaches its children to hate Israelis, and indeed to hate Jews.
Then coming on to the question about civilian casualties, Col Richard Kemp who was the British Commander in Afghanistan said that Israel has the most moral army in the world - and he's absolutely right. There was a United Nations study, Anita, which looked at the casualties in asymmetric warfare. The average number of casualties in asymmetric warfare is three civilians for every one combatant. In Afghanistan it was 3:1. In Iraq and Kosovo it was 4:1 and in Chechnya and Serbia even greater. Israel in Cast Lead four years ago achieved a casualty rate of 1:1 That is unprecedentedly low in the history of asymmetric warfare.