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Contenders for Boris Johnson's crown stress fealty to Israel

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Prime Minister of Israel
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As Israel unleashed a surprise wave of air strikes on Gaza last Friday, the two remaining Conservative politicians vying to replace disgraced Prime Minister Boris Johnson publicised letters vowing fealty to Israel.

Their timing underscored the degree to which British politicians on both sides of the aisle have now joined their American counterparts in making commitment to Israel a defining issue in their campaigns for highest office.

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, trumpeted their pro-Israel credentials over the weekend, as Israel killed 45 Palestinians, including 16 children, and injured hundreds more. Israel said several Islamic Jihad leaders - the intended targets - were among the dead. A ceasefire went into effect late on Sunday night.

As expected, western leaders came out solidly in support of Israel, even though on this occasion there was not even the pretence that Israel was "retaliating" for rockets fired out of Gaza. Israel initiated the hostilities, claiming its strikes were meant to prevent an alleged attack by the Palestinian resistance group Islamic Jihad with an anti-tank missile.

One can imagine how politicians in the United States and Europe would have reacted had a Palestinian faction justified firing rockets into Israel unprovoked on the basis that it wished to deter future Israeli air strikes. But in any case, if deterrence really was Israel's aim, its attack had precisely the opposite effect. Entirely predictably, Islamic Jihad responde d by firing hundreds of rockets into Israel.

In fact, though it is never mentioned by western politicians or media, Palestinians, unlike Israel, actually have a right in international law to resist Israel militarily - and not only because Israel has been belligerently occupying their lands for decades.

Israel has additionally subjected Gaza to a 15-year blockade that has tightly controlled who and what is allowed in and out of the tiny, heavily overcrowded coastal enclave. Gaza has been left in ruins by a series of Israeli attacks over more than a decade - what the Israeli army calls "mowing the lawn". Gaza's trapped 2.1 million inhabitants suffer serious shortages of food, clean water, medicines, and electricity. Malnutrition and poverty are endemic.

Last year, the head of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, observed: "If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza." That hell is entirely manmade - by Israel.

Double standard

Perhaps the most flagrantly hypocritical comment on the weekend's events came from Yevgen Korniychuk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Israel. He tweeted out a message of support for Israel that turned reality on its head.

He expressed "deep sympathy" for the Israeli public, suggesting that Israel, like Ukraine, was suffering "a very brutal attack by its neighbour". He added: "Attacks on women and children are reprehensible."

But it was Israel that initiated the attack, not the Palestinians. And it was women and children in Gaza, not in Israel, who died under Israeli bombs.

Korniychuk's comments served to underscore the wider hypocrisy of western politicians who have expressed outrage at Russian aggression against Ukraine since its invasion in late February, but for years have either minimised or supported Israel's regular aggression against Gaza.

The double standard was starkly evident in the case of the two contenders for Johnson's crown. At the weekend, Truss and Sunak laid out their unwavering support for Israel at the very moment it was killing Palestinian civilians in Gaza. They did so to their party's main pro-Israel lobby group, the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI).

Truss averred: "The UK should stand side by side with Israel, now and well into the future. As Prime Minister, I would be at the forefront of this mission." Comments from Truss, the bookmakers' favourite, particularly stick in the craw.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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