Right now, Israel is facing the latest in a long line of Iranian inspired, Palestinian terror assaults on its civilian population. Over 1,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza, with several Israelis murdered and many others injured. If not for the Iron Dome and the investment in safe rooms, the casualty count would doubtless be far higher. Israel has hit back at the vast terror infrastructure inside Gaza, killing a significant number of terror leaders and hitting many other targets which have been embedded in the civilian population. This has meant, all too tragically, that some civilians in Gaza have died too.
Still, that has not stopped the usual hand wringing and false equivalence coming from western politicians who are supposed to count Israel as a strategic ally. The US State Department urged ‘de-escalation on all sides’ and welcomed the steps Israel had taken to avoid ‘provocations’, including changes to the Jerusalem Day celebrations. Later, the White House condemned rocket attacks by Hamas and supported Israel’s ‘legitimate right to defend itself and its people,’ but then added that Jerusalem had to ‘be a place of co-existence’. Secretary of State Tony Blinken condemned Hamas’s terror while mentioning ‘provocative actions’in Jerusalem in the same breath.
Similarly, the European Commission condemned rocket attacks from Gaza as ‘totally unacceptable’ while also calling for a cessation of the ‘significant upsurge in violence’ in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In an earlier statement, the EU had issued a statement which again expressed concern over political developments in Jerusalem.
Yet this falsely suggests that the events taking place in the capital, including the legal dispute over Sheikh Jarrah and the celebration of victory in 1967, are at the root of the violence. Of course, no one should sympathise with how far right nationalists, such as Itamar Ben-Gvir, have exploited the ugly mood in Jerusalem. Yet the reality is that for the last month, Hamas has been whipping up Arabs in the holy city and elsewhere to carry out violent assaults on Jews and Israelis. Its aim is to turn the West Bank into another Gaza, another outpost of jihadist terror, with this goal denied to them by the cancellation of the Palestinian elections in April. They have vied with Fatah to win the hearts of the Palestinian masses by claiming that Israel is trying to sabotage Al-Aqsa and is thus posing a mortal threat to Muslim holy places.
Incitement has come from Iran too, whose leaders have recently called Palestinians the ‘axis of jihad’ and who wish to drive a wedge between Israel and its new Arab allies. Timed to coincide with Ramadan, this has created the perfect storm for a mass violent uprising, with rockets from Gaza merely the latest (and deadliest) iteration of this murderous violence.
Sadly, there appears to be no better understanding of these dynamics in London. In a message this morning, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to ‘step back from the brink’ and ‘show restraint’. The UK, he added, was concerned by ‘the growing violence and civilian casualties’ and sought ‘an urgent de-escalation’ of tensions. Sadly, this form of words is so overused now that it has become utterly banal. It implies a false sense of equivalence between egregious Palestinian terror and Israeli self defence, between the war crimes of a genocidal Islamist organization and the legitimate acts of a nation trying to defend its citizens.
Who exactly do these leaders think they are fooling here? Certainly not Hamas, which will be desperate for the West not to condemn its actions, nor Iran which expects such appeasement as the price for nuclear negotiation. Such moral equivocation, whether from London or Washington or the EU, is a tonic to every terror group in the Middle East.
Of course, Palestinian civilian casualties are no cause for glee and Israel will continue to act under an obligation to minimise these wherever possible. But there is no excuse for failing to call out the parties that bear primary responsibility for this appalling conflagration, namely Iran and its terrorist proxies in Gaza. If western leaders cannot or will not do this, they are failing a clear test of moral clarity, while worsening an already volatile situation.