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Disproportionate, maybe. Disastrous, certainly.

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In January I had the privilege of visiting Jerusalem and I was completely overwhelmed by the city. I had hopes that through my writing I could encourage other people to visit Israel — and to talk to people on both sides of the conflict. Now those hopes seem naive to say the least. The Palestinians have suffered for decades now — not only from Israeli actions, but from some of the worst, most corrupt and stupid leadership its been any peoples’ misfortune to have. Hizbullah has inflicted suffering on the Lebanese as much as the Israelis. And you cannot blame the Israelis for responding to acts of terror. The difficulty lies in the nature and extent of its response.

People will always argue about what constitutes a disproportionate response. Personally I think this is more than disproportionate; it’s disastrous. This war — like the invasion of Iraq — is a political gesture, not a strategic battle. It’s obvious that lashing out in this way will do absolutely nothing to defeat terrorism. Who wins when a [people carrier full of refugees->] is bombed? The idea that, somehow, the people in Lebanon whose villages are laid waste, whose families are blown apart, are going to say ‘You know — this is all the fault of Hizbullah’ is ludicrous. People in that situation do not pause to examine the political causes; they blame the one who fired the gun.

The same mistakes have been made in Iraq and now they’re being perpetrated in Lebanon. Distasteful as it is, you cannot defeat terrorism by carpet-bombing; only dialogue does it in the end. Hats off to Kim Howells for [ignoring diplomatic niceties and challenging America’s uncritical support of Israel->,,1827511,00.html], but it stands at odds with the comments of Tony Blair and Margaret Beckett. It may be that Howells is playing a role here — he’s a mouthpiece for what the government really thinks, but allows the big guns to distance themselves from the comments should the Americans get really miffed. If that isn’t the case, and if Tony Blair really is as uncritically supportive as he’s been so far, then he should be ashamed of himself. As the painter William Blake said, ‘Opposition if true friendship’. If we want to be friends with Israel and America, we should remember that.