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US, UK and Germany have sown the shame of their nations in Gaza’s blood-drenched soil

Even when propaganda is shown to be untrue, Israel’s backers make no apology for having blindingly believed it

Television pictures of euphoric Gazans celebrating in the southern city of Rafah last Monday after Hamas announced it was agreeing to a ceasefire proposal captured the almost sadistic cruelty these people are being made to suffer. Immediately, Israel rejected the deal, seized control of the main border crossing for fuel supplies, ordered about 100,000 refugees to get out of Rafah, and advanced on the city’s outskirts in its long-threatened ground assault. In the time it took to say “forget it”, the scenes in Gaza turned from heavenly to hellish.

One moment, jubilant young children were dancing ecstatically on the back of a flatbed truck and women were throwing themselves on the ground to kiss it in joyful relief. The next moment, snaking lines of food trucks stood stranded on the Egyptian side of the border while, on the other side, the latest slain civilians lay covered in sheets as an Israeli tank drove straight at and over a road sign, pulverising its endearment: “I love Gaza”. The action screamed V, for vengeance.

When historians sit down to write the record of Israel’s current bombardment of Gaza, the biggest puzzle they will have to address is why other powerful, self-congratulatory democracies stood by and watched 14,500 children – the death toll at the end of April – being slaughtered. Sorry, scratch the words “stood by”. The US, the UK, Germany and assorted strongman states have encouraged and armed the military onslaught on 2.3 million people trapped in the tiny Palestinian territory. By doing so, they have sown the seeds for future generations’ shame of their own nations in Gaza’s blood-drenched soil. It took seven months, nearly 35,000 deaths and more than 75,000 injured casualties before Joe Biden withheld a scheduled shipment of more bombs last week.

Western powers’ readiness to support Binyamin Netanyahu’s aggression has remained largely unabated by his administration’s proclivity for disinformation. Israeli politicians and officials, with backing vocals from the White House, invoked the false story of 40 babies said to have been beheaded by Hamas. After what has come to be known as the Flour Massacre, the Israeli army protested its innocence before being forced to admit its soldiers opened fire on what it termed “suspects” seeking food from an aid convoy, killing 118 people and injuring 760 others. A purported list of Hamas kidnappers found on a wall of a children’s hospital turned out to be no more than the days of the week written in Arabic.


Israel’s allies have not only turned a blind eye to these falsehoods, they have swallowed them whole to the peril of the innocents in Gaza. When the government in Jerusalem claimed 12 staff at the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) participated in Hamas’s horrific murder spree in Israel on October 7th, the US, Germany, Canada, Australia, France and Japan swiftly suspended funding for the organisation amid warnings of a looming famine. A UN-appointed independent inquiry reported last month that Israel has yet to provide any evidence to support its claim.

Even when propaganda is shown to be untrue, Israel’s backers make no apology for having blindingly believed it. On Tuesday, the White House was reiterating Netanyahu’s promise to Biden that the land attack in Rafah would be a limited operation targeting cross-border smuggling, when, at the same time in Israel, defence minister Yoav Gallant was saying it would not end “until Hamas is eliminated or until the first hostage returns to Israel”.

Hamas’s October massacre of about 1,200 people in Israel, along with nearly 250 abductions and countless assaults and rapes, were horrendous, inexcusable and provocative. Israel was, inevitably, going to hit back, even without Uncle Sam at its side urging: Here’s your warship – I’ll hold your coat. The contrast with Nato allies’ attitude to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is stark. In that case, it was the invaded country they armed while numerous countries rightly scrambled to rescue and accommodate its war refugees. Why has Washington not negotiated a rescue mission for Gaza’s children, pregnant women, the elderly, sick and disabled by sending ships to ferry them to safety from the coastal strip? This would not bolster the Israeli far right’s dream of total evacuation and conquest. As with Ukrainians, it would be a temporary escape for the innocents from a land where 24,000 – 71.4 per cent – of those killed have been children and women. Sitting ducks have been treated with greater kindness.

The obdurate “ironclad support” – to quote Biden this week – for what Israel is doing will have repercussions for future generations and is already showing ripple effects far beyond the conflagration, as evidenced by the university student protests in the US, India and Europe. An opinion poll by European Movement Ireland has found 64 per cent of respondents were unhappy with the EU’s response to the war on Gaza, which has left civilian populations feeling powerless – despite weekly marches for peace – as we watch the killing and destruction on our televisions night after night.

Kudos, therefore, to those students at Trinity College Dublin who faced down invidious accusations of anti-Semitism to score a triumph for humanity. In just five days, their encampment secured a commitment from the university to divest from companies supporting illegal settlements in Palestinian territories. The Irish State and all its agencies and companies should follow that lead by auditing their investment stocks for the same purpose.

Accusations of anti-Semitism are the knee-jerk response to nearly any criticism of what the Israeli state is doing. Such labelling is a powerful silencer, because no caring person wants to be associated with the history of horror foisted on Jewish people and, so, it requires grit to speak out. The Irish Government has spoken truth to Israel and, in return, this is regarded as an unfriendly state. In time, perhaps, Israel will recognise that Ireland has been one of its better friends.

Another puzzle facing historians when they sit down to write this deplorable story is how anyone of any religion could have watched the slaughter in Gaza and not have been appalled by it. Jewish people have just cause to guard against their vilification but, whether you attend a synagogue, a church, a mosque, a meeting house or a yurt with tinkling chimes and smoking joss sticks, a state’s killing campaign against a civilian population must shake your soul.