When words are not equal.
There are numerous ways to shut down debate when it comes to Israel/Palestine. The most obvious, and the most used and abused, is to cry antisemitism, although it must be stressed the line between vehement anti-Zionism and antisemitism is often an extremely fine one. We saw this not too long ago when the Israeli ambassador to the UK denounced a Gerald Scarfe cartoon in the Sunday Times (having read a copy at the weekend, calling it a comic does a disservice to the Beano) as antisemitic on the grounds he portrayed Binyamin Netanyahu with a big nose, encasing Palestinians in a wall where the bricks were held together with blood. This apparently invoked the blood libel and the age old antisemitic trope of caricaturing Jews as having big/long facial appendages. As I noted at the time, it's fine for those who want to cry racism to do so on flimsy evidence, as Twitter would be even more unprofitable than it currently is if people didn't; when actual state actors start doing it to silence criticism, something much more sinister is at work.
Today we have a wonderful new example of the disparity in the nature of the discourse. As they have in the past, Israeli politicians and those defending Israel's actions in Gaza have asked what other countries would do were they subjected to barrages of rockets on their towns and cities. No nation could tolerate it, they say. The IDF went so far as to photoshop an image of the House of Commons under just such an attack, questioning what we'd do then. This obviously ignores how we dealt with the threat posed by the IRA, or how other countries which have faced down terrorist groups have done so without imposing a permanent siege on a heavily populated but relatively small city, but as the Israeli prime minister said, only Israel understands Israel.
When Lib Dem MP David Ward tweeted, saying "If I were in Gaza, would I fire a rocket? Probably yes" he was conducting a similar thought experiment. You could say it's a rather redundant one, as transplanting yourself into such a situation without also taking into account how different your life would be makes it likely your entire world view would also be drastically altered, but at the same time it raises the question. What would you do? Would you resist as well, even if not necessarily alongside Hamas? I find it likely I probably would.
Even to pose the question the other way it seems is to provide Hamas with succour, to suggest there is an equivalence between Hamas rockets and Israel defending itself. Palestinians, as we really should have learned by now, don't have the same right to target those the UN says may have committed war crimes. Indeed, according to the berk's berk, Tory chairman Grant Shapps, Ward's tweet may have incited violence, while Labour's Douglas Alexander said his "vile comments are as revealing as they are repellent". Quickly the party issued a statement clarifying the obvious, that he was pointing out how people can be driven to such desperate measures, but not before the Board of Deputies of British Jews said Nick Clegg should expel Ward from the party. Just as with everything else, words are simply not equal.