A Prime Minister's question
Why was David Cameron so ready to jump to judgment over Israel’s actions, given his measured response to the Cumbria killings?
On several occasions prior to taking office, David Cameron was gracious enough to boast of his friendship with the Jewish people and to declare pride in his own Jewish ancestry. Unfortunately, I now feel moved to question how sincere those protestations of friendship really were. So, here goes:
Dear Prime Minister,
I understand the stress to which holders of high office are exposed. In your first month in Number 10 you have had more than the average Prime Minister's share of international and national crises to deal with. Following the appalling events in Cumbria - the mass shootings perpetrated by Derrick Bird and the inevitable questions about gun control - I was struck by your measured warning to the nation not to "leap to conclusions."
You were right. Ghastly though these killings were, we clearly cannot hope to understand them, and the contexts in which they were carried out, unless and until we are able to put some distance between these acts and our mature consideration of them.
It's a great pity that you did not follow your own advice when you were called upon to comment on the killings that followed the interception of the so-called Gaza Flotilla. Without any expert knowledge of all the facts, you did leap to conclusions. Or rather, you did leap to one overriding conclusion: namely that the action taken by Israel to prevent the flotilla reaching the shores of Gaza, and the deaths of some nine activists shot by the Israeli military in the course of this action, were "completely unacceptable".
When asked to comment on the Gaza flotilla, why did you not follow your own advice?
Not just "unacceptable", but "completely unacceptable". And you added that your government was going to do "everything" it could "to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Prime Minister, you need to ask yourself what geopolitical future you envisage for the eastern Mediterranean, and what future is in the best interests of the United Kingdom.
Forget, for the moment, about Israel, and think instead about Gaza. What sort of a regime do you wish to see in control of Gaza?
It is often argued that the Hamas government of Gaza was democratically elected, and that this alone entitles it to demand our respect.
The facts are that this government, having been - yes - democratically elected, then carried out a murderous military coup; that this government is bankrolled by Tehran; and that, if this government were allowed to have its way, Gaza would, as surely as night follows day, become a safe haven for Iranian militias and warships.
Iranian warships, operating and supplied from Gaza, would roam the Mediterranean. Iranian missiles, perhaps with nuclear warheads, would initially be aimed at Israel. But they could easily reach much of Europe and even the United Kingdom.
Following the Israeli interception of another so-called "aid ship" last Saturday, your Foreign Secretary, William Hague, demanded "unfettered access to Gaza." Is that what you want, too? Access "unfettered," so that Iranian warships can operate off the Mediterranean coast?
If so, you had better come clean and admit as much. But if, as I fervently hope and pray, you would actually want to do everything in your power to prevent such an eventuality, you need then to ask yourself whether it is wise to permit a situation to develop in which goods of all descriptions are free to be imported into Gaza without any prospect even of inspection.
Please do not insult my intelligence by insisting that such inspection can be left to the United Nations. One has only to look at the situation in southern Lebanon to see how just how imprudent such a policy would be. Four years ago, undertakings were given to Israel that the UN would prevent Hizbollah (another client of Tehran) from rearming on Israel's northern border. These promises have of course been comprehensively broken.
You and your Foreign Secretary have called for an end to the Gaza blockade. What would you propose putting in its place? The civilian population of Gaza is not starving. But in its present state it cannot be left to its own devices. Israel is within its rights in enforcing a blockade that protects us all.
Measured against these considerations, by what logic do you declare that the deaths of nine jihadists are "completely unacceptable?" After all, the British army kills - does it not? - far greater numbers of jihadists on a weekly basis in Afghanistan.
And rightly so.
Sincerely, Geoffrey Alderman