Unlike Hizbollah, Mel, Israel is not trying to kill civilians Apart from a pint of tequila, I don't know what got into Mel Gibson when he decided to favour the Los Angeles police with an anti-Semitic rant. I don't know what whacko religious convictions inspire the Aussie heart-throb, or whether he genuinely believes that the "f------ Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world". But whatever Mel was having the other night was powerful stuff; and, you know what, my impression is that a lot of folks across Britain are secretly having a snifter of the same. Across the country there are sober people who would never dream of calling an LA police officer "sugar tits", or swinging like an ape from the bars of their cell. Yet these people seem to share the essentials of Mel's analysis of the Middle East. Come on, Blair! they write from their wisteria-clad redoubts. Come on, Straw, Cameron, Hague, and you, too, Boris Johnson! When are you all going to stop poodling and call a halt to Israeli murder? American-made Israeli helicopters are pounding villages, killing hundreds of women and children - and our politicians do nothing but wring their hands. Look at Blair, they say with real disgust: out there in Hollywood, touting for his next job while Beirut blazes, and we all know who runs Hollywood, eh, hmmm, know what I mean? It's a gigantic conspiracy, Boris, they say, and it is high time you did something about it. And believe me, if I thought it would make a blind bit of difference, I would. I can see that the Israeli strategy seems to be disastrous, and is turning terrorists into martyrs. But then I don't live in Haifa, or any of the places rocketed by the Hizbollah maniacs. These are not my relatives being killed, nor the relatives of my angry correspondents; and let us imagine that I did "denounce" Israel in full, free, frank and ferocious terms. Let us suppose that news of this stunning démarche were to reach the ears of some Katyusha victim, or some grime-streaked soldier of the Israeli Defence Force. Never mind the mild hilarity at discovering that some obscure Tory spokesman had "denounced" Israel. If I were an Israeli, I would be astounded that any member of the British Government or Opposition felt able to criticise Israel at all. This is a country responding, however incompetently, to direct aggression against its own people from a neighbouring failed state. It was only three years ago that we, the goody-goody British, invaded a sovereign country thousands of miles away that presented absolutely no direct threat whatever. We, the smug British, have been responsible for what is now a full-scale civil war, and in case there is still some ass out there (such as Blair) who says this is not a civil war, let me point out that Iraqi civilian deaths are now averaging 800 a week, and the monthly casualties for June approached the levels of the American Civil War, one of the bloodiest in history. Our strategy - Jack Straw's strategy - for Iraq has proved to be pure carnage, and for him to criticise Israel's strategy is laughable. All of which, of course, makes my friends even crosser. Yes, they hiss, but then we shouldn't have gone near Iraq. It was our fault for poodling to the Americans, and we all know why the Americans wanted to invade Iraq, hmmm? It was partly about oil, but it was also Israel, wasn't it? It was the old Jewish lobby, eh? they say, beginning to rev up like Mel in the cell. To which I can only wearily respond that, yes, I suspect that it was a bit about oil, and, yes, I have no doubt that the Israelis were happy to see the back of Saddam Hussein. But the only reason I supported the war was because I persuaded myself that it would be in the long-term interests of the people of Iraq, and, though that hope now looks pitiful, it has not quite died. And whatever the frustrated ravings of Mel Gibson and my correspondents, I do not believe that all the problems of the region can be traced to Israel, and nor do I believe that if Britain were to spurn Bush, snub Condi and "denounce" Israel, we would make the slightest difference to the fate of southern Lebanon. Of course anti-Americanism wins votes, especially if, like Jack Straw, you have a seat with a lot of Muslims. But show me how it works, this proposed spanking new "independent" British policy on Israel? Presumably we join France and Germany in their vapourings. Presumably we join the European Commission in encouraging the pouring of further squillions down the gullets of the brutal and corrupt Palestinian government. Then what? Then nothing. The real problem in the region is not Israel, but what it represents to the Islamicists who surround it. The difference between Israel and her neighbours is that Israel is a capitalist democracy, with all the freedom and tawdriness that entails. They don't give a monkey's in Teheran about the fate of the poor Palestinians. Israel incarnates everything the mullahs hate, not least the spectacle of liberated womanhood that they find so appalling and so shamingly tempting. Israel provides a focus for the resentment of a Muslim civilisation that finds itself materially and intellectually humiliated by the achievements of America and the West. Indeed, Israel provides a convenient proxy target for people in this country who loathe the Yo-Blair way America bosses us around, and who resent our enclitic status: not so much the parrot on America's shoulder as the monkey in the pocket of an organ-grinder who is himself controlled by a vast Zionist conspiracy. Well, let me remind Mel and all his secret British sympathisers of two last differences between Israel and the Islamicists. Whatever the hideous shambles of the past few days, it is still true, in principle, that when Israeli rockets kill civilians, they have missed their targets, and that when Hizbollah rockets kill civilians, they have scored a deliberate hit. That is a moral difference that needs to be dinned into the skull of every saloon-bar strategist currently denouncing Israel. Finally, Mel, if you want to get wasted on tequilas and sheilas, you're much better off in Tel Aviv than Teheran.