The conflict in Gaza presents a headache for Labour
One thing you don't mention in this article is that most of the original Zionists (and certainly the ones who governed Israel in its first quarter century) were secular socialists. In those days the Western European left felt close to the Israelis as fellow progressives, and opposed the Arabs who were (in large part) religious traditionalists. The shift from this kind of conditional, political alignment, to a generalised sympathy with the peoples of the "Global South", no matter how remote their actual values and preferences are from the acceptable attitudes of modern left-wingers in the developed world, is quite a significant one.
Israel is a dynamic, enterprising little nation with a real - if imperfect - instinct for Judeo-Christian moral principles and the democratic governance that has arisen from them in modern times. The entire Islamic world ceased to be dynamic or enterprising from the late middle ages onward and - but for the huge luck of the developed world's need for oil - would still be mired in Medaeval poverty.
These are the visceral perceptions that underly pro-Israeli feeling in the West - plus of course the Holocaust and the - again visceral - support for the plucky little guy up against all the mob. The white Lefftist pro-Palestinian stance is - like white-Leftism on every other issue - an essentially middle class pose which was nailed half a century ago by TS Eliot: "They don't mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”
You mention Margaret Thatcher as the great sea-changer of Tory opinion on Israel. Her memory has been clouded on both Left and Right (by an over-emphasis on economic Thatcherism which was merely contingent on the 70s economic mess) but Mrs T's real significance is that she was the embodiment of those decent values I described above; ones that built the modern Western world. https://grahamcunningham.substack.com/p/mrs-thatcher-and-the-good-life
I hate the "I stand with..." thing, but I'm inclined to sign that declaration, because Israel is under existential threat. And most of the legacy media I read (largely supplied by AP, Reuters & AFP) is reporting largely from the perspective of Hamas and its subjects. I've never perceived a moment as chilling as this one.
You are right that what happened on October 7 is a modern litmus test. My immediate knee jerk reaction was to the barbarism of the attack. It would be one thing if Hamas had merely crossed the border and fired machine guns indiscriminately, but the savagery in how people were tortured and killed was something else entirely, and yes, barbaric. To me it meant there was no question whose side you had to support, and it was not the barbarians.
The sadness of the pro Palestinian protests that started even before Israel could do anything is the sheer failure to even acknowledge the evilness of the Hamas attacks and the manner in which people died. To these people, the atrocities was not the point and irrelevant. I suppose it does mean people like me will never quite look at pro Palestinian people quite in the same way, suspecting that they'd gladly accept my own brutal death if someone group deemed it just in the name of combatting oppression.
The irony, perhaps, is that for the progressive supporters of the Palestinian causes in the West, for all their so-called modern beliefs, they are reverting to an ancient form of "justice" based on revenge rather than intelligence or honesty or, yes, civilized. This, I blame to a large degree, on the collapse of meaningful Christianity. The double irony is that according to their rules, Israel would be fully just in destroying Gaza, and by the standards of ancient and even not so ancient (pre 1800) history, the would would nod and accept it as a matter of fact should Israel have wiped out Gaza. But that is the trap Israel faces, it has to act by the rules of the 21st century civilized world, while Hamas gets away with being barbarians from 500 BC.
A comment on antisemitism in the US and politics - there is significant mild antisemitism among American blacks. It's a complicated topic especially as American Jews were among the strongest supporters of the Civil Rights movements and generations of Jewish politicians and intellectuals supported greater racial equality, right up to the recent CRT/Wokery movement of the last decade. The latter did make the far (far) right suspicious of Jews. But less popularly discussed is that many blacks hold resentments against Jews. Some of it is jealously for the Jewish successes as a group despite facing its own form of historical oppression, some of it is resentment from the days when small Jewish business owners owned most of the businesses in poorer urban neighborhoods. Nowadays some of it is also due to the oppressor versus oppressed psychology promoted by the progressive left and which gives special status to blacks. Which would explain why polling after October 7 among American college students found while a clear majority of white students supported Israel, two thirds of black college students sided with Palestine.
In late 1944 and early 1945, as the Allied troops moved across Europe and into Germany, they began entering and liberating the concentration camps.
The first Nazi camp liberated by the US was Ohrdruf near Buchenwald on April 4, 1945. US General Eisenhower was among those who witnessed firsthand the atrocities in the camps.
This is what he cabled back to Washington after the visit: “The things I saw beggar description.... The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty, and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick.... I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give firsthand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely In cables to Washington and London, Eisenhower urged the government to send journalists and lawmakers to visit the camps so that “evidence should be immediately placed before the American and British public in a fashion to leave no room for cynical doubt.”
A Christian country needed persuading of evil. Because Christians are wont to hate Jews. Or at least be ambivalent towards them.
Fast forward and we are no longer remotely a Christian country. We are in truth a Muslim country. With men like the British rapper Lowkey whose options are sought in interviews such as the one he gave with Piers Morgan wherein he said that “we do not have a clear picture of what happened on October 7 because unfortunately too much of the media has relied on the Israeli military talking points given directly to them. Until neutral observers are able to establish the facts of October 7, I will not allow the talking points of the Israeli military to become dominant in what happened that day.”
We still need persuading. And so Israel has had to invite men like you into screenings to implore your witness to Muslim savagery and a savagery and this is crucial…..committed in Gods honour.
God is watching.
Eisenhower recognised the media must bear witness.
Eisenhower recognised the US and British media’s responsibility.
Now we can see the result of its complicity.
