The late Harold Pinter once asked “How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal?” Well Israel’s latest bit of genocide in Gaza has reached 400 and is still on the rise. Indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children. Actions which can only inflame the situation in the occupied territories and lead to more bloodshed. What’s the very best way to encourage terrorism and insurgence? To kill the wives and mothers and children of those who might be tempted to oppose you. To give a bereaved man or woman no alternative but to turn themselves into a suicide bomber. And, of course, the supreme irony of Israel’s descent to degradation (yet again) is that of all the people’s on the planet the Jews of Israel should be the most unwilling and unlikely to indulge in genocidal attacks. For the parallel with the horrors of the holocaust is precise. The Palestinians of Gaza may not have a yellow star on their clothes – but they are no less targeted than the fathers and grandfathers of Israel’s current fetid leadership had been.

That Israel was under attack from militants in Gaza is irrefutable – but that the response was disproportionate is undeniable. The Old Testament eye for an eye an tooth for a tooth is no basis for resolution of conflict in the modern world. Daniel Barenboim has put it characteristically well:

“I have just three wishes for the coming year. The first is for the Israeli government to realize once and for all that the Middle Eastern conflict cannot be solved by military means. The second is for Hamas to realize that its interests are not served by violence, and that Israel is here to stay; and the third is for the world to acknowledge the fact that this conflict is unlike any other in history. It is uniquely intricate and sensitive; it is a human conflict between two peoples who are both deeply convinced of their right to live on the same very small piece of land. This is why neither diplomacy nor military action can resolve this conflict.”

Barenboim is clear that resolution will not come from the intervention of smooth diplomats but because the peoples in the dispute realise that it cannot go on. I would add one plea – and that is for goodwill. And that reality might just start to dawn on Israel if President Obama tells them to stop the killing.

Israel cannot act without the overt support of the United States. They must be wary of what President Obama will do – so they launch their vicious assaults in the last few weeks of Bush’s lame administration. We all know why Bush and his vile bunch of NeoCons were so pro-Israel. Perhaps when they are gone the atmosphere will become less rotten and there will be a real chance for progress. Not because of some wholly artificial peace process summit but because Obama will say that it is up to the participants in the conflict on the ground to sort things out for themselves.

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