I was startled by Tuesday’s story on the homepage of The Independent website that the UK Prime Minister David Cameron made an 11th hour election declaration affirming his unequivocal support for Israel. In particular, Mr Cameron draws an ‘important distinction’ between Israel’s right to ‘self defence’ and Hamas’s ‘indiscriminate’ firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza last summer.

A cynic might connect Mr Cameron’s timing with a perception that the Labour leader Ed Miliband has lost the so-called ‘Jewish vote’, and a desire to shore up that support for his own party. Regardless, coming just a week after a UN report confirmed that Israel knowingly targeted UNRWA schools sheltering civilians during the Gaza siege, and 12 days after DCI-Palestine released ‘Operation Protective Edge: A War Waged on Gaza’s Children‘, Mr Cameron’s dubious characterisation of the 51-day Gaza siege and the unwavering support for Israel that results from these claims will alarm anyone concerned about peace and justice in the region.

I certainly agree with the Prime Minister that there are ‘important distinctions’ at issue in this conflict. That’s where our agreement ends, however. For instance, for me the seven-year blockade of Gaza is a salient distinction here. As Noura Erakat wrote last summer in The Nation, despite its putative withdrawal in 2005 ‘Israel maintains control of the territory’s air space, territorial waters, electromagnetic sphere, population registry and the movement of all goods and people.’ In other words, the blockade is a de facto occupation whose purpose is to traumatise and humiliate Gazans whilst relieving Israel of its legal obligations as an occupying power, and to deny the Palestinian right of resistance.

Unlike Mr Cameron, in considering the events of last summer I would recognise the relevance of Palestinian children being strapped to the hoods of Israeli army jeeps where they might act as human shields. I would acknowledge the desire of a people to farm the land and fish the waters where they have lived for centuries without racist settlers running over their children and uprooting their olive trees, whilst Israeli soldiers fire live rounds at Palestinian fishermen trying to make a living within the tenuous and meagre boundaries determined by the Israeli government, which nonetheless denies it is an occupier.

Before gushing approval of Israel’s ‘defensive’ tactics, I would consider the ‘apartheid’ conditions in which the Palestinians live in the Occupied Territories as described by the Conservative MP Alan Duncan in a powerful speech at RUSI last Autumn. I would also note Israel’s decision to withhold Palestinian tax revenues – in other words, Palestinians’ own money – in retaliation for their application to join the International Criminal Court. And I would draw attention to Israel’s 90 ceasefire violations in January-March of this year alone.

Mr Cameron’s remarks brought to mind an open letter I published on this blog last summer; here is a link. The letter was written on 29 July 2014, almost a month before the death toll in Gaza had reached 2220 of which more than 500 were children. It was written before the massacre at Shujaiya, and before Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Amnesty International, DCI-Palestine and others had launched their investigations of the bloody siege, and produced their reports which concluded without exception that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza. These gruesome events and the authors’ chilling conclusions confirm and animate the thoughts I had expressed around the half-way mark in Operation Protective Edge, a hasbara translation of the Hebrew name ‘Operation Sturdy Edge’.

Mr Cameron tells us he stands with Israel. I stand with human dignity, the right to self determination, and respect for international law. Sadly, this is the critical distinction on which we appear to disagree entirely.

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