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Israel has the right to defend itself. But this is not defence

When will the media stop spouting the official Israeli claims of targeting Hamas? To wipe out 45% of civilian homes (so far) doesn’t sound like targeting

People mourn as they collect the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli raids on November 14 in Khan Yunis, Gaza. Photo: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty

A chill went through me as I read the headline of Paul Mason’s column in TNE #363 (“Starmer is right about Israel and Gaza. But he needs steel”). To date, I have found Paul Mason to be radical, incisive and refreshingly frank. Until now, he has never disappointed. Now, he puts my subscription and my frequent recommendation of TNE under some serious doubt.

He rolls out the “Israel’s right to defend” trope. Of course it has a right to defend, but this is not defence. What the Ukrainians are trying to do is defence.

When will the media stop spouting the official Israeli claims of targeting Hamas? To wipe out 45% of civilian homes (so far) doesn’t sound like targeting to me. The psychopathic actions of Hamas-Isis on October 7 almost pale in comparison.
David Hallett

I’ve been reading TNE since you started out. I am sorry that Paul Mason seems to have lost touch with reality, like most people who’ve never had to suffer in war.
John Spriggs-Taylor

The honest, heartfelt reaction of decent UK citizens to the crisis in Gaza has been way ahead of that of the politicians. There also seems to be a subtlety of understanding that has escaped Westminster.

The public realise that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government – sold out to right wing head-bangers to save his political skin – in no way represents the Jewish people. He is fuelling the extremes of the self-declared “revenge” for the same reason Donald Trump is desperately aiming for re-election. Entirely for personal preservation.
Amanda Baker
Edinburgh, Scotland

Suella Braverman may have gone but let us not kid ourselves that her appalling mindset is not reflected by many in her party and in senior positions within it. As for her comments on the “hate” marches, nobody seems prepared to state the blindingly obvious, so I will, having been on a few of them.

The vast majority – certainly well over 95% – of those marching are doing so in support of the Palestinian people. I have witnessed little evidence of antisemitism – some criticism of the current Israeli government, yes, but that is different in my book. There are a few – very few – extremists, a tiny minority, who support Hamas. It is not difficult for the Met to identify, detain and charge them if they have committed an offence. They are not welcomed by other marchers. They play into the hands of Braverman and her ilk.

The marches have nothing to do with hate; they are in support of a humanitarian cause; they are about bringing about a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities – an appropriate theme for Armistice Day, one would have thought… yet nobody was prepared to articulate that parallel.

As with Brexit, those in public office appear reluctant to state the facts, or the obvious conclusions.
Rex Nesbit

Home truths
Re: “What’s going on?”, TNE #363. Suella Braverman vowing a crackdown on tents and claiming that rough sleeping is a lifestyle choice before her welcome dismissal made me think of my friend Christopher Gibbs.

Christopher had an apartment in the Albany apartment complex, from which he would walk along Piccadilly and find eight rough sleepers, whom he would invite to a restaurant for an evening meal. After this meal, he would invite them to spend the night sleeping on the eight beds for the homeless that he sponsored in St James Church, Piccadilly, followed by breakfast.

Christopher did this frequently when he was in London. He had a villa in Tangier and died there in 2018. As a non-dom, he did not want to give money to the UK government, but to use his money to support the charities of which he approved. He regarded wealth as a means of helping those less fortunate than himself. What a contrast to the former home secretary.
David Hogg
Bristol, Avon

My husband and I, both in our late 70s, have decided to sell up and move on. Having had camping holidays all our lives, we are lucky enough to own a substantial two-man tent, a primus stove, two blow-up mattresses, and a camouflage toilet tent. We shall not need any help from homeless charities, so they will not be fined for our actions.

We intend to set up camp in the doorway of a classy closed-up store, in our local city of Chichester. There are plenty to choose from, so hopefully we shall be near a Greggs, which opens at the crack of dawn. We relish the fact that we will not have to worry about council tax, energy bills and the like ever again.

Thank you so much Sue-Ellen (as she was named at birth by her mother, who loved Dallas) for opening up our eyes to this lifestyle choice. Good luck in your retirement. With a bit of luck, we will both perish from hypothermia before you become our next PM.
Sarah Torren
Eastergate, West Sussex

Any list, including your Shit List 2023, throws up anomalies and controversy, but what have Suella Braverman’s Buddhism, her husband’s Jewish heritage and her alleged “high-achieving” career (as highlighted by reader James Turner in TNE #362) got to do with anything?

It is her policies, her tents and her hate, and her dreams of Rwanda that put her at the top of that list (and have now put her out of office).

A close-run thing maybe, with so many other qualified contenders, but her place at the top of that list is well deserved.
Sue Clapham
Huntly, Aberdeenshire

On your letters page, reference was made to Suella Braverman as a practising Buddhist. Two central teachings of Buddhism are compassion and wisdom. Clearly, Suella needs to practise much harder.
David Sawtell
Bagley, Somerset

As a member of a select group of non-Tory supporting Richmond residents, I can well testify to the “relentless Toryism” running rampant in Rishi Sunak’s constituency, so ably captured by Martin Fletcher (“Welcome to Sunak Land”, TNE #363). It can only be explained by sufficient numbers of residents holding similarly bizarre views to those reported by the owner of York House, Christine Swift.

