How should we react to the rain of missiles and fire bombs coming in from Hamas-occupied Gaza? Well, we could learn a thing or two from Britain.
In February 1945, with Germany well on the way to defeat, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) together with 527 aircraft of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on Dresden. The resulting firestorm destroyed over 6.5 square kilometres of the city centre and killed at least 25,000 civilians (the destruction was so great that the final death toll will never be known). The city had no strategic significance; the attack was simply a ‘message’.
Can you image the fuss there would be if Israel killed 25,000 Gazans? Well, you don’t have to use your imagination, we saw the reaction of the Independent newspaper – “Israeli airstrikes kill pregnant woman and one-year-old daughter”, screamed the headline. Only if you take the trouble to read the story will you eventually find that “Hamas fired dozens of rockets and mortar bombs on Sderot”. The torrent of anti-Israel abuse in the Reader’s Comments show that this false slander falls on receptive ears. (The child shown in the Independent’s report was later found to be alive and well and living in America.)
We have recently seen attempts to break down the border fence between us and Gaza and invade Southern Israel. Again, we should learn from Britain’s example when so-called British territory was invaded by people seeking “the right of return”.
The Falklands War, or the Malvinas War, began in early April 1982, when Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands. Argentina asserted (and still maintains) that the Falklands are Argentinian, and its military action was simply reclaiming its own territory. The British government claimed the action as an invasion its territory – a Crown colony since 1841. The Falkland Islanders, who have inhabited the islands since the early 19th century, are descendants of British settlers.
Does this sound familiar? Let’s see what the British did.
A couple of days after the Argentinian invasion, the British government dispatched a large naval task force. After an amphibious assault on the islands, fighting lasted 74 days until Argentina surrendered, and the islands returned to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel were killed during the hostilities.
And yet when Israel does exactly the same thing – defend her territory against attempted invasion – we are condemned by all and sundry, including Britain. The UK’s Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt issued a statement:
The violence in Gaza Bank has been shocking. The loss of life and the large number of injured Palestinians is tragic, and it is extremely worrying that the number of those killed continues to rise.
While Britain sprouts this self-righteous nonsense, to its credit Argentina seemed to have learnt from its experience. The Argentine Foreign Ministry has issued a statement referring to the recent clashes between the Israeli military and Hamas putting the blame on the Palestinians. The statement expressed its “deep concern” over the violence which it said had been “caused by the launch of rockets towards Israel.”
In the early 1990s, Israel attempted to sell 40 Kfir-C fighters to Taiwan, a deal estimated to have been worth up to $1 billion. The sale was opposed by both the US, who wanted to sell their own aircraft, and China who regarded Taiwan as a breakaway province and opposed any arms sales.
This time, Israel was forced to follow Britain’s precedent-setting actions, and the deal was cancelled.
In 1969 Britain backed out of its agreement to sell Chieftain tanks to Israel. The Labour government’s financial and political motives far outweighed the hitherto good relations between Britain’s and Israel’s Labour parties. After the Six-Day War of 1967 Britain sought to protect her interests in Arab countries. Not content with reneging on a signed contract, the British Foreign Office tried to persuade the US State Department not to sell US-made tanks to Israel.
Although Britain contined to supply the older and less sophisticated Centurion tank, great effort was made to conceal this from the Arab world. Britain’s attitude to Israel was made clear in 1973 at the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. Britain embargoed all arms sales to Israel, for having the chutzpa to defend herself against an unprovoked attack, while not extending the embargo to Arab countries. The lack of ammunition and spares for its Centurion tanks hit Israel especially hard.
Britain’s ‘perfidy’, (not my word, it appears in a Taylor & Francis Online article) backfired. The arms embargo led to the development of the Merkava tank, which incorporated many of the Chieftain’s features but with many improvements.
We could learn a lot from Jeremy Corbyn who seems to have taken to heart the 1967 movie, A Guide for the Married Man. In one of the more memorable scenes, Deny, Deny, Deny, a wife comes home to find her husband in bed with another woman. While the wife is shouting, the adulterous couple calmly get dressed, make the bed and the woman walks out. The husband asks his wife “what woman?” “what bed?” as he settles in his armchair and lights his pipe. The wife is left with nothing to do but ask, “What would you like for dinner.”
Next time the Army spokesman faces the world’s press, he would do well to follows Mr. Corbyn’s lead – it never happened, I wasn’t there, even if I was there I was looking the other way, the photos are a lie.
Yes, it seems that we have much to learn from the United Kingdom.