My Lords, nobody in this House supports the death of innocents. Nobody in this House feels anything but sadness over the death of children. But in the debate over Israel's defensive actions in the Gaza in recent weeks, a terrible misapportionment of blame has occurred. We have witnessed a widespread moral inversion, and not only in this House, in which victims have been painted as aggressors and aggressors as victims.
Israel has the same right as all nation states to defend herself and her people against attack. Israel has in recent weeks been forced, once again, to exercise that sovereign right. It has done so in response to years of sustained rocket attacks by Islamist militants in the Gaza—a barrage that no other nation state has to put up with, or should have to put up with. Hamas fired rockets from territory that Israel completely withdrew from four years ago. Hamas fired those rockets, not into disputed territory, but into Israel proper, which was agreed and mandated more than 60 years ago at the UN. Hamas did so, not because it disputes this or that piece or territory, or because it disagrees with this or that policy of this or that Israeli Government, but because it seeks the annihilation of Israel.
For instance, at the opening of its document, Hamas quotes the Islamist Hassan al-Banna. It states:
"Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it".
It has been suggested today that that is rhetoric; an extraordinary explanation.
Sometimes, the Islamists of Hamas talk of "abolishing" Israel. Sometimes they talk of "annihilating" it. What they never do is talk of living with it. That is the cause of the continuing tragedy—a tragedy for Palestinians as well as Israelis who wish to live in peace. Hamas is bound not to co-existence with Israel but to ending Israel. Its genocidal ambitions are evident to hear in its words. They are evident to see in its actions.
In debates in this House and elsewhere in recent weeks, observers have compared, critically, Israel's reaction to the terrorists of Hamas with Britain's attitude towards the terrorists of the IRA. But there are huge differences between these situations. Whatever the iniquity of the IRA, that terrorist organisation was never dedicated to the annihilation—the wholesale destruction—of the British state and its people. Its tactic was violence, certainly, but its aims were not fundamentally genocidal. Had we in Britain faced such an existential threat in the IRA, and seen such a force not just supported, but sponsored by, our near neighbours—as Hamas is supported by Iran—then I am by no means certain that this state would have been as restrained as Israel has been in response to the repeated assaults of recent years.
Hamas has chosen to make human shields of Palestinians in the Gaza. Hamas chooses to use schools, places of worship and hospitals as missile dumps. Hamas chooses to use such sites as launch-pads for its missiles. During the recent operation, Israel did everything possible to limit the number of Palestinian victims. It has never been in Israel's intent or interest to cause unnecessary suffering. Israel fires rockets targeted at known missile sites in Gaza, desperately trying to avoid hitting civilians. Hamas fires rockets into Israel hoping to hit civilians. For Israel, the hitting of innocent civilians is always the result of error. For Hamas it is its hope. Israel sent text-messages to Palestinian civilians in the first hours of the conflict warning them to keep clear of sites about to be hit. Hamas hits Israel with no warning. Israel builds bunkers to shelter its population. Hamas builds bunkers to shelter its weapons.
Finally, what this so-called "liberation" movement of Hamas does to fellow Palestinians must not be forgotten. When Hamas seized power in the Gaza, its first action was to kill members of the rival Fatah party. When Israel began the land invasion of Gaza a few weeks ago, the first response by Hamas was to execute and kneecap members of Fatah. Such barbarity continues to be visited by Hamas on its fellow Palestinians.
Israel's actions are in defence of her people. Any Government who do not protect their people from assault are not worthy of the task of governance. The terrorist group lamentably now in charge in Gaza not only fails to protect its people, it deliberately puts them in harm's way, all the time feeding them the false and wicked hope that the existence of Israel is up for negotiation.
The attacks in this House and elsewhere are a sad case of people failing to notice the difference between the regional fire-fighter and the regional arsonist. Israel is still doing what it can, under terrible pressure, to add a new state to the United Nations. Hamas is more interested in taking away a state from the UN than in adding one to it. This remains just one of the reasons why Israel must be supported in her war against the terrorists. It remains just one of the reasons why Israel's fight is a fight not just for the people of Israel but for all people who value freedom and life over terrorism and destruction. It is just one of the reasons why Israel's fight is also our fight.