Don't tell me, a liberal American Jew in London, what to think about Israel, pleads Hadley Freeman. We are all Palestinians, writes Karma Nabulsi. We broke Iraq, therefore we have a responsibility to do whatever it takes to save its people from themselves, insists Tom Watson. Feel my pain, demands Tory MP earning an amount the vast majority of us can only dream of receiving at the end of the month. No, feel our anguish, says group of utterly deranged Israel supporters, at how those we will defend to the death are forced, literally forced by Hamas, to kill Palestinian children.
The personal is political, as feminists prior to the current generation of Twitter using crybabies had it. Back then it meant something, and perhaps it still does. Politics is always personal, of course. For some, it's a crusade or it is nothing. It's hard not to think though we've reached a peak for this, despite what it seems I'm writing about, I am in fact writing about myself style of political commentary.
Hadley Freeman doesn't really care about Israel or Gaza then, nor does she care about the Tricycle theatre asking the Jewish Film Festival to reconsider accepting money from the Israeli embassy, rather she's affronted that anyone would dare think she, a good liberal American cosmopolitan Jew might care to express her opinion about something serious for a change. In her entire piece we don't learn what she does think, although to judge by her quoting of Roger Cohen's claim that to not hold a negative view of Israel in Britain is to be considered without a conscience, and her end summation that media coverage in America and Europe is equally skewed, just in opposite directions, we can guess. Nor does she present any evidence anyone has told her or any other Jews what to think about Israel, but that's to be expected.
Europe's roots are showing, nonetheless. Reports of antisemitic attacks and vandalism have spiked, as they usually do when Israel brings out the Hellfire missiles. Racism is always racism, and it is without question protests against Israel attract their fair share of Islamists, kooks, conspiracy theorists and outright loons. Nor is enough done by others on the marches to denounce them, or make clear they are most definitely not welcome. Smearing "FREE GAZA" on the walls of a synagogue is as just as much an act of stupid hate as painting "EDL" or something similar on a mosque would be. It is strange though that, unlike when hate crimes against Muslims peaked after the murder of Lee Rigby, we haven't had left-wingers claiming such reports of antisemitism have been exaggerated, as we did with the attacks on Tell Mama by the Telegraph and Mail on Sunday. Also peculiar is the number of articles which popped up one after the other about Europe's continuing problem with antisemitism, or as it could be more accurately termed, Europe's continuing problem with racism.
Other than crying antisemitism, the other perennial is victimhood, again because of its roots in reality. Once, the Golda Meir quote about forgiving Arabs for killing their children but not forgiving them for making Israel kill their children was poignant and reflected how Israel was surrounded by enemies. Now it can be wrongly interpreted all too easily, precisely because Palestinian life is regarded as cheap and the standard defence of every Israeli attack is they have no choice. The advert paid for by This World, co-written by Elie Wiesel, takes the "human shield" argument, whatever its extremely limited merits and debases it completely. We are the ones who are really suffering by having to kill children is its message. The Palestinians are responsible if they don't change their leaders; they must find "true Muslims", to represent them, Muslims acceptable to Likudniks. Even the main suspect in the murder of the Palestinian teenager Abu Khdeir, an act committed in revenge for the kidnap and slaughter of three Israeli teens, claims to have immediately felt remorse for his crime. Feel our pain, not theirs.
Not that we are all Palestinians has any true resonance beyond the demonstrations either. We are not Gazans, nor would we want to be. It's not enough to want justice for the Palestinians, the lifting of the Gaza blockade, the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, we have to be them, not just express our most earnest solidarity. So too we must save Iraqis, at least once it's decided whom it is we should be demonstrating in favour of today. We either have to do so because this could have been prevented had we armed the rebels in Syria, although it's not made clear which rebels we were meant to have given heavy weaponry to, or because of our involvement in the Iraq war, or because of Sykes-Picot, or because of whatever other justification can be dredged up. Then again, according to the Sun, we can't do anything, although it isn't exactly clear what we're supposed to do about Australian jihadists taking their kids to Syria. Perhaps we were meant to provide him with a toy AK-47 which in turn would have prevented the Islamic State from taking over the north of Iraq?
For a nation supposedly turned isolationist by the vote on Syria, our other representatives in the media are as quick as ever to want the bombers sent in, without explaining what it would achieve, whether there is any sort of plan, or if attacking IS from the air will push them back. One has to wonder if this isn't about us rather than them. It shouldn't therefore surprise when an MP tries the same tactic, attempting to garner sympathy as he can't afford to house his family in Westminster under the new expenses regime. He wasn't prepared to have them live anywhere else in London, the public transport system in the capital being notoriously unreliable, and so would rather step down instead. As one of the few people who wouldn't begrudge MPs a second home in London with the tab picked up by the taxpayer, at least within reason, Mark Simmonds hasn't really helped out his colleagues. His wish to spend more time with his family could also have something to do with his missing the Syria vote last year, not hearing the division bell as he was discussing Rwanda with Justine Greening.
It could be in this age of Buzzfeed writers believe the only way to get readers interested is by making it personal. It could be the cult of the self continues to grow. It could be the only way to get anything worth doing done is to spell out why it matters to us, charity beginning at home, altruism no longer enough. It could be we can only talk about things when they happen to celebrities, even if then most reach immediately for contemptibly puerile clichés. At least it's talking, right? It's that it's also limiting, closes down debate, encourages personal abuse, which in turn leads to further articles about how terrible it is to be called names in the comment section and on social networks. What was it the original piece was about again?
Labels: commentariat, foreign policy, Gaza, Hadley Freeman, Iraq, Islamic State, Israel, jihadists, liberal interventionism, personal is political, politics