Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Only talks can stop Gaza horror

Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday, July 27 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday, July 27 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and it is inevitable that there will be large scale casualties during the ongoing Israeli offensive there, launched mainly from the air. No matter how advanced the technology deployed by the Israelis in their air strikes, it can never guarantee the surgical targeting that the Israelis proclaim. The watching world has seen the results with more than 1,000 Palestinians killed, many of them women and children.

As ever, both sides – Israel and Hamas – try to cloud the issue with conflicting reports of how the deaths were caused.

But what is undeniable is that the ordinary people of this benighted region are suffering in an intolerable way. Israel can argue that it is merely protecting its own citizens from the rocket fire and incursions into its territory by Hamas, but its reaction and the scale of death being doled out is disproportionate.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon echoes the thoughts of most people when he calls on Israel to halt its violence in the name of humanity.

It can reduce Gaza to rubble and kill many scores more people, but that will not solve the ancient enmities but merely cause the festering hatred between the sides to become inflamed and sow the seeds for further conflict. Israel has the right to demand that its people live in peace and safety, but it is losing the moral argument by its continuing decimation of the innocent as well as the terrorists.

In Northern Ireland the kneejerk reaction to a conflict that has nothing to do with us is to take sides along sectarian lines, with republicans backing the Palestinians and loyalists taking the side of Israel.

An example is the preposterous call by the Sinn Fein mayor of Newry and Mourne for local traders to boycott Israeli goods. That is not how our own conflict was solved, as we keep telling the world. Negotiation and diplomacy ended the fighting here, and it is the only sane solution to the terrible events in Gaza.

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