Max Hastings on Israel

The Daily Mail:

“I still felt the same [way about Israel] in 1973, during the Yom Kippur War when Israel reeled before a devastating Egyptian and Syrian surprise attack. From amid the Israelis’ camp fires, as a correspondent I wrote expressing my admiration for the nation, for what it had created from a near-wasteland: ‘They are a very great people, who have come closer to destruction than blind Europe seems willing to recognise.’

The veteran journalist James Cameron, who had known Israel since its inception, wrote me a generous note after that piece was published, saying: ‘It is quite impossible to work in combat with the Israeli army without this response, if you have any sense of history and drama.’ But then he added reflectively: ‘I have sometimes wondered over the past few years whether this irresistible military mesmerism hasn’t clouded for us some of the political falsities.’

Some 40 years on, I have become sure that Jimmy Cameron was right. Too many of us allowed ourselves to become blinded by military success to the huge injustice done to the Palestinians. Israelis, confident that they can defeat any Arab military threat, bolstered by almost unqualified U.S. support, assume that they can persist indefinitely with the creeping annexation of the West Bank, and the subjection of Gaza …

A few years ago, I revisited the West Bank and Gaza, and like most visitors recoiled from their squalor, the prevailing culture of rage and despair. It is true that the Palestinians, led by men skilled in guerrilla war but little else, speak a language of emotion and unreason. But I have also watched the soldiers of the Israeli Army that I once loved disport themselves among the Palestinians like other arrogant occupiers through the ages, displaying at best casual rudeness, at worst murderous brutality. Israel aspires to exploit its military dominance to create irreversible facts on the ground in the West Bank and Jerusalem, heedless of Palestinian rights”.
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