WHILE defenders of Israel’s campaign in Gaza invariably repeat the mantra “Israel has the right to defend itself”, as a self-evident truism, critics are not slow in responding that war is not merely a competition in killing, there are rules governing conflict.

For example, you may not rape, torture, kill prisoners of war, or target civilians, even when such action is perceived as bringing victory nearer (the Hiroshima Fallacy). The wilful targeting of enemy civilians contravenes the fundamental principle of non-combatant immunity However, we are blind to our own flagrant violation of precisely the same laws, but on an unimaginably greater scale. The deployment of a weapon of mass destruction, the policy known as CASD (Continuous At Sea Deterrence) whereby hydrogen bombs (aka nuclear missiles) are deployed in full alert 24/7, dwarfs any crime committed by Israel.

It is depressing to observe that, in rehearsing the arguments for Scottish independence, this, the most powerful and irrefutable of all, is seldom evoked or mentioned. Even among the most dedicated supporters of independence, the “nuclear issue” is treated as a sort of afterthought.

Because we just don’t want to talk about the Bomb any more. It’s all so passé, so Sixties. And my granny used to march in the old days of the Cold War, back when we all lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation. It has all changed now, hasn’t it?

And when the Bureau of Atomic Scientists say that the danger of nuclear war is greater now than any time in the past, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, they’re not being serious, are they?

In truth, the tragedy is that we ourselves are the first of our nuclear victims, because we must first stifle the basic spark of human decency in our own souls, before we can numb our brains to contemplate the ultimate blasphemy of global nuclear war.

When I stand with the handful of Catholic Workers at the South Gate of Faslane, a pathetic bunch on our monthly vigil, I am inexpressibly saddened to consider that, as a society, we have grown to accept the unspeakable horror of nuclear extermination. It has become normalised and domesticated.

So let's just change the channel and watch something else, right?

Brian Quail, Glasgow.


READ MORE: The Tories are the only ones to chime with the Scots

READ MORE: Why won't Sarwar show some backbone over the Hate Crime Act?

READ MORE: Hate takes root and flourishes in the poisonous indy debate

Religion should not be protected

SCOTLAND’S new hate crime law gives protection to the following categories: age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender identity.

Most of the controversy so far has been focused on the trans issue particularly as it affects women.

While in no way seeking to minimise that issue’s importance, I believe there is another serious problem with this legislation, in the way it protects religions which are systems of thought or belief, which are choices people make of their own free will, to follow or not to follow.

The Scottish Government has created a situation in Scotland where criticism of belief could be held to be a crime no matter how outrageous that belief might seem to be.

Those who believe in the great religions are entitled to respect for their views, but so are those of us who don’t believe, particularly if our views are expressed in the privacy of our own homes.

We must be free to speak our minds without having to worry about a knock on our door from a policeman, sent there by an anonymous complainant whose feelings have been hurt by our expression of disbelief at what they may believe to be unquestionable, but which to us might be, literally, unbelievable.

It’s not enough to say, as the FM does, that there are protections for freedom of speech in place. As others have observed, the process is also a punishment even if found innocent of any malign intent and the element of doubt introduced by the Act around what can and can’t be said is certain to have a chilling effect on public discourse, particularly when the police guidance on it is so vague and even representatives of the police are saying it is unworkable.

The SNP/Green administration should repeal this sinister, unworkable, legislation immediately. If not, Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats, most of whose MSPs voted for it, should guarantee to repeal the legislation as their first act if elected in 2026.

Sandy MacAlister, Shiskine, Isle of Arran.

• IF Peter A Russell (Letters, April 9) is unclear about what is contained within the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act, perhaps he could ask Labour's leader in Scotland, Anas Sarwar, who was vocal in his support for the Act. Indeed, all parties in the Scottish Parliament supported it, except the Tories.

For the most part, the Act consolidates existing hate crime legislation across different statutes into a single place. As an example, "stirring up of hatred" has been on the statute books since 1965. The Act extends existing provisions to cover other protected characteristics.

The Act will not criminalise anyone who wishes to discuss or criticise any matters in a non-threatening manner and specific legal protections have been added to the legislation to strengthen freedom of expression rights.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

The Conservative socialist

I AGREED with much of what Kevin McKenna said in his interview with Jim Sillars ("Scotland's baby box doesn't compare with the need for good housing", The Herald, April 8).

When Jim and I were first elected to the House of Commons in the 1970s, the big issues affecting working-class people were the economy, employment, education, housing, the National Health Service and, above all, the maldistribution of wealth and power.

Today the political class seems to be more obsessed with what constitutes gender, whether we should distort language by using a plural to describe a singular and trying to find a legalistic definition of hate rather than positively encouraging people to love their neighbour, which is the very basis of socialism.

However, I must question the reference to the origin of the Scottish Special Housing Association (SSHA). It was indeed a brilliant example of socialist enterprise to help homeless people but, contrary to what is alleged in the Herald interview, it was not created by Willie Ross. When he was Secretary of State for Scotland in the 1960s and 1970s, Willie certainly expanded the work of the SSHA but it was in fact founded away back in 1937, the year that Jim Sillars was born. The Secretary of State for Scotland at that time was Walter Elliot. A Tory MP.

Which all goes to prove that, before the Second World War, even some of the right-wing politicians believed in socialist enterprise to help homeless people. Changed days.

Dennis Canavan, Bannockburn.

Netanyahu will pay the price

THE UK and allies were largely responsible for setting up Israel in 1948 which upset the Arab world. Hamas was no doubt culpable for the October 7 offensive, murder and kidnapping of Israeli citizens and Israel have a right to respond.

What Israel is doing now, however, is tantamount to ethnic cleansing and although its stated aim is to quash Hamas, I wonder what the aftermath will bring. Palestinian men, women and children who are nothing to do with Hamas are being killed and their homes destroyed. Israel is notorious for ignoring UN resolutions; the US however always back it up due to the large Jewish population in the States. Gaza is being flattened, the West Bank is being either settled or attacked. Does Israel honestly expect peace in the aftermath of all this?

The US is now backing down from carte blanche support for Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu, as are his own people. His stated aim is annihilation of Hamas; however his total destruction of the Gaza state will come home to haunt him and the Middle East will not be at peace for a long time to come.

Steve Barnet, Gargunnock.

The Herald: Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin Netanyahu (Image: Getty)

• I HAVE on numerous occasions criticised in the Letters Pages, in no uncertain terms, the Israeli Government’s completely unacceptable, totally inhumane, treatment of the Palestinian people in Gaza and on the West Bank.

However I was very much taken aback to read the letter from Leah Gunn Barrett (April 6). In my reading of the UK and overseas press, no matter how sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, never have I come across any evidence for her assertion to the effect that “Israeli lies, lapped up by the western mainstream media, that Hamas raped and murdered Israeli women on October 7 have been debunked as war propaganda”.

Since those of us who promote the Palestinian cause are not helped by such accusations that are in my opinion unjustified, I would ask her to supply evidence of the aforementioned “debunking”.

John Milne, Uddingston.