I have been shocked and saddened by the events unfolding in Lebanon. As I write, the human toll of this latest conflict is more than 400 deaths, 90% of those Lebanese – mostly civilian. While no-one can condone hostage taking by terrorists, Israel is showing an arrogant contempt for human rights and international law. Wholesale bombardment of civilian areas in another country is an outrageous response to the hostage taking. Can any of us have imagined the RAF being scrambled in responses to IRA outages in the seventies and eighties? Of course not – but what is the difference? How sad, then, that the British government did not feel it could condemn Israel’s response and call for an immediate cease-fire.
One thing is certain, brute force alone will not stop the terrorists that plague Israel and her neighbours. Only dialogue can ever lead to any improvement in the situation. I fear that Israel’s heavy-handed response is more likely to serve as a recruiting sargeant for the terrorists. We in Britain have learned this – and that is why the situation in Northern Ireland has improved so much since meaningful dialogue began.
Once again, British foreign policy seems to be slavishly following the Bush agenda. Once again, I am led to question the so-called special relationship between the UK and the US. It seems to be all one-way traffic.
This morning, I hear that there is a possibility of a UN or an EU peacekeeping force being allowed in to Lebanon. I sincerely hope that Britain will be part of it – with or without George W Bush’s permission.