The Rev Dr Peter Mullen is a priest of the Church of England and former Rector of St Michael, Cornhill and St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in the City of London. He has written for many publications including the Wall Street Journal.

Yesterday the Prime Minister said, “The international community must show courage to allow time for sanctions against Iran to work” – that is, to persuade the rulers of that country that there is no advantage to them in the project to develop nuclear weapons. But the history of the effectiveness of sanctions is not encouraging. In a series of local wars since 1945, sanctions have been applied against a number of states whose policies the so called “international community” has disapproved, but they almost always failed spectacularly to achieve the desired results: against, for example, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and the Serbs’ massacre of Bosnians.

There are no grounds for believing that sanctions will achieve the desired aim concerning Iran. The historical record shows, in fact, that threats and sanctions are counterproductive for they encourage regimes to persevere in their disapproved policies. A baited bear becomes more aggressive, not less.

In the same speech, Mr Cameron urged Israel that “Now is not the time to attack Iran.” And he added, “But nothing is off the table if Iran makes the wrong choice.” Nothing may be off the table, Prime Minister but, if Iran makes “the wrong choice,” Israel could well be off the map. With nuclear weapons, Iran could do to Jews in three minutes what Hitler failed to do in the 12 years from 1933-1945.

Pre-emptive military action in self-defence may be the only realistic hope for Israel’s survival. The “international community” urges upon Israel prudence and restraint. But where’s the prudence in a man’s saying, “I’ll tell you what: you shoot me first and then, when I’m dead, I’ll shoot you.”

Of course the subtext to all this is the near universal hatred of Israel, and by the British Foreign Office in particular which has always been rampantly pro-Arab. The “international community” declares itself vastly in favour of democracy and human rights. But human rights and democracy – equality before the law, religious freedom and women’s emancipation for example – are virtually unknown in Arab countries. It is the despised Israel which alone practises democracy in the whole of the Middle East.

As a learning exercise, just open the map and you will see Israel as a tiny strip of land, entirely surrounded by large states who have declared repeatedly that they wish only its destruction. It is Israel and not the “international community” which is facing an existential threat. Four times since 1948 these enemies have made war on Israel. For years Israeli citizens have endured the bombardment of rockets launched from Gaza and South Lebanon. Now we learn that both the number and the destructive power of these rockets have been greatly increased by Iran’s supply of sophisticated military hardware to the terrorists in Hizbollah and Hamas.

The leaders of Iran have declared many times that they wish to obliterate Israel. Why should Israel not believe this threat? More to the point, why should Israel stay its military response and instead put its trust in the capacity of the bureaucrats in “the international community” to shuffle papers?

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