A View from across the Pond by a Correspondent

January 26, 2017

In Blog Letters To Finkelstein News

You know I think the Theresa May government is quite a bit more “pro”-Israel than David Cameron’s.
Cameron was pretty awful, but he didn’t really rock the boat when allies like the US and France announced their frustration with Israel. Ever the opportunist, he always knew public sympathy with Israel only went so far, hence his “prison camp” reference to Gaza in 2010, which turned out to signal nothing very serious but typified his willingness to challenge Israel occasionally.

Theresa May, on the other hand, effectively undermined the UN settlement resolution even after voting for it (lamenting its lack of “balance” for not condemning Palestinian terrorism, and saying it was no substitute for direct negotiations between the parties), was key in making sure the language of the resolution was not implemented in the Paris declaration earlier this month, and hushed up the Israeli embassy scandal (Al Jazeera recorded an Israeli diplomat pledging to “take down” Alan Duncan and other prominent critics of Israel in the UK government) with scarcely even a condemnation before declaring the matter over.

I remember Cameron used to condemn Israeli settlements at PMQs, and when it turned out UK passports had been misappropriated in the Israeli murder of a Hamas operative, Israel got quite a public dressing down from the Tories as well as Labour. It seems strange now, but the Tories in opposition in 2006 actually condemned Israel’s Lebanon war. Of course, in time Cameron would go on to become one of the more brazen supporters of Operations Cast Lead and Protective Edge in Gaza in 2008-09 and 2014.

You know what’s utterly pathetic? Last month Barack Obama announced a (partial) suspension of US arms sales to Saudi Arabia pending an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in the Yemeni conflict. The UK government subsequently repeated in parliament (as it does consistently when questioned on this issue) that there was no decisive proof that war crimes had taken place, and hence no need to halt UK weapons shipments, as Saudi Arabia is perfectly capable of investigating itself (I kid you not), and is currently locked in a civilisational battle against evil Iranian-backed extremists.

I think I might have mentioned that last year, in one of the most shameful episodes I can recall in parliament, the parliamentary Labour Party largely abstained from or voted “present” on a bill introduced by Corbyn to temporarily suspend arms transfers to Saudi Arabia until war crimes allegations had been investigated.

I know it’s wrong, but I couldn’t help but notice how many gay and women MPs, and other ever-so-“feminist” socially liberal champions of women’s rights etc. in the party, were happy to let the slaughter in Yemen continue just to inflict a defeat on Corbyn after his victory in the party leadership contest a month earlier.

I remember Galloway once talked about the days when Labour MPs used to be ex-miners, milkmen, police officers, shop clerks etc. They were working class, many of them not that well-educated, but they had something that today’s Labour MPs lack: solidarity with the economically marginalised at home, and with the oppressed and the suffering masses overseas. I grant that this was never entirely the whole story – there were many outrages, and yes many MPs were not that “liberal” in the sense we understand the term today (on subjects like abortion and gay rights, their attitudes sometimes reflected the prevailing prejudices at the time). But I look at today’s crop of Labour MPs, and the vast majority are just valueless, unprincipled cogs in the political machine. They got their degree in PPE from Oxford, then they started work as an intern or a speechwriter for this or that bigshot Labour politician, then they were parachuted into whichever constituency was next up holding a by-election, with all the London-centric party money and support behind them, winning handily as the new Labour MP for wherever (the era of locally selected party candidates ended with Blair).

Like you said on your website, these are people who know everything there is to know about the proprieties surrounding transgender bathrooms but they have no left-wing economic or international solidarity with the 90% of those suffering under the current world system who don’t tick fashionable “liberal” boxes. Certainly, these are all genuine issues and we should never be complicit in playing one worthy cause off against another, but I can’t help but notice this, unfortunately.

It’s depressing, as I always counted the younger generation, whether on Israel/Palestine or anything else really, as our best hope for securing a better future. I remember when you used to give speeches about Cast Lead to university students. A common refrain I noticed, as you listed Israel’s more appalling atrocities like phosphorus attacks against hospitals, was “you’re young, you’re liberal, you’re idealistic – you don’t want to have to defend that.” The reference was to young American Jews, but young Europeans, Jewish and non-Jewish, are basically the same. Why are are young people today – my contemporaries – not stepping up to the plate like they used to? Why are by far the most inspirational politicians (who paradoxically enjoy young people’s support) in the US and the UK, people like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders?

I’ve really started to fear for what lies ahead.