The British media and its endless pompous navel gazing and hand wringing bears at least some responsibility for the repulsive murder of Jewish children and women on October 7.
Tangentially, I do wonder if the nightmarish events of October 7 will have an impact upon wider Western politics? The various polities of the Western world have, for some time now, been forced to glumly accept the presence of barbarians at the gate. I don't think they were happy about this but they have been cowed into silence by a combination of state and legal activism.
Now, they have been given a foretaste of what to expect should those barbarians ever break through the gate. It may be unwise to underestimate the visceral levels of fear and disgust which no amount of appeals to diversity may be able to quell. Concerns about legal repercussions may keep those fears unspoken, until they turn into a primal scream at the ballot box.
"George Eaton wrote in the New Statesman that..." come on Ed, you know we need to see the original article, and can't rely on a thing Eaton says in the New Statesman.
That Blunt and Warsi are the most Pro-Palestinian of current Tories says a lot about them, and it's one of the few things positive about the current Conservative Party that cranks like that are on the fringe.
It's difficult to square what's been happening on elite college campuses and elsewhere to the idea that this is not Jew-hatred. I think that settler colonialism simply provides the excuse.
I think there was a naive assumption on many (particularly white) progressives that 'decolonisation' was a diffuse, abstract concept, and the main real world effects would be the odd toppled statue. Whereas, as we see with the ripples from the Hamas outrages, that theory takes you much closer to the post-colonial practices of ZANU PF (land invasions) with the admixture of Algeria-style Islamist death cult rampages, much easier than anyone realised.
I'm also particularly struck by the death of philosophical nonviolence on the left.
Just shows you that you can get from 'decolonising' the Whistler mural at the Tate to celebrating revolutionary orgies of violence in a blink of an eye.
The conservative pro Israeli stance is relatively recent as Ari points out in Unherd recently, and given the demographics of conservative voters it’s likely due to the age profile.
The “white” left do not support who is most “oppressed” but rather who is most “other” and Arabs and Muslims are more other than Jews.
Speaking from the U.S. I claim ignorance of attitudes in Britain, but in the U.S. it’s a real mixed bag. The older the American, the more likely he will see Israelis as the hard working underdog who created a miracle in the desert when the world had turned their back to them. Israelis could do no wrong. At the same time Jews in the U.S. had to deal with racist attitudes similar to Blacks & Jews voted primarily with the more socialist Dems (socialism doesn’t really exist here, but Repubs will claim Dems are no different from 1950’s East German socialists.)
But as Americans prefer business over socialism, Jews did quite well & now their main lobbying group AIPAC is 100% pro Republican (or at least “centrist”, funding “corporate Dems” against their more Progressive counterparts.) Also, Evangelicals aligned themselves with Republicans under Reagan. This group supports Israel because they believe all Jews need to move there to fulfill their weird prophecy “The End Times”. These people are the Christian fundamentalist fanatics who look to Putin & Orban as their shining example. They love *rump because he’s a “fighter” (& their pastor told them to) even though he’s not a “good Christian” (who amongst the Christians has not strayed??) When Bibi came to the U.S. he basically snubbed Dems (several times.)
Now, the younger generations in the U.S. are less “White” (great book: “The Kids Are All Left”) They have Jewish-American friends as well as Muslim-American friends. They aren’t watching FOX or Reading the NYTimes - they’re all on TikTok (or whatever they follow these days. I’m 65. What do I know?!) These people are pushing for an end to the settlements in Israel as well as against Israel’s duplicitous words & deeds concerning Palestinians. The youngsters don’t feel that Israel deserves special consideration “because of the Holocaust”. They also don’t remember Palestinian terrorist attack so from the 1970’s.
They DO hear regularly about how Palestinians live in an open air concentration camp…
It seems to me that when Palestinians cheer Hamas’ atrocities, it’s not the barbarism they cheer. It’s for someone having done something to open the eyes of the world to their suffering.
Last week a group called Jewish Voice for Peace occupied Grand Central Station in NY calling for a ceasefire. There are many Jews who are against continuing new settlements, but even they are called racist by their fellow Jews.
It seems to me that if Israelis want to live peacefully, they themselves will have to learn how to get along with Arabs. What they have been doing stopped working a long time ago & now the chickens are coming home to roost.
(You mention that many Jews were forced to move out of Iraq, but if my information is correct, (possibly I’m wrong?), Jews were expelled from Iraq after Israelis forced many Palestinians from their homes in Palestine.)
I suggest Chris Hedges Substack for background information on Palestinians.
Also, this piece in The Onion reflects the pressure campaign to align with Israel:
Finally, I do want to stress that I am terribly saddened for the families of the hostages and who’ve lost loved ones. It’s truly heartbreaking.
Yes, everyone needs and deserves statehood and the Palestinians are no exception.
But where should the state be ?
Answer: within a Muslim country.
It cannot be within the birders of Israel-Palestine. Not only would that be a surefire remedy for constant hatred and warfare, but the whole space is desperately needed for Jews.
Not only do about half a million Jews live in the disputed territories (making their return to within a pre-1967 Israel almost impossible), but the number is likely to rocket.
Partly because anti-semitism in the West will drive many Jews to emigrate to Israel, but with both the USA and Europe increasingly shaky politically and economically, they may well wish to or almost have to.
Personally, I find this a terrific article because I learned more about the nuances of this seemingly intractable issue.
Yet a further illustration of the great lie of triumphalist globalisation of the 90s/2000s - we thought only that “they” would become more like us, instead we became more like “them”.
And where preytell does this leave us Englishmen? I only support my English side in this.