Hundreds of thousands of Israeli troops have been mobilised and are being deployed near the border with northern Gaza. A ground assault is expected. The US Secretary of State has been visiting regional leaders, including the Palestinian President, in an attempt to prevent escalation. Hezbollah has said it is “fully prepared” to join the conflict. Iran has also threatened to intervene (potentially via proxies) if Israel goes ahead with ground operations. The US is deploying a second carrier strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean. The Arab League convened in Egypt and rejected calls for civilians to be allowed safe passage into Egypt, saying that Palestinians must not leave.
There were protests in several UK cities in opposition to Israel. The government warned against the protests and reminded people that Hamas is a terrorist organisation and that expressing support for such an organisation is a criminal offence. Meanwhile, in France, all pro-Palestinian protests were banned.
Protests on the streets of London
Trade talks between the UK and India have reportedly reached an “advanced stage”. Rishi Sunak is said to be considering a trip to India at the end of this month in the hope that a deal may be finalised by then. It is thought that work visas for Indians is one of the last issues left to be resolved.
Taliban officials will travel to Beijing this week to attend China’s Belt and Road Forum. Though the Chinese government still does not officially recognise the Taliban as the legitimate government in Afghanistan, they were among the first to send an ambassador and are thought to be exploring mining contracts with the regime.
Australian voters overwhelmingly rejected plans to change the constitution by creating an advisory body intended to represent the interests of aboriginal Australians. It is an embarrassing result for the government who enthusiastically supported the proposed amendment. New Zealand’s conservative National Party won a convincing victory in the national elections and will form a government after 6 years of Liberal rule.
Australians vote No to the Voice.
William Nattrass on EU divisions over the Israel-Gaza conflict.
Julian Jessop on the dangers of Bidenomics.
Protecting the Golden Goose, Financial and business services in the UK by Catherine McBride
Catherine McBride describes the huge importance of financial and business services to UK trade but views it as potentially vulnerable. Threats include rising corporate taxation, tardiness in revising regulations inherited from the EU, pressure to employ those other than the most effective and form-filling requirements on such things as the dangers from climate change.
Some readers may be surprised to hear that the UK’s service exports now make up 48% of the UK’s total exports. It is rarely mentioned by the BBC or even by the Financial Times. Service Exports are divided by the ONS into twelve broad categories. The three largest of these are exported by ‘The City’ – Financial services, Insurance and Pensions, and Other Business Services – although the ‘City’ is not just in the Square Mile but now spreads all over the country including Canary Wharf, Birmingham, and Edinburgh.
Though media coverage of the conflict in Israel and Gaza has so far been sympathetic to Israel, dissenting voices (mostly from the left) have tried to draw comparisons between the actions of Hamas and the actions of the Israeli Defence Force. They do this by pointing out that civilian populations on both sides have suffered. As Israeli forces launch more operations inside Gaza, and as Palestinian civilians suffer the effects of a war being fought around them, these voices will only get louder. While unconditional, preemptive support for any Israeli action would be misguided, there are some important distinctions to keep in mind which should affect how we evaluate actions by both sides.
Firstly, there is an important difference between intentional and unintentional civilian casualties. In criminal law, it is the difference between murder and manslaughter. While culpability for murder inevitably falls on the killer, culpability for manslaughter is harder to attribute. This is especially the case when other actors are being uncooperative (for example, by making no attempt to move civilians out of harm’s way) or even provocative (for example, by using civilians as human shields).
There is also a distinction (though its ethical significance is contested) between actions taken with the intention of killing civilians and actions taken merely in the knowledge that civilians will die as a result. The former is illegal under international law, while the latter is permissible in the right circumstances. In particular, measures must be taken to minimise civilian casualties and the tactical advantage gained from the action must be sufficiently great. Needless to say, the huge uncertainty under which decisions are taken make them harder to evaluate – it is not usually possible to know in advance precisely what the side effects of any particular action will be.
Another question is when culpability for the actions of particular soldiers can be passed up the chain of command. Where direct orders have been given, this is not an issue, but where soldiers have been given only a tactical objective, it is not always clear where the buck should stop. It is also true that particular soldiers can act with intentions that are not the intentions of the army or the government as a whole, which further complicates the picture.
There are also distinctions to be made between the wider intentions with which war is waged and in what spirit. Achieving national security in the face of changing threats is different from vengeful retaliation. These differences are relevant to how we interpret frontline military action. There are some for whom Israeli security can never be a just intention because of their views on Israel as a state. Using the rhetoric of civilian suffering is one way to smuggle these views into a debate without making them explicit.
War always raises complex ethical problems. These problems are solved neither by picking a side nor by comparing harms. As the conflict between Israel and Hamas develops, we should resist attempts to simplify these problems if we want to make a fair assessment of what takes place.
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A Cambridge Philosophy Graduate