By Jeremy Havardi, Journalist and commentator
In recent months, Ed Miliband has sought to build bridges with the Anglo-Jewish community.
On more than one occasion, he has spoken warmly of his Jewish roots and identity. He has expressed a desire to be Britain’s first Jewish prime minister, even though Benjamin Disraeli beat him to it in 1868.
More interestingly, the Labour leader has hinted that he is a Zionist and a friend of Israel.
His recent remarks about the conflict in Gaza, however, suggest his ‘friendship’ may be rather lukewarm. In an outspoken attack on the government, he pulled no punches.
Israel’s military incursion was “wrong and unjustifiable” and David Cameron’s “silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians” would be “inexplicable to people across Britain and internationally”.
In other comments made in the White House, Miliband defended “Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks”, but staunchly opposed “the further escalation of violence”. He added: “I don’t think it will help Israel win friends.”
The deaths of Gaza civilians have indeed been terrible. Few can fail to be moved by stories of children killed, or innocents losing their jobs and livelihoods.
But to deny Hamas’ responsibility for launching a war at the Palestinians’ expense is highly disingenuous.
Large parts of Gaza have effectively been turned into an armed camp. UNRWA schools have been converted into weapons dumps, and hospitals have become military bases. Buildings have been booby-trapped in the hope of killing Israeli soldiers, as well as other Palestinians.
Rockets have been repeatedly fired from residential neighbourhoods, though western journalists have tweeted that they cannot report this for fear of reprisals. This is the inhuman environment of the Middle East, where radical actors refuse to play by the rules of war.
If Miliband really believes Israelis have a right to defend themselves, what does he suggest they do? Self-defence can only mean the elimination of Hamas’ infrastructure of terror. If rockets and tunnels have to be struck, it will involve the overwhelming application of force and, in a densely-packed urban environment, civilians will tragically die.
If no incursion is legitimate, then what is the alternative? Non-escalation is not viable for, as Churchill put it: “Victory will never be found by taking the line of least resistance.”
This is war, after all, not a game of cricket. In the White House, Ed Miliband argued the violence had resulted from the failure of talks, hence the need to “restart a [peace] process”.
But Hamas does not believe in peace talks or negotiations with Israel. Such things are, according to its Charter, un-Islamic. Instead, the Islamists are committed to the destruction of Israel in line with Muslim Brotherhood ideology.
That is why Hamas TV stations, like those of ‘moderate’ Fatah, glorify the demonisation of Jews. That is why Hamas leaders have invested 40 percent of their budget to build a tunnel system designed to kill and kidnap Israelis. That is why Hamas terrorists are trying so desperately to import long-range weapons from Iran, a regime that similarly dreams of Israel’s demise.
The latest violence has not resulted from the lack of a peace process. The peace process has failed because of violence, rejectionism and an unyielding belief in Israel’s illegitimacy. Even Fatah cannot accept Israel as the ‘Jewish state’ or give up on a Palestinian ‘right of return’.
Miliband says the two-state solution is the only long-term remedy for the conflict. Perhaps he is right. But if Gaza is anything to go by, further territorial withdrawals could well create more dangerous breeding grounds for terror.
A Hamas-run West Bank, allied to and funded by Iran and Qatar, would be a recipe for further bloodshed, poverty and instability.
Of course, political moderates may emerge from within Palestinian society. But the Middle East has a habit of snuffing out those voices and wherever we look right now the forces of jihad are on the march. Ignoring this shows a starting lack of insight.
Ed Miliband may claim to be a friend of Israel, but he must realise that true friendship really counts when it is needed most, namely in the crucible of war. Tony Blair once recognised this, while Labour’s current leader does not.