The Screeching of Fools
At today’s march against anti-Semitism in London there will be concerned people, some Jewish, some not, who feel moved to remind the world of the historical consequences of bigotry.
Similarly, at the recent marches calling for a ceasefire, you would find folks who see a duty to express the principled belief that violence can never be the solution to conflict.
The overwhelming majority of these people could amalgamate into a single march, not only without rancour, but in broad agreement about everything that matters to human beings.
You’ll do well to see any reporting of these thousands of decent Britons, though, or hear anything they have to say.
Because, amongst them, are a few Four Lions-style Jihadi wannabes and the usual far-right zeros that attach themselves to anything that offers the potential for a dust up. If it bleeds, it leads, as the old newsroom maxim goes.
Tommy Robinson, I see, has popped over on his holibobs from Spain to get himself arrested. George Galloway is producing breathless YouTube videos at the rate of five a day, and Boris Johnson has shown up in a bobble hat to pose with Julia Hartley-Brewer.
There is nothing, literally nothing, that people like this won’t exploit for profile.
Online, commentators whose professional identity is defined by support for one side or the other, have seized upon recent tragic events to generate engagement like never before.
So, we have Palestinian activist Asa Winstanley claiming that today’s march is designed to whip up hatred against Palestinians, whilst writer Lee Kern asserts that the ceasefire marches are a portent that the UK will fall into Jihadist civil war.
Cosplay as participants
This sort of rhetoric is being churned out, of course, from places of safety. There is, for my money, the whiff of glee about some of the louder voices that situations like this always seem to foreground.
Why, I wonder, are we content to allow the amplification of people whose response to unspeakable horrors is to cosplay as participants, or to advance juvenile moral certainties beyond the point when they abandon human empathy altogether?
Pretty obviously, there is no binary outcome to this conflict that would be morally acceptable to any decent person. Were Israel no longer to exist, or Gaza and the West Bank to be fully occupied, it would bring nothing but misery to all involved.
The only way forward, eventually, is the scruffy, morally ambiguous path of compromise. So, why is there no march for that? It is as if facing reality has become a taboo in our political landscape.
Whereas those demanding a Palestinian state ‘from the river to the sea’ or the ‘eradication of Hamas’ can bellow safely in the fantasies of their own moral rectitude, anybody calling for negotiation and plurality is pilloried as somehow naïve and ethically compromised.
In 1998 the UK and Ireland proved to the world that internationally inclusive conflict resolution can work. Now, the Westminster government seeks to demonise one side of every conflict it sees, impugning the intentions of its own citizens and grossly oversimplifying the issues at hand.
Suella Braverman came close to incitement with her condemnation of marchers and police the other week, and there is a lingering suspicion that trouble on British streets was far from an unwelcome proposition for her.
If Mo Mowlam could see us now…
The grotesque actions of Hamas on October 7 chilled the world. Nothing can excuse them. Neither, though, did they occur without context. My use of the word ‘though’ here will be enough to see me condemned by some.
We are encouraged only to condemn, as if rationalising events is somehow an affront to their gravity. Well, that’s what got us here in the first place and will keep us here forever if we carry on with it. The deaths of 13 000 civilians without international restraint, or any semblance of a known, planned outcome is also grotesque.
Anybody who cannot hold both of those ideas in their head simultaneously has no contribution to make to this heartbreaking situation.
As children on both sides are handed back to their parents during this pause in hostilities, we should watch their smiles and drown out the screeching of fools with our calls for sanity.
Flags & Bones by Ben Wildsmith is available to order from Cambria Books
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