In the Jewish insurgency against the British, Israel’s Irgun, led by Menachem Begin, bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Ninety one people died, 49 were injured. Irgun’s original plan intended there should be no people at the site, no civilian casualties. The hotel was the nerve centre of British rule in Palestine, as useful to the Crown forces then as Cyprus is now given our dangerous, neighbouring conflict. Lack of today’s security made it easy to access and place explosives.

As with cases of IRA bomb-planting in Ireland, Irgun argued it had given plenty of time to empty the building, two thirds of which were used for government or army purposes. They said several warnings went unheeded. The French Consulate took the threats seriously and evacuated. Begin claimed, ignoring the warnings gave the Brits a chance to vilify the Jewish militant groups. The Manchester Guardian wrote that “British firmness” in Palestine had made terrorism and the situation worse.

Today, the situation is reversed, Israelis, then labelled terrorists, are ‘respectable’ and others are the terrorists. Israel could look back to that past and say, we wanted our land to belong to us. They’d hear an echo from thousands of displaced Palestinians whose land was given to settlers and who want their own state and freedom to rule themselves. They could draw lessons from Irgun’s ‘no civilian casualties’ intention.

Gaza’s thin line is being squeezed ever harder, innocents are suffering and dying not only from constant bombardment from lethal weapons but also from being besieged, without fuel, medicines, food, water, essential utilities. Hamas’ inexcusable, horrendous massacre of unarmed civilians served its purpose – to bring Palestine back to importance among Arabs now affiliated with the West or Israel, who had forsaken some of the poorest, most desperate among their nations. But it has also made the situation for noncombatant Palestinians much worse.

Whatever the intention, the group has done to their people what the coup perpetrators did here in 1974: opened the gates to give their enemy an opportunity that will not be squandered. The West ignored Israel’s decades of injustice towards the Palestinians, its democratic status, blatantly one-sided, unchallenged. The word ‘apartheid’ is being used regularly now in sympathy to term its treatment of Palestinians.

Its continuing onslaught causing immense destruction and deaths of thousands of innocents, risking wider war, has not had an urgent, straight-speaking reaction from the political West. Instead of a firm hand on Israel to practise human rights, it is guiltily aware that allowing Israel continually to get away with crimes against Palestinians, by merely ‘appealing’ to its rulers is partly responsible for the present misery on both sides.

Israel knew there would be no serious consequences from allies to land grabbing or other unlawful acts. Speeches about the amount of aid the West gives Palestinians is hot air. Words were never enough. Who could have imagined a retaliatory uprising of such hideous violence would soon occur? It is heartbreaking to hear Jewish mothers cry for their dead, their kidnapped children or loved ones. The tears of Palestinian mothers for their innocent dead is no less moving. The return by Hamas of two elderly ladies brought joy. Sharon, the daughter of one, spoke of her beloved father still captive. Her parents were among Israelis who worked for peace and she quoted their belief: ‘We have to find a way to live together.’

Palestinians losing any hope for justice heard UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres bravely speak the truth to pampered power and is being vilified by some. That old couple above may have had parents who endured the Holocaust or knew of people being herded into ghettos or camps. Hitler’s crimes against Jews were ignored by Western powers until a rising death toll shamed them. If only a man of vision like Daniel Barenboim were prime minister, how different Israel would be today.