In the 13 years I’ve been Wyre Forest’s MP, I’ve always tried to make sure I never write two consecutive columns on the same subject. This week, I was going to talk about the law banning the use of laughing gas coming into force – an example of how an MP can change the law when it counts. But waking up on Wednesday morning to hear the news that a hospital has been bombed in Gaza, and the number of emails I am receiving on this crisis, I am breaking the habit of the last thirteen years.
The unprovoked terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians were simply appalling. 1,400 women, children and other defenceless people were brutally murdered. 200 kidnapped. More wounded and traumatised. Israel, of course, has the right to defend herself. And it should. Protecting one’s citizens is a core function of any nation state and we in the UK spend 2% of our economic output on our military to do just that. More if you include police.
In retaliating against Hamas, Israel faces a problem. Hamas habitually hides its activities amongst civilians. Trying to retaliate against such an enemy is fraught with the risk of harming civilians.
But if Israel is to defend herself, it must be within the internationally agreed rules of war. To do otherwise would not only harm civilians, but Israel would also lose the moral high ground and the media war.
Figures are disputed, but it appears the loss of Palestinian civilians outnumbers Israeli civilians killed by a ratio of 2:1. By any reasonable, amateur assessment, this appears disproportionate.
Wednesday’s missile strike on a hospital, not only treating wounded, but acting as a sanctuary for refugees, is something that cannot be comprehended. Hamas claim this was a deliberate attack by Israel on a hospital; Israel say they have evidence that it was another terrorist group launching a rocket that malfunctioned and hit the hospital by accident. Others suggest it may be a so-called false flag attack – where an organisation attacks its own people, but suggest it was done by their enemy to secure propaganda wins.
Israel have agreed to share their evidence with allies. War crimes investigators can do forensic examination on debris to establish whose rocket this was.
Whatever your views on this, it is a tragedy of simply breath-taking proportions unfolding in full technicolour on our screens. Everyone – the UK included – needs to do what we can to find a peaceful end to this.