Israel and Gaza
Madam, – May I comment on two elements in your most interesting account on November 14th of the publication by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on European Affairs of an official report of their visit to Israel and Gaza in July. The article accurately reported me as warning against “too much fairness and balance” and saying that we were right to criticise the use by the Israeli authorities of the pretext of rocket attacks to justify the ferocious assault on Gaza. The reference to “too much fairness and balance” was in the context of proportionality, which is a recognised legal concept. I also pointed out that in the months immediately prior to the attack by Israel, rocket and mortar fire from Gaza had virtually ceased.
An Israeli embassy spokesman contradicted this, saying that what I said was untrue and “that there had been hundreds of rocket attacks daily on Israeli soil”. I think your readers are entitled to the full truth of the matter.
In June 2008 there was in place an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel.
The terms of this were that Israel would lift the blockade on Gaza in return for a Hamas ceasefire. From June 19th, 2008, until November 14th, 2008, as a result of this agreement there was a reduction of 98 per cent in the frequency of both rockets and mortars. The Israelis, however, made no attempt to relieve the blockade and on November 4th, 2008, there was an armed incursion into Gaza by the Israeli military which resulted in the death of seven members of Hamas. The Israeli intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre (ITIC), a source regularly used by the Israeli government, is on record as saying, “As of June 19th there was a marked reduction in the extent of attacks on the western Negev population. Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire.”
Moreover, the official Israeli government spokesman, Mr Mark Regev, appearing on More4 News on January 9th, 2009, when interviewed by David Fuller, accepted that this was in fact the situation.
Moreover, according to international newspaper reports, Israel had, especially in the case of the town of Sderot, actually held official celebrations to mark public relief at the efficacy of this ceasefire. It is therefore clear that far from safeguarding the civilian population of Israel, the action of the Israeli government in launching its blitzkrieg against Gaza inevitably resulted in the resumption of rocket fire. It is to be regretted that such cynicism should prevail. The facts and truth, however, must also be allowed to prevail. – Yours, etc,