View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Tuesday 1 June

The day started wet, but the rain soon moved away. We had a brief spell of sunshine in the second half of the afternoon, but it did not last. It should be better tomorrow.

I have continued the transcription of a 19th century document, which details the conditions in which crofters and cottars were living in the Western Isles. Lord Napier spent the summer of 1883 going all over northern and western Scotland, mainland and islands, hearing the grievances of the people - about forced evictions, lack of land, no security of tenure - and the platitudes being bandied about by the landlords and their agents. Today's entries focus on the island of Benbecula.

I was horrified to hear yesterday about the attack by Israeli forces on a convoy of ships, which were bringing aid to the Gaza strip. It appears a botched affair, which is backfiring on the Israeli government. It has also brought home to many Israelis that their perception of their own nation is sharply different from the perception of Israel in the outside world. The hostility from the Arab nations is well known, but the way the Gaza strip has been blockaded has not earned them any brownie points in the "western" world either.

The Israeli government, headed up by Benjamin Netanyahu, has justified the blockade saying it is there to prevent armaments reaching the militant Hamas faction, whose stated aim is to destroy the state of Israel. However, the blockade has been so "successful", that it has choked off humanitarian supplies to ordinary residents in Gaza. It would appear likely that the Israeli blockade of Gaza will be relaxed in days and weeks to come.

I am casting my mind back four months, to 27 January, when Mr Netanyahu delivered a speech at the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz deathcamp in Poland. It was a speech characterised by strident zionism - the God given right of the people of present-day Israel to hold the land they do, and defend themselves by any measure, and under any pretext whatsoever.

I recognise that Israel is under threat from militant Palestinian groups, and other "terrorist" organisations, some sponsored by other states, seeking its destruction. But the world of 2010 is different from the world of the late 20th century. Israel will gain more support through being seen to work towards a diplomatic solution of the Middle East problems, rather than bombing their way towards such a resolution.