Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Erilc Lee: Israel and London in the blitz

Nick Clegg's historical amnesia

[The following was submitted as a letter to the Guardian in response to this]

The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, writing in the Guardian today ("We must stop arming Israel"), tosses a sop to Israel with the following sentences:

"Of course, Israel has every right to defend itself. It is difficult to imagine what it must be like to live with the constant threat of rocket attacks from a movement which espouses terrorist violence ..."

He then goes on to call for Britain and the rest of the EU to crack down hard on Israel, to cut off arms supplies and much more. But as I re-read the lines above, I couldn't help but think of the historical amnesia Clegg and those like him are suffering from.

He is in effect saying that we in Britain cannot understand what Israelis are feeling. Never having been under rocket attack ourselves as a nation.

Aren't we forgetting something here, Mr. Clegg? It was called the Second World War. You might wish to ask some older people about it.

Not only did Britain suffer the full wrath of a terrorist regime under the Blitz, but even as the war was ending and that regime ceased to be an existential threat to this country, the Nazis fired V1 and V2 rockets indiscriminately, killing innocent civilians.

And even though there was no real danger at this point of the Nazis winning the war, that generation of British leaders took the view that the best way to put an end to rocket attacks against London and other British cities was through the strategic bomber offensive against Germany.

German cities were flattened. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians were killed. Goebbels and his propaganda machine howled about "war crimes". And then the war ended.

Ironically, Clegg's forerunner as Liberal leader, Archie Sinclair, served as Secretary of State for Air in Churchill's government. In that role, he helped plan the fire-bombing of Dresden.

Imagine if back in 1945 there was a political leader somewhere in the world, in a neutral country, who called for Britain to stop bombing Germany. Such a person might well have pointed out that bombing Germany would only anger Germans, and unite them behind the most extreme Nazi elements. There would be no chance of a negotiated peace with the Third Reich so long as the bombing went on. Such a politician might even have called for an arms embargo against Britain to prevent it from waging war against the Nazi regime.

History would not look kindly upon such views today. They would seem to be, at the very least, naïve in the extreme.

Britons do not have to imagine what it would be like to live under rocket attack. They've had the experience already and back in 1945, they knew how to respond.

Eric Lee

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