Guernsey Press

Never say never again, unless you mean it

IT WAS a tragedy when the Octopus restaurant burnt down. The feelings of sadness Guernsey people felt for the proprietors and staff were palpable, and for the owner too. Thank God, we said, that no one had been killed, but what a shock for them all? A local landmark restaurant gone – for the time being anyway, with heartfelt sympathy from our community for the people whose livelihoods and lives had been so affected. The proprietors promised they would be back.


It puts into perspective the difficulty, and in some cases, the reluctance, that people have coming to terms with the consequences of natural and man-made disasters happening elsewhere. How to understand and contextualise these events, and accountability for them?

Consider Gaza, a small land-mass adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea. It has a surface area of 365 square km, into which 2.3m. people are squeezed (75% of them refugees). This compares to the 197 square km of Guernsey and Jersey combined. (With a joint population of 167,000 the islands struggle to find space to accommodate many, if any, refugees.)

Following the violent Hamas incursion of 7 October, Israel has destroyed between 50% and 61% of Gaza’s buildings in reprisal. In the name of ‘self defence and killing Hamas’, Israel embarked on mass carpet-bombing and demolition campaigns of Gaza’s apartment blocks, hospitals, churches, mosques, schools, universities, cultural and medical centres. To any objective observer the Israeli reprisals seem designed not purely to eliminate Hamas but specifically to demoralise a civilian population, killing thousands and destroying their infrastructure and culture, making it impossible for them to return – at the very least, the tactics of text book ethnic cleansing.

Over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, a disproportionate number of them children. Five per cent of Gaza’s population are dead, wounded or missing – amounting to between 60,000 and 100,000 in total. (The number of corpses rotting under the rubble can only be guessed at). Over 1.5m. Gazans have now been driven into squalid tented camps in Rafah, in the south of Gaza.

Imagine if we equated these statistics to the islands. Over three quarters of Jersey and Guernsey carpet-bombed, destroying over half of all our buildings. Visualise the carnage, the devastation to States buildings, police stations, parish churches, chapels, and financial and legal centres – all gone or gutted. Farms obliterated, powerstations knocked out, the water supply sabotaged, the schools and colleges, housing estates bombed to the ground. The people of Guernsey fleeing to the dubious ‘safety’ of Jersey, only to be fired upon en route.

Our hospitals couldn’t cope with the 7,000 Channel Islanders that would be killed or maimed.

Imagine the supply of food and medical aid coming into Guernsey and Jersey reduced by 95%. Food and medical supplies would run out within days. The ensuing disease and famine, the devastating grief and mental torture would be incalculable.

To people elsewhere, safe in their private cocoons, would the islands tragedy register, or would it be just another passing footnote in history?

Times have moved on since Guernsey gave its unequivocal support to Israel’s right to ‘defend’ itself after the events of 7 October. Half to two thirds of Gaza’s infrastructure is destroyed, over 30,000 Palestinians are dead, and up to 70,000 Palestinians are maimed or missing – Israel has long passed the bounds of ‘self defence’.

Since the tentacles of political power and propaganda coming from further afield are strangulating free speech, local political commentary on Gaza has apparently become a matter of ‘pontification’. The common sense, fair play, objectivity and empathy of our politicians has been duly suppressed. Guernsey continues dutifully to give Israel its unequivocal support, even as the International Court of Justice, the world’s highest court, considers that there is a plausible case for a charge of genocide against it.

To islanders’ undying shame, the Guernsey States shipped three Jewish women to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps in WWII. So have the lessons of history been learnt by Guernsey?

No. Our politicians look the other way as the genocidal assault on the people of Gaza continues. Such seems to be, the moral courage of this treasured island. Never say never again, unless you mean it.