Opinion

Mary Kelly: Slaughter in Middle East needs to stop now

Palestinians comfort a crying man after losing relatives under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City
Palestinians comfort a crying man after losing relatives under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City Palestinians comfort a crying man after losing relatives under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City

THE news from the Middle East has become so terrible that it seems pointless for presenters to warn that the images you’ll see could be disturbing. Yes, strange that seeing babies and dust-covered children being pulled from the wreckage of their homes is distressing.

Except it doesn’t seem to distress the people who count, namely the prime minister of Israel and his cabinet, and the leaders of the Western world, Joe Biden et al.

There’s a danger that the phrase “Israel has a right to defend itself” will become no more palatable than “we were only following orders”.

Read more:

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But while the carnage continues and the broadcast media, unable to be in Gaza, rely on accounts of over-stretched medics and eye witnesses on the ground, another war is being fought in the press and on social media.

Gaza, Netanyahu and Hamas

Israelis claim – wrongly – that people have forgotten the atrocities its people, including the young and elderly, faced on October 7. No-one who heard those terrible accounts and saw the disgusting, gloating pictures from the Hamas butchers could forget the horrors of that day.

But nor should Israelis forget that their dishonourable leader encouraged the growth of Hamas, to oppose the toothless Palestinian Authority, and make a two-state solution less likely.

He told a conference of his Likud party in 2019: “Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas… This is part of our strategy.”

The Netanyahu tactic now seems to be that his forces will continue to bomb Gaza until there’s not a stone or civilian left, so a load of Hamas militants will be killed among them. Too bad if the innocent die too.

Palestinians look for survivors of the Israeli bombardment in the Maghazi refugee camp in the Gaza Strip
Palestinians look for survivors of the Israeli bombardment in the Maghazi refugee camp in the Gaza Strip Palestinians look for survivors of the Israeli bombardment in the Maghazi refugee camp in the Gaza Strip

Nobody is buying it. Even the weasel-worded politicians who can’t use the word “ceasefire” but instead are calling for a “pause” don’t convince anyone.

This slaughter needs to stop. The Israelis must end the bombing and Hamas must release their hostages now.

It would be helpful if those marching in defence of the Palestinians would make that clear on their banners too.

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Boris Johnson's skill set

Luckily there was light relief with the coverage of the Covid inquiry, lest you had forgotten what a dysfunctional government was in charge when the pandemic happened, costing thousands and thousands of deaths.

Boris simply had the “wrong skill set”, according to Lee Cain, his former press secretary, in what must be the understatement of the century.

It’s hard to imagine a PM being able to pick the sort of crisis that best suits them, particularly Johnson, whose unique skill set seemed to include infidelity, lying constantly and not bothering to turn up to five emergency meetings to discuss the worst health crisis ever to have faced his country.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a Covid media briefing in Downing Street
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a Covid media briefing in Downing Street Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a Covid media briefing in Downing Street

He was busy. He had to finish off a biography on Shakespeare as he needed the cash to fund his divorce settlement. Honestly, who has time to go to Cobra meetings. Covid? It was much ado about nothing.

I hope all those ancient Tories who miss him so much were interested to hear that he thought their age cohort should just get Covid and die, leaving the young to go out and enjoy themselves to boost the economy.

In fact, so determined was BoJo to kill off the oldsters, that he planned to go and see the elderly Queen face-to-face, while having Covid symptoms himself. Aides had to physically prevent him from getting in his car and heading straight for the palace.

And wasn’t the nation fortunate to have the skill set of the worst health minister in Christendom, Matt Hancock, who had told civil servants he was quite prepared to decide who lived and who died?

In a witness statement to the inquiry, Sir Simon Stevens, former NHS England chief, said the minister believed that it should be him, not doctors, who should decide who to prioritise if hospitals became overwhelmed.

“Fortunately this horrible dilemma never crystallised,” he said. Quite.