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Simon Schama & Vivienne Westwood

After another grim week in the Middle East, we turned to historian Simon Schama and the human rights campaigner Vivienne Westwood for their Take Of The Week.

Simon Schama
Simon Schama
Of course the spectacle and suffering makes us grieve. Who wouldn't grieve? But it's not enough to do that. We've got to understand.

You've even got to understand Israel's point of view. I did; I lived in Haifa, a bit. But, look: supposing you were in Aberdeen or Inverness, and rockets were raining down on you every day, sent by people who didn't accept the right of your country to exist.

In reply, what would you do?

Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood
Modern warfare has changed. We're not talking about the Battle of the Somme, where 20,000 soldiers lost their lives in one day. The casualties of modern warfare are innocent civilians.

In the present conflict, hundreds of innocent Lebanese have lost their lives. It's all very well to talk about rooting out Hezbollah. You will not be able to do it any more easily than the Americans were able to root out the Vietcong.

The result of this action is that innocent civilians will die.

Simon Schama
Simon Schama
In my view, what Israel's doing - bombing city centres - is ultimately not going to help its own attempt to get rid of a mini-army like Hezbollah that's devoted to its own destruction.

But it has to do something. It has to actually act in some way which is going to make it more likely that there will be proper inter international intervention, a truce, a much bigger United Nations presence and, in the end, the disarming, as called for by a United Nations resolution, of Hezbollah.

Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood
Whatever the background, Hezbollah firing rockets into Israel is an act of aggression.

But Israel's response is disproportionate. And unless America, the only country that Israel will listen to, joins in the condemnation of this response as disproportionate, the killing will go on.

Simon Schama
Simon Schama
It doesn't help to talk about World War III because petrol prices have gone through the roof. That's a recipe for hysteria, posturing and inertia.

What we need is just the opposite. For all the misery and hatred and damage and horror that the Middle East puts itself through, nothing - nothing - is irreversible.

What we want now is determination, consistency and reason. And who from? From the United Nations.

Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood
In our global world, conflicts such as this in the Middle East affect all of us. In order for this not to grow into an even bigger catastrophe, we need to go back to the heart of the matter: the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

We need diplomacy and we need a peace process - urgently.

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