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  1. Politics
27 July 2010

Cameron challenges the right over Israel

The Prime Minister was right to describe Gaza as a “prison camp”. Can he now act as an honest broker

By George Eaton

David Cameron has come under attack from the neoconservative right this morning after describing Gaza as a “prison camp” and condemning Israel in his speech in Ankara.

Here’s the key passage:

Let me be clear. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told PM Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.

Given that Israel, aided by Egypt, has maintained its crippling blockade of Gaza for three years, the use of the term “prison camp” should be uncontroversial. A United Nations investigation, led by the South African judge Richard Goldstone, concluded that the policy amounted to “collective punishment” — a crime under international law.

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But the right contends that such language evades or ignores Hamas’s role in the crisis. It is unforgivable that Hamas has refused to renounce the formal anti-Semitism of its charter, but too many ignore the group’s de facto recognition of Israel and that it ended the ceasefire only after Israel refused to ease the blockade.

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In the meantime, Cameron’s words are a further warning to Israel that a country which has never lacked enemies now risks losing its friends. They are also an encouraging sign that Cameron, unlike some of his predecessors, is determined to act as an honest broker in the Middle East.