The other day I pointed out unionism’s more or less uncritical identification with the Israeli state in its offensive on Gaza. This continues unabated, and has even intensified somewhat. In particular, there’s been quite a bit of smoke-blowing around last Saturday’s peace march organised by NIC-ICTU, which I’ll come to presently.
But the Herrenvolk instinct continues to run strong in public discourse. The polite version of this is that “We identify with Israel because of our shared experience with terrorism.” The less polite version identifies Israel as an example of best practice when it comes to putting down uppity minorities – the Palestinians, in this schema, being the substitute fenians. (And, since South Africa went over to the dark side, the unionists are a bit short of examples.) These days, in fact, I’m finding it almost impossible to listen to Talk Back, the comments from the punters are so rancid. It isn’t quite “The settlers are beating the shit out of the natives! Yo!”, but it isn’t far off.
So it is that, for a look at the more polite version, I turn to the Telegraph’s comment pages. I’ve had a bit of a pop at Eric Waugh, at the high end of the market, and Gail Walker at the low end, but I would propose that Lindy McDowell has quite possibly been the worst of the lot. The mounting horror in Gaza over the last couple of weeks has done absolutely nothing to diminish her enthusiasm for Operation Cast Lead, although she is now resorting to smoke-blowing.
This centres around what Lindy terms “last Saturday’s so called ‘peace march’”, and the actions of the small republican group éirígí. First, let’s talk organisation. For all Lindy’s bluster, the march was organised by NIC-ICTU. The platform consisted of union officials and clergymen, plus Lord Mayor Tom Hartley. (I suppose, for balance, there should have been a unionist politician, but you’d have to find a willing volunteer first.) All speakers made remarks about the desirability of peace, and the platform were scrupulous in calling for a diplomatic solution and a ceasefire on both sides. Not exactly the festival of anti-Semitic hatred that Lindy would like us to believe it was.
Secondly, there’s the question of numbers. The organisers claimed 5000, which looked to me to be not far off the actual number. By my reckoning, better than 99% were well behaved. Some people did some chanting about “from the river to the sea” that may have upset those types who would prefer their chants to come with 500-word footnotes about the desirability of a two-state solution and the settlement of the 1948 refugees question. They fail to realise that, on a fairly large rally, there will be all sorts of people with all sorts of views that you don’t necessarily agree with. The bloke pictured above was attending Sunday’s pro-Israel rally in London. By a judicious application of Lindy McDowell logic, one might assume that the Chief Rabbi and the Jewish Board of Deputies agree with his sentiments. Admittedly, I haven’t heard any such statement from them, but what’s sauce for the goose…
So then there’s the question of éirígí, who made a ham-fisted attempt to introduce some West Belfast agitprop into the rally. This involved Lindy’s main criticism, the chivvying of the young Israelis who run a Dead Sea cosmetics stand in CastleCourt. They also, I believe, threw some produce about in Marks and Sparks. But let’s stick to the CastleCourt incident. Shorter Lindy: “It’s Kristallnacht all over again! It’s just like the Nazis!” Frankly, this is even more offensive than placards comparing the Gaza slaughter, horrible as it is, to the Holocaust.
In my view, it shouldn’t have happened. If I had any influence with éirígí – which, perhaps fortunately, I don’t – I would have warned them off any such action. In the first instance, because I don’t agree with targeting individual Israelis solely on the basis of their nationality, because it would have been very unpleasant for a small group of young people whose views on Gaza I don’t know. In the second place, because it was bound to look extremely bad. The Zionists and their fellow travellers would accuse any demonstration critical of Israel of being anti-Semitic; you have to be very very careful not to give them any ammunition. I hope those involved are feeling very embarrassed.
As it is, although I think some people are not nearly careful enough about giving the impression of anti-Semitism, I don’t consider anti-Jewish prejudice as such to be a motivating factor for more than a tiny minority. As far as I could see, apart from political activists with their own particular positions, most people were there for basic humanitarian motives, because they don’t like what they’re seeing on their TV screens.
And this really is crucial. There are plenty of other conflicts going on that deserve our attention. There is at the moment absolute mayhem in Sri Lanka, with few people seeming to take any notice. But if Sri Lanka was leading the news bulletins night after night for three weeks, I guarantee you that there would be a peace rally with union officials and clergy on the platform; that the Socialist Workers Party would be rehearsing “Free Tamil Eelam” chants; and that éirígí would be looking for some Buddhists to throw things at. It’s the way of practical organising, for what little that’s worth.
Rud eile: While we’re on the Telegraph, the inimitable Gail Walker does a piece on Prince Harry’s racist gaffe. Yeah, she calls him a dimwit, but it’s also an excuse for Gail to do battle with the “PC brigade” in her head. And check out this gem:
British culture still, on a day-to-day basis, considers Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis, Jamaicans and everyone else who isn’t a honky, as odd, not quite one-of-us, not quite part of the British package, and so open to off-hand, cartoon-like reference.
I know the Tele like their columnists to be provocative, but could they maybe shell out for some racial sensitivity training?