Her shop will close next month as a result of government inaction to help small businesses. All this is a result of Brexit and 13 years of austerity, although these don’t get a mention.

Yet, despite blaming the government for her predicament, Swift intends to continue voting Tory, “albeit reluctantly”. We may not have a sheep as our MP but there is, sadly, a large flock of sheep continuing to support a corrupt and moribund government and party.
David Hunter
Richmond, North Yorkshire

It was said in Martin Fletcher’s “Welcome to Sunak Land” that in the prime minister’s constituency of Richmond, North Yorkshire, you can pin a blue rosette on a sheep and it will get elected. It seems the rosette was pinned on a sheep there, given its current MP’s timidity as a leader. He needs to be moved to pastures new.
Roger Hinds

Clever trick
It is purely to set the trap that James Ball falls straight into (“The deadly failings of a moral pygmy”, TNE #363), that so many people are prepared to pay the £45,000 or so per annum it costs to get their (mostly) sons into our top public schools.

James Ball says Boris Johnson “had the very best education” that money can buy, so, therefore “is almost certainly not a stupid man.” Elite private schools are there to make everyone else forget that “educated” and “intelligent” are not synonyms.

Those of us who have been long alert to this sleight of hand do not think Boris is intelligent. We merely think Stanley’s money was well spent.
Peter Haydon
London SE24

I love reading TNE. Intelligent writing, instructive and informative, definitely a class above most papers. I therefore find it really annoying that you stoop to Daily Mail-type headlines like “Blood on his hands” (TNE #363).

Smart, ethical journalism should be better than cheap shots.
Susan Orchard

This was spot-on about Johnson in Alastair Campbell’s diary (TNE #363): “Misconduct and malfeasance by the ton. Corruption. People losing their lives needlessly because of the cavalier, unserious, incompetent, law-breaking charlatans it was our misfortune to have in Downing Street at a time of national and global crisis.” They deserve to be punished.
Janey Sands

Red rage
Simon Gaul asserts in “The body in the boot” (TNE #363) that Aldo Moro was “held prisoner in the very centre of Rome for the entire time”. He goes on to hint at conspiracies originating “outside Italy” behind the kidnap and murder. Yet although Moro’s body was found in the centre of Rome, it is generally accepted that he was held by the Red Brigades in an apartment block in the Magliana district, an outer suburb in the south-west of Rome. This was in a building that could be entered via an underground garage with Moro concealed in the boot.

The core of the Brigate Rosse were far from being – as Gaul calls them – “a haphazard group of amateur revolutionaries”: the kidnapping was planned and prepared for long in advance and that part of the BR, at least, were highly organised.

The simple answer to the question “who organised the abduction and murder?” is the Red Brigades.
Iain Noble
Nice, France

The fairer tax
In TNE #362, James Ball on the Treasury and Jonty Bloom on inheritance tax both made good points relating to our 19th-century attitude to government. There is no doubt that reform is needed and that these following proposals have positive financial implications:

The treasury should be split in two; an economics ministry and a finance ministry. The first should be responsible for evaluating capital and revenue expenditure, and the second for providing the capital and the revenue to run the country. The treasury as presently constituted has no idea how to evaluate capital or the long-term benefits of expenditure, all it sees is a drain on resources; the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Inheritance tax is an absurdity. Replace it with a land value tax. Applied universally and intelligently to both commercial land (the moment planning consent is given) and to domestic occupancies, it would immediately bring more development land into use and tax the presently huge untaxed profits sent offshore by speculative, hidden (often illegal) operators. It could replace both council tax and business rates with a fairer system. This latter represents a huge pot of untaxed wealth that could be better used to benefit our country.

I have a recollection that Harold Wilson tried a development tax in 1965 or 66 and failed because of lobbying by big property companies.
Alan Craw
Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Required read
Each issue of TNE vindicates my decision to subscribe. I was about to pick up a thought stimulated by one columnist when it was further encouraged by subsequent writers.

The paper reminds me of something that was in the school curriculum for a brief interwar period – citizenship. What is needed more than anything these days is to understand how a modern democracy can be made to work – and what the next generation must do to ensure widespread citizen participation in resisting crass populism, rigid conservative ideologies, inequalities of wealth, and freedoms of communication.

A modern curriculum with citizenship in the syllabus would energise civil engagement. And, yes, reading TNE would be a set text!
Dr Ron Iphofen FAcSS

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See inside the Has anyone got a number for David Cameron? edition

People in Khan Yunis search for survivors of bombardment in the southern Gaza Strip, November 4. Photo: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty

Ahmad Hasaballah: Witness to destruction

Images by the photographer in the city of Khan Yunis underline the suffering of ordinary Gazans

Credit: Tim Bradford

Cartoon: Does Braverman want to be the leader?