Reader Post: Israel-Gaza – A Test Of Quaint Old British “Fair Play”

big ben instagramed by Brian of London squareHere’s an interesting disconnect in the “thinking” of the British public. Recent polls produced the following results:

41% think that David Cameron should have been more critical of Israel whereas 38% say David Cameron has got the balance right between supporting and criticising Israel. This is followed by 13% who don’t know and only 9% who think that the Prime Minister should be more supportive of Israel.

Bear in mind that most pro-Israel people believe his actions have been pretty supportive so far, and any further action would be unrealistic. In other words, the majority of the British public, contrary to the way it is being portrayed by the media and certain loudmouthed politicians, are actually behind the Tories on this. All the more reason why Baroness Warsi was hopelessly out of touch on, well, basically everything.

Meanwhile though, another poll shows that 62% believe that the Israeli government is committing war crimes (incidentally 65% say Hamas are too, 69% say Assad does, and about half say Blair and Bush did, so Bibi is in good company), and a third poll showed that 52% of see Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip as “unjustified”.

In his public statements, David Cameron has openly endorsed Israel as the wronged party with a right to defend itself, and been guarded in any criticism of its tactics, quite reasonably trying not to accuse before facts are known. A clear majority of people actively or passively endorse this view, whilst at the same time, a clear majority believe Israel is carrying out war crimes.

This means that about 1 in 4 people in the UK (62%-38%, assuming no overlaps) simultaneously agree that this is a complicated war in which Israel is doing what it can to defend itself, and that Israel is carrying out war crimes. Even stronger are 1 in 10 people (62%-52%) who effectively believe Israel is carrying out “justified war crimes”!

Now this obviously makes little logical sense, but it perhaps demonstrates what might at least be a subconscious understanding of the asymmetric warfare Israeli is forced by its evil opponents to fight – basically damned to either commit war crimes or not defend its populace.

Added to this, general attitudes to the Israel/Palestine issue see 27% pro-Palestinian, 14% pro-Israel, and the big 59% middle ground of both, neither, don’t know.

In other words, there’s a big middle ground who may feel instinctively uncomfortable at seeing the death and destruction, feel Israel could be doing more and is not as moral as they might like, but also have no idea what else Israel is supposed to do, and are actually still open-minded on the wider dilemmas.

This nuanced group is precisely where better access to facts can have the biggest impact, and it’s remarkable that there are so many such people still left, after the particular type of “groupthink”, propaganda and veiled threats they have been subjected to.

Brian of London’s response to my original posting of the above statistics and analysis was pithy:

“Basically war has been declared a crime. There is no circumstance under which it is permitted to kill in self defence. This extends right from countries down to individuals. This is where the damage has been done: they’ve made people think war was unnecessary because you could negotiate everything into a nice sensible solution and then have a cup of tea. And now they’re going to try to work out how to sit down with IS.”

Another respondent pointed out that

“The slaughter of British soldiers on the streets of London has not woken them up, nor has IS’s beheadings and genocide. Too many people in the West fail to understand that the freedoms they take for granted are only upheld by the ability and willingness to exercise massively lethal, brutal force in defending those freedoms and to kill as many of the enemy as is necessary to win.”

I can see the basis of these points of view, but I believe this middle ground deserves a little more credit. They are saying they prefer to believe that all war is a crime but also implicitly recognise Israel basically has no choice. They are also fully aware of the brutality of Islamism unchecked, and that this reality has been and will be visited on them in the streets of British cities.

However, they are hoping to have others do their dirty work in the long term, whilst in the short term they hope to protect themselves with the claim that they were playing fair and treating both sides equally at worst, if not actually marching in the streets with their flags, as if Hizbollah yellow and Hamas green won’t eventually turn IS black and eventually infidel blood red.

The British public can no longer be considered so naive that they really believe the outdated notion of fair play and assuming all parties are up for a civilised discussion will bring a resolution to this conflict or long-term protection to them.

The muddled public opinion revealed in these statistics demonstrates a (probably unconsciously)  very clever hedging of bets, allowing the luxury of self-righteousness over Israel’s terribly un-British behaviour, whilst secretly being quite happy for others to do their dirty work. As the famous George Orwell maxim goes (this is the real quote, by the way – the one you all know is a paraphrase):

“Those who ‘abjure’ violence can do so only because others are committing violence on their behalf.”

Take note, hasbara strategists, because the pro-Hamas/anti-Jew (sorry, I mean pro-Palestinian/anti-Zionist) contingent sure have. They understand that elements of the British public are happy to abjure violence (and of course anti-Semitism) whilst simultaneously letting their proxies do battle against the evil Zionists – in Israel, at the Tricycle Theatre, on the wall of a synagogue or two.

We have to reverse the argument and demonstrate to the British centre ground that the oft-quoted lines by Golda Meir and others about how we try to abjure violence and are desperately sad at having to use it, even as a last resort and for our own survival, remain true for us in every moment of every battle and conflict.

