...free to think freely


10th November 2023

Stop it. Enough is Enough!

It is difficult to see just how much vitriol is currently being poured out over the awful situation in the Middle East, and how determined people seem to be to vilify each other instead of working together for the common good. That is certainly the long tradition in the region itself between the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the long drawn-out conflict which has lasted in its modern form for most of the last century. Sadly, it now seems to be the approach by people in this country around 3,000 miles away from the actual scene of trouble.

It goes without saying the escalation by Hamas fighters just over a month ago was a disgrace to their cause as they murdered civilians and took others hostage in a vicious attack. Knowing the preponderance of Israel and some other countries to believe the only effective response to violence is to lash out with much greater force, what followed seemed horribly inevitable, and there is little doubt the suffering caused as a result will not win it any friends in the region. If revenge is seen as the only appropriate response the cycle of violence can only escalate for ever, as both sides, seeing themselves as victims in what is undoubtedly a terrible situation, driven by anger, escalate the violence ever harder. It is clear until someone dares to try a novel approach things can only get ever worse.

What is true in one society is likely to be true in all, if all see things the same way. That is why, to build a harmonious world, we need to see things differently.

What is shocking at the current time is the repetition of the same ghastly polarisation in our own country. The utter bile emerging from commentary on events is unbelievable to any civilised person. It seems natural to me that people concerned about human rights or co-religionists of those in Gaza would want to make their feelings known about the ongoing suffering of ordinary people in that place who are not responsible for the appalling crime committed by their unelected (Gaza has held no elections for about a decade and a half) rulers. It is equally understandable many Jewish people would have similar concerns for the hostages and an attack on a country seen as their homeland. What is harder to understand is the apparent refusal of politicians and media commentators to recognise how harmful it is to stoke the fires of fear and anger over the issue. It is clearly unacceptable to remove posters or other memorials to those killed or taken hostage (assuming they are not posted on someone else’s property), just as it is unacceptable to label everyone marching in support of Gazan civilians as anti-semitic. Everyone is suffering here. The two sides need to recognise their common concern for a really horrible situation, but political interference trying to make capital out of a common crisis in a different part of the world brings no credit to our politicians or media.

The government is guilty here too. The sight of cabinet ministers vilifying concerned and sometimes angry people who simply want something constructive done in the face of appalling danger and destruction is unedifying in the extreme and makes the government look extremist. The mixture of lies, slurs and half-truths pouring out of some news outlets is horrible, insisting everyone is angry at one side or another, when there is little real conflict in this country except in the media, “Social” or otherwise. Dirt is being dug up and thrown at every opportunity. It’s the nearest media can come to a riot.

Let’s be clear; most of those marching on Saturdays are not extremists, though some might well be. The organisers might well include some people who have been extremists. That doesn't make the march extremism. That’s just an ad hominem attack. What matters is not who organises an event but the nature of the event organised. So far, these marches have mostly been peaceful. Let’s hope they remain that way. We don’t need to get angry about them. Some people will find them intimidating, because seeing a large crowd demonstrating in the streets is intimidating, especially to anyone unsure of the mood of the marchers and worried how one might be perceived by them. I know because I was in a pub in the Horseferry Road when the first of these marches went by. I was very anxious not to encounter it as I walked back to my car on my way home. The fact I felt intimidated does not mean the people marching meant me any harm. They’re not responsible for my caution. It doesn’t make them guilty of anything.

The spurious claims being used to justify opposition stand little scrutiny. The march should not disrupt those seeking to mark Armistice Day in Whitehall for two very simple reasons. Firstly, it will not start until an hour and three quarters after the commemoration will have finished. Secondly, the route does not pass within sight of that street. The route goes over Vauxhall bridge, not Westminster Bridge. Nor is it to be ruled out that somebody might wish to attend both events with goodwill. After all, there would be time to observe the two minute silence and then amble over to Hyde Park to join up with the march, and I can see no reason why someone could not want to support both events. Were I in London I probably would. There is no incompatibility between remembering the tragedy of war and seeking to procure the cessation of an ongoing one. It’s not a question of taking sides. It’s just a question of loving ones neighbour and wanting people to come off their sides and see the common need of a just peace. What shape that would take is open to question, but that is what real politics is for.

So please stop this pointless posturing and recognise what the world needs is solutions, not hatred. We can play tribal politics until we’ve all destroyed each other, or we can recognise the need for tolerance and practical solutions. I know which I prefer. It’s why I believe in Diverse Diversity, because that addresses problems, not tribal identities.