Supporters of Palestine attend a rally and demonstration in Glasgow. Picture credit: Iain Masterton/Alamy Live News

Better than evil

Israel has a duty to be better than its enemies


This article is taken from the November 2023 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Forty and fifty years ago, few foreign stories ranked higher in British interest than what was happening in South Africa. The depth of our moral concerns for Israelis and Palestinians are comparable to those we used to have for black and white South Africans. We decried apartheid and we broke off defence agreements and restricted such trade as was prudent to do so.

Much like the democratically-deficient countries ringing Israel, we didn’t apply our strictures to the “frontline states” which bordered South Africa either. For some reason we only expected South Africa to be democratic, and not her neighbours. Why this was so became clear 30 years ago when South Africa finally did become democratic.

Israel is hated on our streets by the people who hate her on Middle Eastern streets

For whatever we claimed at the time, our concern for the sufferings of poor black South Africans was inextricably bound up with our abhorrence for the prejudices and actions of white South Africans. With apartheid’s dissolution, our interest in the political and material fate of the South African majority slipped far down our scale of priorities. South Africa is rarely in the news: we demonstrably do not regard what black people are doing to other black people with the same distress.

Israelis are of such great interest to us not, as we shall discuss below, because we as a society “other” them. But because we “us” them. Where once Jews were treated as the ur-other in Christendom, now they’re just other white people, to be held to the standards of fellow white people.

For Israel’s champions in the wider West this leads to rhetoric about our civilisational imperative to stand with “the only democracy in the Middle East”.

For Israel’s Western foes, the hatred for her is just the self-hatred the idiot wing of the Left has for Western institutions — but with the added spice that given Israel’s precarious position, who knows, perhaps anti-Israeli activism could voyeuristically achieve there the real destruction such habitual fools are still incapable of achieving at home.

In their most poisonous form, Western critics of Israel inevitably exist most multitudinously in our bloated universities. If you want to read about these weeds, our executive editor, Sebastian Milbank, has in pointillist detail used Edinburgh University as a case study. Such varsity blaming of holocaust victims for their lack of courage, or white women for wanting to be raped, you can find in grim and exhaustive detail on our website. All this has happened publicly and without consequence. But let us here not even name them. They are unworthy people from an university which in recent years has set about traducing the esteemed reputation it had built over the course of more than four centuries.

The signature question in their vile tweets has been along the lines of: “What did you think decolonisation meant? Just words?” These foul inadequates would boldly have you know that they think their moronic slogans encompassed children being tortured to death. But, of course, what we should expect of them is nothing but words. These revolting academics obviously being nothing of the sort. For far from revolting, they are tame, safe, conformist and far away from danger.

At its most absurd level, the emptiness of Western academic valorisation of Palestinian terrorism is LGBTQ-for-Hamas. Such ignorance is pitiful. These are not serious people, they are children of all ages. But then it is sadly piquant to see claims that the meaningful hatred of Israel here in the UK is some age-old European stain recrudescing. The evidence of our eyes plainly tells us otherwise.

Israel is hated on our streets by the people who hate her on Middle Eastern streets. Not exclusively, and not anywhere near as monstrously, but the opposition is who it is. We must not pretend otherwise.

The prescient Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, was doing her job, and making it plain that others had signally failed for decades to do theirs, when she spoke clearly and bravely about the failings of British multiculturalism. For it has palpably failed when the murderers who tortured children to death are being cheered without shame.

Yet although gruesomely large numbers of Palestinians and their foreign supporters would have Israelis slaughtered, this does not and cannot mean that they in turn deserve to die without number. Palestinians are not vermin.

This is not the place to get into how many Palestinians have been slaughtered by Israelis and vice versa. That’s not because of some specious talk of it being “whataboutery” to do so. It is because it has ceased to matter for the purpose of “who started it?” It doesn’t matter how bestial one side has been to the other side. What matters first is what happens here, and some way behind that, for us, what matters is what’s right.

Israel’s test now is to be a civilisation worthier of existence than the barbarism Hamas visited upon her

The Palestinian claim to being right is not that they are oppressed by Hamas, an entity wickedly encouraged by successive Israeli governments as a form of divide and rule, which also discredited the wider Palestinian cause. Their claim would have been righteous had, in the West Bank, even a batsqueak of revulsion at children being tortured to death made itself plain. This has not happened.
Now, with Israel’s vastly greater firepower, Palestinian children will die in doubtless greater numbers. But death from the air, and still more grotesquely, death from deliberate starvation, is simply cruel and wanton. Death on the ground, death as the children were rounded up, death as they were tied together, death as they were set alight, death as they screamed out to be saved, and all as their parents watched is too much not to be despised. Whatever sufferings you have had in return, it is too much.

It is too much to expect that Israel, however rotten her government, however feeble her security forces have proven themselves to be, and however culpable her own sins have been, can stay the hand of vengeance. It’s precisely because the miraculous victories of Israel’s past in no way guarantee her future that she must now lash out. This is a weak state, not a strong one.

Our interest in Israel and Palestine is that their problems should not be on our streets, in our shopping malls, on our Tube trains. This is a job of vigilance for the state, and a proper one at that, unlike the inanities the police divert themselves with, such as harassing pronoun transgressors as they timidly ignore unabashed celebrants and champions of murder. Being entirely solvable by firm government, such problems here are as nothing to those being faced by Israel.

Let us be clear: Israel possesses no right to exist that Palestine lacks. Nations don’t have rights to exist. We don’t, France doesn’t, Russia, China, Germany, America, Israel, Palestine, long lost Crusader states — none of them have it.

All they ever had or will have is the ability to exist, if they can claim it for themselves. Israel has done so — this October getting “rid” of those who struck across her boundaries to enact the pogrom that they wanted to expand into a full-blown Holocaust. Her test now is to be a civilisation worthier of existence than the barbarism Hamas visited upon her. This is not a high bar to clear, though plainly it is a hard one.

Let Israel be judged as “one of us”. Let her show that she is better than the evil which is all Hamas has to offer. Those who hate her will continue to do so, whether she does the right or wrong thing. So let her do that right thing for her own sake. Israel can do by degrees to Palestine what too many there would do to her in a day and a night. Be better than that, O Israel.

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