Cheerleaders Abroad, Gaza And Israel

I was composing, in my head, some reflections on Gaza’s past eight or so days, but Jonathan Freedland seems to have beat me to it.

I think the cheerleaders abroad sentiment, is something we should dwell on.

How is it that many in the West take up the pose of football supporters?

Cheering on their team irrespective of the murders, the rockets and the crippling inhumanity of prolonged low-level warfare. It is a form of intellectual hooliganism, desensitizing, brutalizing and demeaning.

You might not unreasonably expect that some of these cheerleaders would show a degree of sensitivity or reflection, once in a while. However, that doesn’t happen and having encountered both sides in the West I find their entrenched attitudes revolting, almost incomprehensible.

Anyone that has genuinely studied the Middle East would know there is no military solution to the conflicts in Israel, in Gaza and the West Bank, and those that cheer on from the sidelines have either lost their humanity or common sense, but Jonathan Freedland expresses it far better than I ever could:

“And through it all is the weariness: of those living – and dying – in the conflict most of all, but also of those drawn into it somehow. I feel it myself, a deep fatigue with this struggle, with the actions of both sides and, sometimes especially, with their cheerleaders abroad.

So yes, I’m weary of those who get so much more exercised, so much more excited, by deaths in Gaza than they do by deaths in, say, Syria. An estimated 800 died under Assad during the same eight days of what Israel called Operation Pillar of Defence. But, for some reason, the loss of those lives failed to touch the activists who so rapidly organised the demos and student sit-ins against Israel. You might have heard me make this point before, and you might be weary of it. Well, so am I. I’m tired, too, of the argument that “We hold western nations like Israel to a higher standard”, because I see only a fraction of the outrage that’s directed at Israel turned on the US – a western nation – for its drone war in Pakistan which has cost an estimated 3,000 lives, nearly 900 of them civilians, since 2004.

I’m tired of those who like to pretend that Israel attacked unprovoked, as if there had been no rockets fired from Gaza, as if Hamas was peacefully minding its own business, a Mediterranean Sweden, until Israel randomly lashed out. I’m tired of having to ask whether any government anywhere would really let one million of its citizens be confined to bomb shelters while missiles rained down. I’m weary of having to point out that, yes, occupied peoples do have a right to resist, but that right does not extend to taking deliberate aim at civilian targets – schools and villages – which is where all but a handful of Gaza’s rockets were directed.

And I’m especially tired that so many otherwise smart, sophisticated people apparently struggle to talk about Israel-Palestine without reaching, even unwittingly, for the dog-eared lexicon of anti-Jewish cliche, casting Israeli leaders as supremacists driven by a (misunderstood) notion of Jews as “chosen people” or, hoarier still, as international puppet-masters. It pains me that too many fail to realise that while, of course, there is a clear line that separates hostility to Israel and hostility to Jews, that border is porous. Traffic moves across it both ways. Witness the Lazio thugs who bombarded Spurs fans with anti-Jewish chants – “Juden Tottenham” among them – during their match on Thursday night, but also brandished a Free Palestine banner, deployed not to declare solidarity with Gaza but to taunt a club with large Jewish support. “

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