Letters: What exactly is Israel’s aim in Gaza?

These letters appear in the August 4th issue of the Independent

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The stated targets for Israeli artillery and missile attacks in the Gaza Strip are Hamas combatants and their tunnels and rocket sites.

The figures for assessing the accuracy of their efforts are 1,500 civilians killed, 8,000 civilians injured, 400,000 civilians displaced from their homes. and swathes of suburban Gaza laid waste and reduced to rubble.

Israel has not disclosed how many Hamas fighters have been killed nor how many tunnels have been destroyed. It also appears likely that one Israeli soldier was killed by Israeli shelling during efforts to respond to his alleged capture.

These figures speak for themselves when trying to calculate the accuracy of the ordnance being used and to evaluate the assertion by Israel that “civilians are not being targeted”.  Two UN-run installations have been hit by Israel in its attempt to kill Hamas fighters nearby, resulting in many civilian deaths. Israel has defended its actions by saying civilian casualties are inevitable in this sort of operation. Which prompts the question: “What sort of operation is this?”

This is no surgical strike with pinpoint accuracy on individually identified targets. Bunker-busting bombs are not being used to destroy underground facilities. The best efforts of the Israeli bombardment have not stopped Hamas firing rockets or using tunnels to ambush Israeli soldiers inside Gaza. So what is the point of all this slaughter and destruction?

Before ground troops were sent into Iraq, the US bombed the country “back to the stone age”, so this “shock and awe” tactic is not new. We will have to wait and see if the outcome of this latest application of overwhelming military superiority is any more constructive than it was before. I doubt it.

Peter DeVillez, Cheltenham


Perhaps I can suggest at least a partial solution to Brian Eno’s puzzle about the US’s “blind support” of Israel (“How can you justify images such as this?” 2 August 2014).

As Brian hinted in the article, most Americans are blissfully unaware of what goes on outside their borders and care even less. My wife and I have been to the States a few times and think that it is a beautiful country full of friendly people – but whose knowledge of the world stops at Mexico and Canada. And who has the most to gain from the US supporting Israel in a military conflict? The US armaments industry – which will keep donating gratefully to representatives, senators and presidents.

Barry Lees, Greenock, Scotland


There have been three wars between Gaza and Israel in the past six years. If nothing is done to stop Hamas, the only certain future for the area is that there will be another war in the not too distant future.

While many world leaders recognise the necessity of eliminating Hamas – both for the benefit of Israel and for the Palestinian civilians who suffer negatively from the decisions made by Hamas – few have the foresight or vision as to how to accomplish this.

The Palestinian Authority does not have the will or capability to eradicate Hamas. Israel has the capability to get rid of Hamas, but the world accuses Israel of being too brutal in doing it. The Western countries that could do it know that if they did, they would behave as “brutally” as they accuse Israel of being.

Michelle Moshelian, Givatayim, Israel


After weeks of bombing, devastation and slaughter of children in Gaza, I am ashamed to call myself British. And I am ashamed at our Prime Minister’s eerie silence. My children ask me repeatedly why the world is allowing this to happen? I have no answer. 

The mantra of Israel’s right to defend itself continues. Don’t the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves? Since the world has refused to take measures against the illegal land grab and building of settlements, since it has allowed Gaza to suffocate and die a slow death, what are they expected to do? Wait another 30 years while the world turns the other way?

If the international community took Israel to task for broken UN resolutions, the Palestinian people would not have to resort to firing rockets. As the world does nothing, it is the Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves

Mostahfiz Gani, Kingston upon Thames


A play about more than a plane crash

David Lister (“How the news turned a comedy into plane-crash theatre”, 2 August) asserts that we should have censored our production of Tom Basden’s play Holes by pulling it in response to the shooting down of MH17. I would like to object to the suggestion that we have been “downright disrespectful”. 

Holes is not about plane crashes, in the same way that One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is not about asylums. It is merely the setting, a jumping-off point for an exploration of how we are living now. It is not about a plane crash, any more than The Tempest is about a boat crash. And we began work on Holes in 2010. MH17 happened the day after the first preview.

I’m willing to wager that between here and the crash site of MH17 more children have been killed by their mothers in the past two weeks than died in that plane crash. Is David Lister suggesting the National Theatre closes Medea?

Holes is a poetic and absurd response to these dark times. How are we supposed to act in the shadow of such a welter of information about so many enormous acts of violence. What are we actually supposed to do? It seems to me we don’t know how to make the world better.

So much great comedy is at root a cry of despair. Like Chaplin responding to the Great Depression, Beckett to the A-bomb, and the absurdists to communism. Absurdity juxtaposed against unimaginable horror seems to me a deeply appropriate response to the zeitgeist.

Just because the play makes people laugh, it doesn’t mean that it is not saying something profound.

The one thing we do agree on is that some lines take on a certain electricity in light of recent events. “Planes just don’t go missing” is one.

David Lister’s view that the play is uncomfortable is shared by many critics. But his view that the play be closed is not.

Phillip Breen, Director of ‘Holes’. Luddington, Warwickshire

Driverless cars  are on their way

Driverless cars have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network. They could improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2.

There is already a level of automation in our cars, with cruise control, and many people will be unaware that automation is already widespread on planes and on underground trains.

Driverless cars could be particularly beneficial in helping to keep older people or those with disabilities mobile.

From 2015, we will see trials in some of our cities that will address some of the issues around public acceptance, liability and safety of driverless cars. In the longer term, driverless vehicles are set  to be a common sight on our roads.

Paula-Marie Brown, Head of Transport, Institution of Engineering and Technology, London WC2


If two driverless cars meet on a single-track country road, which one reverses back to the passing place?

And if two of these cars collide (which at some time they will), how will it be possible to say which one was at fault for the insurance claim?

H Kilborn, London SE12

Let’s have a legacy from these games

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games have been a great success, but if there is to be any lasting legacy in sporting terms, this should be stimulated and encouraged by scrapping all entry charges to sporting centres and swimming pools, as they are currently far to expensive for the pockets of poorer people.

The London Olympic Games were also very successful, but recent assessments have shown there has been no meaningful increase in sporting activity to be claimed as a legacy.

We have very serious health problems in Scotland, and with life expectancy down to 64 in some parts, it is time to get the nation motivated in sport of any kind, and scrapping all entrance fees could be the first step.

Dennis Grattan, Bucksburn, Aberdeen


Unlike D Sawtell (letter, 1 August) I cannot comment on the suitability or otherwise of “Jerusalem” as the Team England anthem, but as a Scot living in Wales I am pleased that Team England have chosen not to use “God Save The Queen”, which applies to all the home nations, as well as to members of the Commonwealth, and is not the English national anthem. I look forward to a time when other English sporting teams follow this example – the year of the Scottish independence referendum is as good a time as any.

Gordon Middleton, Creigiau, Cardiff


Will the anachronistic and backward-looking Commonwealth Games be followed by the Nato Games?

David Freeley, Clonard, Wexford, Ireland


Remember past explorers

In your article about "the last place on Earth never visited by man" (18 July), why no mention of Sir Wally Herbert's expedition of 1968/9? The four man team included my late uncle, Dr. Roy "Fritz" Koerner MBE, who later became an eminent glaciologist after emigrating to Canada.  The team spent 16 continuous months exploring the whole area around the North Pole, and the so-called "pole of inaccessibility", they used sleds and dogs and were supplied by air drops.

The British Trans Arctic Expedition was well documented in Sir Chris Bonington's book, "Quest for Adventure", and by The American Polar Society on their website.

The very best of luck to this expedition, but they won't be the first.

Lesley Hudspith, Gosport