No one can condone the civilian suffering in Gaza of the past two weeks. Nor should anyone doubt who is, in the end, responsible
The pictures do not lie. Laser-guided but blind to the distinction between fighter and civilian, Israeli bombs have reduced schools, apartment blocks and police parade grounds to visions of hell. Aid workers and relatives have removed bodies and pieces of bodies, and survivors too traumatised to talk. On Boxing Day: at least 50 cadets killed at Gaza City's main police station alone. On Monday: reports, not denied by Israel, of phosphorus shells used over civilian neighbourhoods. On Tuesday: 40 children and teachers found dead in the wreckage of a school. And yesterday: reports of up to 30 more children killed in a house to which Israeli troops had moved them for their own safety.
For all Israel's claims to have launched only targeted strikes on Hamas targets, it has shown scant concern for civilians caught in Gaza's crossfire in the past two weeks. Yet this is as nothing next to the contempt shown by Hamas.
Unlike the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), the paramilitary overlords of the Gaza Strip use civilians routinely for protection in the knowledge that many will be sacrificed to Israeli airstrikes.
Unlike the IDF, they deliberately target civilians with their own rockets. At least 70 such rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel in December.
This was the criminal act that triggered the current crisis. It was as simple and blatant as the history of the Holy Land is complex, and every time that bewildered Gazans are corralled by Hamas fighters into a human shield, it is compounded by rank cowardice.
Israel is an expression of outrage at the Holocaust and defiance of those who would turn a blind eye to history. It is also a country that in 60 years has justified its statehood by defending itself against those who deny its right to exist, preserving its democracy even when this has led it into diplomatic isolation, and building an economy that is the envy of the Middle East.
The same can scarcely be said of Hamas. Where Fatah at least speaks the language of negotiation, Hamas has explicitly rejected a two-state solution. It exists chiefly to promote a nihilistic doctrine of self-defence through terror, and to foster a delusional pan-Islamism with no tolerance for unbelievers, let alone a Jewish state.
Israel has a powerful ally in the United States. Its critics are wont to condemn this alliance as a Jewish axis blind to heart-rending realities in Gaza and to the sacrifices necessary for peace. No one can be unmoved by the suffering witnessed by the Norwegian surgeon who texted friends to tell them “we're wading in death, blood [and] amputees”.
But the way to end it is not to abandon Israel. It is to defeat Hamas. As Washington contemplates an opening to Iran, its reluctance to condemn Israel is not ideological but rational. The alternative would be to open talks with Tehran while its proxy in Gaza still threatened much of Israel with Iranian-built rockets.
The Vatican has failed unequivocally to disavow Cardinal Renato Martino's remarks likening Gaza to a concentration camp. It should know better. Those who join Annie Lennox and Ken Livingstone in Hyde Park tomorrow to condemn what they consider Israel's disproportionate response should, likewise, know that Israel is at war - but with a non-state organisation that depends on just such a response to bolster its flagging support among the Palestinian people.
Israel is better than its enemies. That is why the world expects better when children and civilians die under its ordnance. The past two weeks' fighting have damaged it internationally and will have radicalised some Palestinians. But it has also sent the essential message that Hamas is no partner for negotiations, much less for peace. The bitter lesson of this war is that Hamas cannot be allowed to win.
The Times gets it almost perfect. I just disagree with the bit about the Norwegian doctor. He is a fraud and has been involved in fake 'atrocity' photos.
The bold is mine.