The UN condemned Israel describing the attack as a ‘moral outrage’, although this isn’t the first time Israel has carried out a deadly attack on a UN school, there have been three in the past fortnight and seven since the start of the conflict. Israel justify these attacks by pointing to Hamas using its citizens as ‘human shields’ by placing its weaponry in urban areas. Although, when Israel warned civilians of attacks and told them to flee, they obliged and it is almost incomprehensible that those same civilians should be targeted while sheltering in places they were told to go to and felt to be safe.
The United States and the United Kingdom has predominantly been in support of Israel with each expressing Israel’s right to defend itself. On July 21st David Cameron delivered his statement on Gaza and Ukraine to the House of Commons, making the Government’s position on the situation clear. The PM told the house ‘Israel has the right to defend itself’ and the ‘right to take proportionate action’. The exception in an otherwise impartial statement was when the PM described civilian casualty numbers in Gaza as ‘very disturbing’, though the general tone of the statement was in support of Israel. This was, at the time, accepted by the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party.
Since then fighting has intensified and Israeli shelling has increased following the rumored kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, which has since turned out to be false. The growing aggressiveness and the ground offensive into Gaza meant Ed Miliband felt the need to criticise the PM in his failure to condemn Israeli attacks on civilians. Miliband described Cameron’s position as ‘wrong and inexplicable’ and said he needed to deliver a clear message.
In response, the Government attacked Miliband by describing him as ‘playing politics’ but with the death toll nearing 1,800 and casualties nearing 10,000, to simply say Miliband is ‘playing politics’ is inept, he is showing a sense of humanity towards the innocent Palestinian civilians among senior peoples and other world leaders who remain silent. In condemning Israel Mr. Miliband is not siding with Hamas, on the contrary, he recognises it is possible to condemn Israel and Hamas, alike, for their bilateral responsibility in the bitter conflict.
Cameron needs to break from the notion that Israel is the victim in this conflict, without a doubt Hamas are wrong to fire rockets into Israel and their mandate is to be condemned explicitly but to position oneself on the side that has killed 13, 16 and 10 refugees on separate occasions in sheltering UN schools and not condemn them is plainly wrong. Miliband has every right to change his stance because the situation has worsened. Conflicts are never clear-cut, particularly the Gaza-Israeli one, but ongoing and impartial assessment is integral to maintain a fair position and I believe Ed Miliband is doing exactly this, he has witnessed, like us all, the devastation inflicted upon Gaza and heard the heartbreaking stories of children blown up on beaches as they played and this has meant a change in his position on the conflict.
On the other hand, Cameron, it appears, has failed to do what Miliband has done and retains the same outlook on the situation as when he delivered his speech. As a spectator of the ongoing situation it appears as though Miliband is the individual showing humanity meanwhile Cameron remains in his fantasy that Israel is just defending itself. I use the word fantasy because bombing innocent, sheltering women and children is far from a defence measure. The UK’s foreign secretary Philip Hammond described attacks by Israel as ‘intolerable’ when previously, on the Andrew Marr show, he dodged answering clearly whether or not action by Israel was proportionate. Nick Clegg, deputy PM, also has spoken out against Israel in July describing Israel’s actions as ‘disproportionate’ and a form of ‘punishment’. With a cabinet minister from his own party and the deputy PM both condemning Israel it appears as though Miliband is right to criticise the Cameron as he is the top official in the UK yet remains silent on the issue.
The United States, one of Israel’s closest allies, has broken its silence to describe Israeli action as ‘unacceptable’ and ‘indefensible’. With senior members of his government and the US condemning Israel it seems as though the time has come for Cameron and the Tory party to rethink their approach to the Gaza-Israel conflict and break its silence to condemn Israel.