SNP ac­cused of hav­ing Eu­rope’s ‘harsh­est’ stance over Is­rael

The Herald on Sunday - - NEWS FOCUS - By Peter Swin­don

A SE­NIOR min­is­ter in the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment has crit­i­cised the SNP-led Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion on his coun­try as “the harsh­est in Eu­rope”.

Michael Oren, a his­to­rian who is now deputy min­is­ter in the Is­raeli prime min­is­ter’s of­fice, also ac­cused the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment of “gra­tu­itously mis­read­ing” in­ter­na­tional law when it de­scribed Is­rael’s at­tacks on Gaza as “dis­pro­por­tion­ate”.

Mr Oren spoke to The Her­ald on Sun­day at the Knes­set, Is­rael’s par­lia­ment, in Tel Aviv last week as rock­ets fell on Is­raeli towns and cities last week.

The bar­rage of al­most 500 rock­ets from Gaza fol­lowed a botched spy­ing mis­sion by Is­raeli forces that left eight dead. Is­rael re­sponded to the rock­ets with air strikes at more than 70 sites in Gaza.

The vi­o­lence was the worst in the r egion si nce the 50-day con­flict in 2014.

In Au­gust 2014, Humza Yousaf, t he then min­is­ter f or ex­ter nal a f fa i r s , c o n d e mne d rocket at­tacks from Gaza but added that Is­rae l ’s re­sponse was “dis­pro­por­tion­ate”.

His as­sess­ment was based on the death toll in Gaza, where 2,251 peo­ple died, in­clud­ing 1,462 civil­ians. On the Is­raeli side, 67 sol­diers and six civil­ians died.

Mr Oren MK ( Mem­ber of t he Knes­set) said: “I un­der­stand the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has taken a po­si­tion on us that is prob­a­bly the harsh­est of any po­lit­i­cal party in Eu­rope. They vie with some of the Swedish par­ties and the Ir­ish par­ties.

“But let me say about [ Yousaf’s com­ments on] dis­pro­por­tion­al­ity. First of all, it is a gross mis­read­ing of in­ter­na­tional law. I stud­ied in­ter­na­tional law. Dis­pro­por­tion­al­ity it says very sim­ply that an army can only use the force nec­es­sary to meet the threat. If we use a cer­tain amount of force and rock­ets con­tinue to fall on our ter­ri­tory then the force can­not be dis­pro­por­tion­ate, just can­not by def­i­ni­tion.

“So, it’s a gross mis­read­ing and I would say a gra­tu­itous mis­read­ing of dis­pro­por­tion­al­ity prin­ci­ples. We are, if any­thing, un­der pro­por­tion in our use of force.

“Many other so­ci­eties, most other so­ci­eties, would use a reck­less amount of force to stop rock­ets fall­ing on civil­ians. We have not done that. We have the power, boy we have the power. We could end it very quickly.”

Hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tion Amnesty is­sued a re­port on Is­rael ear­lier this year that ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of “col­lec­tively pun­ish­ing Gaza’s en­tire pop­u­la­tion” with an air, land and sea block­ade.

The block­ade has trig­gered a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis, with elec­tric­ity cuts af­fect­ing clean wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion and di­min­ish­ing health ser­vice ac­cess. The block­ade has ren­dered Gaza in­creas­ingly “un­liv­able”, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions.

Mr Oren said: “I know this is dif­fi­cult, but when you think about Gaza you have to throw out ev­ery­thing you know about ev­ery­thing in hu­man af­fairs. I’ll give you ex­am­ples. Ha­mas [the gov­ern­ing au­thor­ity] wants to keep a low light on the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis there, but it burned down a cross­ing to Gaza three times. It burned fuel lines to a pop­u­la­tion that is in any case only get­ting three hours a day of elec­tric­ity.

“And, by the way, Ha­mas has 24/7 elec­tric­ity in its tun­nels and its bunkers and head­quar­ters. No prob­lems there with elec­tric­ity, no prob­lems with wa­ter.”

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment said its po­si­tion on the sit­u­a­tion in Gaza “was and con­tin­ues to be in line with much main­stream in­ter­na­tional opin­ion”.

A Gov­ern­ment spokesman added: “More gen­er­ally, we sup­port in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to bring res­o­lu­tion to the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, based on work­ing to­wards a two-state so­lu­tion.”

Celtic fans have been wav­ing Pales­tinian flags, while Rangers sup­port­ers have been seen with Is­raeli flags

Michael Oren hit out at ‘mis­read­ing’ of in­ter­na­tional law

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