Unionism’s curious affinity for the smiting of the Philistines


To return to Gaza for a moment, and Tzipi Livni’s election campaign – sorry, the Israeli military offensive – is ongoing, with Palestinian casualties heading rapidly towards four figures, including an enormous proportion of civilians, while Israeli casualties are yet to break into double figures. And from Tzipi’s point of view, it’s all going well, as before Operation Cast Lead her polling numbers were dire, but now she’s looking like a good prospect. It seems that dead Palestinians play well with the Israeli electorate.

There’s much to be said about this, but I’ve been getting a weird sense of dissonance from the Belfast Telegraph. As part of the Independent stable, the Tele gets its Middle East reportage from the admirable Bob Fisk, and its syndicated columnists tend to be of the progressive variety. The local columnists are a different matter – after all, this is an environment where some people think loveable character Eamonn McCann is dangerously radical.

So we turn to the venerable Eric Waugh, the Tele’s own Dalai Lama, who’s been holding forth on Gaza this week. Eric shakes his head that the Israelis “have allowed themselves to be astutely provoked into it. By provoking Israel and then siting their rockets in populated areas — are there any other sort in crowded Gaza? — Hamas is playing the old, unscrupulous game the IRA perfected in Northern Ireland. Already, displaying the terrorists’ routine indifference to the slaughter of the uninvolved, Hamas is reaping its reward, as television screens worldwide are filled with weeping women and children, shattered homes — and media reportage sharply angled in the Palestinians’ favour.” Although, to be fair, Eric does allow that Livni is buying votes with Palestinian corpses – he just prefers to assume, perhaps too charitably, that Livni is bolstering her hardline credentials, the better to make a deal. I’m not sure about this, mainly because Israel has over the years been presented with all sorts of deals, and still is, but has consistently chosen not to take them.

Eric then waffles on a bit about British and Irish anti-Semitism in the 1930s and 1940s, and adduces this as a reason why outsiders have no moral standing to criticise Israel, sixty years on. (That it provides the opportunity to take a pop at de Valera is merely an added bonus.)

Actually, the most interesting part of Eric’s column is the start, where he remarks that “One cannot generalise, but it is a fact that there is a tendency for the loyalist-Protestant-unionist interest in Northern Ireland to side with the Jewish Israelis in the endless conflict in the Middle East.” This is true, but he doesn’t say why that is. The thing is that unionists may not know much about the Middle East, but they know what they like. They know imperialism when they see it, and they like imperialism as much as they like Tayto cheese and onion. They see a settler regime with its boot firmly on the natives’ neck and sticking two fingers up to the rest of the world, a sort of Stormont on steroids, and they feel an instant affinity. Indeed, one often hears unionists – you can hear them five days a week on Talk Back – saying that wee Ulster wouldn’t have had any problem with terrorism if it had been as firm as the Israeli state. That Israel demonstrably still has a security problem doesn’t seem to faze those unionists who see Israeli actions in Gaza as an example of best practice.

It’s a bit like Zimbabwe. In days of yore, the unionists were dead keen on Good Old Smitty and absolutely firm in support of the Rhodesian cause. Some of them still have a bee in their bonnet about Zimbabwe because they see it as the Ghost of Christmas Future. It’s perhaps in that context that we should read the periodic calls by Eric’s comrade Gail Walker for military action against Uncle Bob’s firm-but-fair regime.

Ah yes, Gail. She’s on the Middle East this week as well. You know, one expects drivel in the Gail Walker column, but this one is a real stinker.

It’ll be no surprise to anyone familiar with this column that I am 100% behind the Israeli action against Hamas in Gaza.

No, it isn’t. In fact, I would be surprised if Gail wasn’t practicing Ziontology. But go on, Gail:

Stupid, unsophisticated, self-sacrificial — persuading the gullible to kill themselves by suicide bomb — and exploiting the lowest possible urges of a people certainly embattled and cornered.

It’s also the reason why Hamas was able to win elections in Gaza, routing the PLO under President Mahmoud Abbas, dubbed by one Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, as “a merchant selling Palestinians’ rights”.

That sounds like a fair description of Abbas. But I’m sorry, this is where Gail sneaks in a nasty little rhetorical trick. Hamas’ strong suit is their democratic mandate, won in free and fair elections across the occupied territories – not only in Gaza, Gail – a victory that led to the imposition of sanctions on the Palestinian Authority by Israel, the US and the EU, followed by the Fatah coup engineered by the same actors, followed by the conversion of Gaza into what is, essentially a giant concentration camp where the Israelis have been killing around 4000 people a year. But, as per Gail, the “stupid” and “unsophisticated” towelheads, in electing Hamas, indulged their “lowest possible urges” and so deserve all they get.

