Cameron recently stated that ‘Israel was right to defend itself in the face of “indiscriminate” attacks in Gaza last summer.’ During the assault he was criticised by other MPs for not condemning Israel’s disproportionate response until hundreds of Palestinians had been killed.
In an interview with Jewish News today, Mr. Cameron said; “With me as Prime Minister you have a strong friend of Israel, someone who believes in Israel’s right to defend itself and someone who won’t blow in the wind when there’s pressure on these things.”
So is Conservative Friends of Israel member Cameron blowing in the wind or whistling in the dark?
This week Israeli organisation Breaking The Silence released ‘This is How We Fought in Gaza’ a detailed 242 page report comprising of 60 testimonies by soldiers who took part in last summer’s assault.
Many of the soldiers testified that the rules of engagement provided for the ground incursion into Gaza were unclear and lenient. They claim they were briefed to fire at every person they identified in a combat zone with the assumption being that every person in the field was an enemy. There are claims that tanks fired randomly or for revenge on buildings without knowing whether they were legitimate military targets or civilians.
Unit: Infantry, Rank: First Sergeant ”Either we let him die slowly, or we put him out of his misery. Eventually, we put him out of his misery, and a D9 (armoured bulldozer) came over and dropped a mound of rubble on him and that was the end of it”
DC: “As PM, putting yourself in the shoes of the Israeli people, who want peace but have to put up with these indiscriminate attacks – that reinforces to me the importance of standing by Israel and Israel’s right to defend itself.” said Mr. Cameron in an interview with The Jewish Chronicle.
First sergeant, Infantry, Northern Gaza Strip: “We fired ridiculous amounts of fire, lots of it, and relatively speaking our fire was nothing. We had spike missiles (guided antitank missiles) and artillery, and there were three tanks with us at all times — and another two D9s (armoured bulldozers). I don’t know how they pulled it off, the D9 operators didn’t rest for a second. Nonstop, as if they were playing in a sandbox. Driving back and forth, back and forth, razing another house, another street. And at some point there was no trace left of that street. It was hard to imagine there even used to be a street there at all.”
DC: “Because Israel is trying defend against indiscriminate attacks, while trying to stop the attackers – and there’s such a difference between that and the nature of the indiscriminate attacks that Israel receives. I feel that very clearly. I’ve seen it very clearly as Prime Minister and I think it’s important to speak out about it.
First sergeant, Armoured Corps, location not given: “We were firing purposelessly all day long. Hamas was nowhere to be seen — it’s not like they stood up on some roof for you holding a sign that says, ‘We are Hamas militants.’ You have no idea what’s going on, and because you don’t, your human nature is to be scared and ‘over’ defensive, so you ‘overshoot.’”
DC: “Obviously we regret the loss of life wherever it takes place, but I do think there’s an important difference – as Prime Minister Netanyahu put it: Israel uses its weapons to defend its people and Hamas uses its people to defend its weapons.”
Unit: Infantry, Major. Location: Northern Gaza Strip; According to intelligence reports and military communications, you’re talking about a situation in which all the houses are classified as some type of hostile location. Are all the houses really hostile locations? I don’t know. Is it really possible to isolate one house inside a neighbourhood that’s just blocks upon blocks? I don’t know. I do know that the practical result was flattened areas where houses had once stood.
Did you see any ‘before and after’ aerial photos? Sure. Neighbourhoods erased. You know what joke was being told in the army at the time? The joke says that Palestinians only sing the chorus because they have no verses [houses] left. (in Hebrew, the word for verse is the same as the word for house)
When asked what would happen to the UK’s relationship with Israel if Labour forms a government, with support from the Scottish National Party (SNP), Cameron replied; “They seem to see some sort of equivalence between Israel defending itself and Hamas firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel. That’s completely wrong.”
The 50-day war on Gaza last summer saw 2,200 Palestinians killed. Despite Israel’s obligations under the Geneva Convention, 7 out of 10 who died were civilians according to the United Nations. The assault saw massive destruction to Palestinian towns and neighbourhoods with hundreds of houses completely destroyed. 66 Israeli soldiers and 6 civilians were also killed.