Here we go again.
On returning home from my jog on Tel Aviv beach, this morning, I turned on Sky News, only to be greeted by the sound of sirens and a hysterical (understandably) Palestinian giving an eyewitness account of events in Gaza. Israel had responded, finally, to the months of provocation from Hamas and its proxies, to the daily barrage of rockets fired at its civilian population. Eighty hit on Wednesday alone.
The sadly predictable emphasis of Sky's reporting was on the "fact" that the airstrikes came as Gaza's children were leaving school (I would have liked school days finishing around 11 in the morning). I didn't see any such intensive "Breaking News" flashes on Sky (or other networks) covering the daily barrages on Sderot or Ashkelon, or emphasizing the fact that, for months, Israeli children in the worst-affected areas have hardly seen the light of day, being forced to remain in shelters and reinforced rooms. Sadly, we have become accustomed to such uneven coverage, and most of us expect little more.
Israel's actions, this morning, followed intense debate, both governmental and public, on how to best respond to this continuing, untenable situation. Even the doveish, left-wing intellectuals of Israel's Meretz party called for military action on Thursday, something virtually unheard of. And the Egyptian Foreign Minister, too, has stated that Hamas had received enough warnings to put a stop to the rocket fire.
Now, the media will wheel out all the usual suspects – the "Pinters" (though, I expect, not Harold) and "Galloways" (I can dream, can't I?!) – who will trot out the usual crap about the deliberate and indiscriminate targeting of women and children, and the disproportionate response of the "mighty Israel" (if you have, and are interested in challenging, such a notion, an interesting exercise involves taking a look at a map of the Middle East . . . and not one received from one of those Friends of Palestine-type "charities", many of which are covers that would be more aptly named Give Your Hard-Earned Cash to Help Kill Israelis). From their silence during the bombardment of Israel, day in, day out, for months, are we to assume that they considered that legitimate?
Israel, in response, will have to mobilize its (usually hopeless) spokesmen to defend its actions.
If we can trust the latest pronouncements by Hamas, today's death toll is high. And it is a tragedy that innocent people will, undoubtedly, have been killed. But, be in no doubt, Israel is in a permanent state of war with Hamas, a neighbouring "government" whose raison d'être is to destroy it. An inevitable consequence of every war is that innocents suffer. To buy into the inevitable Hamas (and general Arab) propaganda, that Israel deliberately and indiscriminately targeted innocent civilians, is for the dimwitted and/or those with their anti-Israel/America/Britain/Jewish/Christian/western/democratic (delete as appropriate . . . though you might choose to keep them all) agenda(s).
To Hamas, the blood of Palestinians is only a little less cheap than that of Israelis. And it has been playing Russian roulette with the lives of Gazans for far too long now. Of course, the leaders of Hamas won't poke their grubby little heads above the parapet, any more than that coward Nasrallah did in Lebanon in 2006 (he spent the entire war in hiding). But Gazans are responsible for choosing those leaders or, at least, for allowing them to remain in office.
Anyway, it is all very depressing. I, for one, certainly don't rejoice in the bloodshed or jingoistic notions of revenge.
And it is weird, too – I am writing this on my laptop in a Tel Aviv café, struggling to concentrate through all the loud conversation and laughter (Israelis are a noisy bunch), when less than 45 miles down the Mediterranean coast there is death and destruction.
One thing is for sure, though – neither the British government or public, nor any other, would have tolerated such a situation on its border for so long. That Israel has done so is testament to its democracy, humanity and ethics (even in spite of Wednesday's eighty rockets, Israel reopened crossings into Gaza on Thursday, to alleviate its worsening humanitarian situation).
That I should even have to write all of this is an indication of the different standards by which the world judges and treats Israel – as I always say (and this one's mine): like Israelis and their tea, the world doesn't like its Jews strong.
Unlike seventy years ago, however, we can defend ourselves now. And we will.