But this is just a jumping-off point for Gail to do battle once more with the evil lefties in her head, as she lays into “the traditional, routine, by-now barely-concealed anti-Semitism of the Western Left and the British Labour movement in particular.” Well, I know I’m not anti-Semitic, and most of the socialists I know are markedly less anti-Semitic than your average Ulster unionist. But this matters little to Gail, who is relying on the identification of the entire Jewish people with the Israeli state, an identification common to both Zionists and genuine anti-Semites.

And they all know who’s really calling the shots in Gaza. You know too. He was on TV delivering his Christmas message to Britain, courtesy of Channel Four.

It may suit Gail to view Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a Bond villain, but anybody who knows anything about Iran wouldn’t take that seriously. Far from calling the shots in Gaza, he doesn’t even call the shots in Tehran. He doesn’t control the army, doesn’t control the secret service, and barely influences the state budget. The main thing Dinner Jacket can do is populist grandstanding – think of him as Iran’s answer to Boris Johnson. The trouble is, this grandstanding makes him popular at home but also makes it easy to portray him as a bogeyman.

Anyway, if Iran really is pushing for world domination as Gail seems to think, and those crappy little Qassam rockets are the best it can do, Israel has nothing to worry about. It can’t be very pleasant for the residents of Sderot, but your Israeli citizen stands a much greater chance of being killed on the roads – particularly if you bear in mind what Israeli motorists are like.

I’m no war-monger.

Ha ha ha! And in the next sentence:

I’d like to see Mugabe hunted down for his crimes over a quarter of a century in Zimbabwe, not just those committed when he became an embarrassment to the Western Lefties.

Once again, I must remind Gail that one of Uncle Bob’s biggest boosters was Mrs Thatcher, who saw him as a bulwark against pro-Soviet forces in the region, and the ANC in particular. And it was John Major and Douglas Hurd who gave him that knighthood.

I was glad to see Saddam closed down — that’s one nation which isn’t keen to join any Iranian-backed scheme to capitalise on the sufferings of the people of Gaza.

Perhaps Gail has missed out on the fact that the democratically elected government in Iraq is dominated by pro-Iranian theocrats, and is arguably the most vocally critical of Israel in the region. Not what Gail’s hero W expected to happen, but there you go.

Oh yes, and Gail also brings the Holocaust into the discussion, as a justification for what the IDF is doing. Dear God, this is desperate stuff. If I wanted to read Middle East wingnuttery, I would read Melanie Phillips, who at least does it with a bit of style. Tell you what, Gail, it might be better to stick to stuff you know, like reviewing the soaps and slagging off female celebrities.


  1. Phil said,

    January 10, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    They see a settler regime with its boot firmly on the natives’ neck and sticking two fingers up to the rest of the world, a sort of Stormont on steroids, and they feel an instant affinity.

    I noticed something similar in the way some Zionists talked about the RS. Here’s a relatively circumspect comment from Tommi Lapid:

    The Bosnians didn’t anticipate the violent reaction of the Serbs. They should have known better; they should have taken into account the collective memory of horrors the Serbs suffered at the hands of Croats and Moslems in Nazi times.

    We Jews identify with people who shared our fate. We understand them when they say “never again,” and act accordingly. We appreciate their motivations and identify with their fears, without condoning their misdeeds.

    Admittedly Lapid was a Serb himself, but he wasn’t the only oneZionist Serbophile. (Redrawing borders, kicking out the Muslims, what’s not to like?) See also Lewis Mackenzie.

  2. Phil said,

    January 10, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Oops – too many links in my comment. Could you dredge it out?

  3. Phil said,

    January 10, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    And now it’s there. Never mind.

  4. yourcousin said,

    January 10, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    “Ziontology”, love it.

  5. splinteredsunrise said,

    January 11, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Well, Lapid is Lapid, and it’s questionable how representative he is of much in Israel. Certainly, Richard Seymour had a pop at the “Serbs = Zionists” line a while back, but he seems to have given it up for a bad job. It may have something to do with the Israel lobby in the States, and Israel’s boosters in Britain, being almost unanimously on the other side.

    Still, if you can use it to wind up the Decents…

  6. January 13, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    […] Splintered Sunrise – on Unionism’s strange affinity with invaders. […]

  7. davidbroder said,

    January 14, 2009 at 1:43 am

    Today a dozen activists stormed/occupied the Zionist press office BICOM in London, which works to “spin” stories about Palestinians being killed by the IDF and spread pro-Israeli government propaganda


  8. January 16, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    […] other day I pointed out unionism’s more or less uncritical identification with the Israeli state in its offensive on […]

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