This weekend, central London will be filled with people protesting.
The ‘Stop the War coalition’ will be outside the Syrian embassy, chanting against Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter of children after one of the bloodiest weeks in that country’s civil war.
George Galloway will blast ISIS for their horrific campaign of torture and extermination across Iraq and Syria, and condemn their “convert or die” message to Mosul’s Christians.
The NUS, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party will demand action to protect the tens of thousands of Yazidis trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq without food or water.
Except, of course, none of this will happen, because all those I mention will be too busy criticising Israel.
Stop the War have a national demo – against only one side of the conflict, naturally. George Galloway is trying to ban Israeli tourists from Bradford. From the rest, we get the usual melange of boycotts, petitions and rants - including David Ward’s remarkable comment that Galloway hadn’t gone far enough and the whole country should be closed to Israelis.
For a loud political movement, though, you hear remarkably little from any of them about the bloodshed and oppression currently going on in other parts of the Middle East.
What exactly do Arab dictators or Islamist extremists have to do in order to draw the ire of the British anti-Israel Left?
It’s perfectly possible to be concerned about the impact on civilians of the latest fighting in Gaza and to be oppose the massacres and monstrosities underway in many of Israel’s neighbouring countries. Indeed, if as is claimed the protests against Israel are motivated by humanitarian concerns then consistency ought to require those taking part to oppose ISIS, Assad and the rest, too.
The widespread failure to do so suggests large parts of this movement are motivated by something other than humanitarian concern – for some it seems to be fundamental opposition to the existence of Israel, for others there is clearly a more blatant dislike of jews in general. By no means are all opponents of Israel anti-semites, but a brief look at the EveryDay Antisemitism Twitter feed will demonstrate that there are plenty of racists within the ranks of those declaring solidarity with Palestine.
Some figures on the Left deserve praise for bucking the trend and paying attention to what is going on outside Gaza – an honourable mention should go to Douglas Alexander, for example, for stating:
“The plight of Christians today could go down in history as one of the most brutal periods of our common history. But although the persecution of Christians is one of the most prevalent forms of human rights abuses in the world today, it is also one of the least known in the West, and least discussed in politics.”
The fact that he appears to be in a minority is deeply depressing, but at least he has allies in David Cameron and Barack Obama. In response to the US’ decision to use air strikes against ISIS, the Prime Minister said this morning:
“I am extremely concerned by the appalling situation in Iraq and the desperate situation facing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. And I utterly condemn the barbaric attacks being waged by ISIL terrorists across the region….I fully agree with the President that we should stand up for the values we believe in – the right to freedom and dignity, whatever your religious beliefs.”
It’s a simple statement of what ought to be universal principles spanning British politics – and yet some seem so obsessed with one Middle Eastern state that they are incapable of applying these ideals to all.
It is bad enough that huge effort is being expended to turn concern over the Gaza conflict into a campaign to delegitimise Israel – or as Galloway described it, “this illegal, barbarous, savage state”. Doing so is an assault on the only democratic, free nation in the region, as Jeremy Brier argued here yesterday.
It is even worse that while directing their fury against Israel, so many of these agitators routinely ignore and neglect the genuinely illegal, barbarous, savage slaughter being prosecuted in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.
Whole peoples are being wiped from the map, the region is being redrawn by the very worst fanatics you can find using bullets, bombs and the sword. Yet all too often British ‘peace’ campaigners have more to say on which brands of Israeli dates to boycott than on stopping this horror. It is a moral abdication of the most shocking kind.