14 May 2021

The left’s unhealthy obsession with Israel

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Everyone, it seems, is a bonafide expert on the Israel-Palestine conflict. There are people almost 15 years younger than me who are able to spout a wonderfully detailed account of the region dating back hundreds of years despite never having visited there and knowing absolutely no-one from the area.

Humans have a propensity for morbid fascination, and this conflict exemplifies it like no other. The far left have decided that in this great battle of good vs evil, Israel is the villain and Palestine is the damsel in distress. Naturally, many of these spectators to the ongoing dispute only tune in for the ‘best bits’ and drop off when there’s stability in the region. But when, as now, violence flares they show their commitment to the cause by waving the Palestinian flag on their social media handles (obviously not a British flag, perish the thought, that would be racist).

It goes without saying that I’m being facetious. The conflict is painful to watch, never mind to physically experience on the ground. I cannot imagine, for one minute, living under such an onslaught. I do not profess to have the answers, neither do I purport to have an in-depth knowledge of the suffering on both sides. The only thing that I am acutely aware of, as a Western bystander, is that this particular discord riles people up in a way other conflicts and oppression don’t. What is it about this specific geographical setting that makes people feel compelled to get involved?

Prominent left leaning activists such as Owen Jones take to their Twitter to engage in the sensitive subject. He recently tweeted, “When Israeli brutality against Palestinians escalates, some people really tell on themselves. They reveal that they simply do not regard Palestine life as being of equal worth to their own – not even close. And whether they accept it or not, that *is* racism.” This implies that Israel is racially motivated in its decision to defend itself, which is of course, absurd.

Of course, those who consider themselves left leaning have always been worried about injustice. And the privileged middle class within the ranks feel it their duty to educate their ‘comrades’ – and everyone else in-between – on matters that usually don’t include themselves, a sort of extra-curricular charity work if you will. But all too often this well-meaning concern, teamed with frenzied late-night internet searches, seems to lead to the conclusion that the problem lies with some highly sophisticated global Jewish elite. Anti-semitic conspiracy theories are never far from the surface in discussions about Israel, and one of the most common tropes is that all encompassing term ‘the corporate media’.

The corporate media is blamed for many things: Jeremy Corbyn’s defeat, bias, lies, wielding too much power, impartiality and of course, an apparent reluctance to pick a side (the right side) in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict. Any journalist who doesn’t peddle the far left narrative is instantly distrusted and accused of being briefed by some unknown ‘powerful lobby’.

No moderate minded individual looks at needless death and feels indifferent. But at the same time, no rational person wants to get involved in a discussion about Gaza because the subject is so dripping in febrile anger. You shouldn’t have to weigh in on a debate you know nothing about to prove just what a good person you are – in fact, it is probably wiser not to. But leftists don’t appear to feel that compunction when it comes to Israel, and their voices tend to be louder than those of the better informed. As a result all the adults have left the room and the infantile dictate the direction of discourse.

While Palestine dominates the headlines, atrocities are being committed against Muslims across the world. China has transformed Xinjiang into an ‘open air prison’ for Uighurs. In Iran, a man was recently beheaded by his own family for being gay, and the regime regularly abuses the human rights of its own citizens. Time and time again it seems that some Muslim lives matter than others, and it just so happens that the ones that matter most live adjacent to Jews.

Then there’s the issue of being stateless. Currently 138 UN members recognise the state of Palestine, but some, including The United States, do not. That Palestinians have a right to self determination is one of the more coherent arguments on the subject. And yet, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone talk about the other many millions around the globe that are estimated to be living stateless. Never in my life have I come across a left leaning activist discussing the 1.9 million stateless Indians in Assam. Could it be because, again, it doesn’t involve a conversation about Jews?

All of this leads me to believe that Palestinians are being used as a political football by the far left in this country. Moreover, cancelling the state of Israel has become a socially acceptable form of anti-Semitism. There’s nothing wrong with showing concern for people suffering, but when it verges on obsession – as it often does with the apparent iniquities of the only democracy in the Middle east – it’s unhealthy.

Peace in the region is long overdue, but it certainly won’t be solved by social media warriors in the UK. There are two Palestines’, one imaginary and the other real. I worry that increasingly, the two have become inseparable from one-another, fused together in a toxic alloy of legitimate struggle and anti-Jewish fervour.

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Jordan Tyldesley is a freelance journalist.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.