Also take note, Tory Party, because Warsi, Clegg, Miliband etc have actually tracked further to the left than the electorate. Demonstrating a sensible and nuanced line (which invariably actually favours Israel in practice) is not going to cost you votes in 2015, and might even gain you some.

It will certainly reassure a Jewish community that is increasingly living in fear because the other side is strident and even violent in promoting its viewpoint.

The British public are apparently happy with the seemingly neutral position of “not in my name (but probably in my self-interest)” – this seems to be the best we and they can do right now. However, as Edmund Burke is often misquoted as saying, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. The original quote is actually much more telling:

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

May this turn out to be a warning to the the well-meaning and upstanding British public, that doing nothing will not suffice, and to choose their associations with great care, for a contemptible struggle is upon us, and we – Jews and Israelis – may well remain unpitied, but never again will we be a sacrifice.

About Michael Freedman

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  • Gee

    I feel that Mr. Freedman is too kind to the British. Anti-Semitism is deeply rooted in the British. They expelled the Jews two hundred years ahead of the Spanish Inquisition. That hatred has never really left.

    Second the British are cowards. They didn’t used to be – but one hundreds ago this month they began their fall into sheer cowardice. World War 1 destroyed the will of the British and World War 2 destroyed what was left of their empire. Their greatest military hero of World War 2 – Montgomery was a coward that cost tens of thousands of lives because of his fear of actual fighting. Patton had it right when he said that Montgomery was more afraid of losing a battle than of fighting one.

    Now the British think that anybody defending themselves is somehow a war crime. Pity them for they not know what they was doing. Great Britain will not survive this century – they have lost the will to fight for what is right and that too is pure cowardice. We are seeing the results and they too will have their street awash in blood because they are too afraid to be men anymore

    • SoreHeed

      Your paranoia will give you hypertension one day….

      Your first point that antisemetism is deeply rooted in Britain is incorrect. As a Brit who resided in France for a while I can say with some experience that they are the leaders of anti Jewish sentiment…and by a long way (at least in the western world). I have also lived in Ireland for a couple of years and again (despite its low Jewish population) antisemetism is rife….maybe it’s a catholic thing? You are getting mixed up between angry young, Muslims demonstrating and the general population of the UK.

      The average joe on the street is apathetic towards any sort of politics and rarely votes (election turnouts are low in UK) and simply don’t give a shit about Palestine, Israel and the Middle East in general. Even those who give more thought to politics now want us to become more isolationalist….which is not surprising really, as we are no longer the policeman of the world.

      Too many interventions have cost too many lives, many billions and the outcomes of these wars were far from satisfactory. Cowardice doesn’t come into it. You mention the 2 world wars…where Britain was the first to recognise (and to act) on German expansionism and aggression at a cost of a million lives.

      Our politicians are simply paying lip service to the pro Palestinian lobby

      • Art Deco

        The French are contemptuous as a matter of course, all the time and about everything and every one. Their disdain is equal opportunity. Their language is beautiful; their old town suburbs are beautiful Their hygiene is … haphazard.

        The average joe on the street is apathetic towards any sort of politics and rarely votes

        And the political class pays him no mind. Please see Caroline Glick’s report of her most recent speaking engagement at a British university. She was so disgusted with the behavior of the audience she said it’s the last time you’ll ever catch her in London.

        The chatterati are the worst thing about Britain.

      • Art Deco

        maybe it’s a catholic thing?

        There aren’t any Catholics left in France bar the ghost of Jacques Maritain.

        The Irish Republic was once a decent place. The canary in the coal mine was the election of the ghastly Mary Robinson to the presidency in 1990. Now it’s this sort of place:

        http://i3.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article2191736.ece/alternates/s615/sex-act-at-Eminem-concert.jpg

      • Art Deco

        Britain and France are the two European countries with capable working militaries, passably provisioned. Those men are not cowards.

      • Gal5

        This is not a competition, there is place for both :(

      • markscotto

        I’m a little surprised about the claim that Britain was the first to recognize and act on German expansionism. Starting in 1933, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain did nothing to contain or push back against Hitler’s aggressive and militaristic policies, starting with Hitler’s re-occupation of the Ruhr in 1935, the Anschluss, and the dismantling of Czechoslovakia in 1938. By the time the UK pushed back against Hitler after his attack on Poland in 1939, it was almost too late and Britain paid an extraordinarily heavy price for Baldwin and Chamberlain’s failures and came pretty close to losing the war and would have, if not for Hitler’s decision to invade the USSR in 1941. All of this is of course ancient history, but it’s impossible for me to not feel enormous admiration for the British people’s lonely resistance to Hitler for over a year after the collapse of the French military.

      • Shy Guy

        <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/brendan-oneill-modern-major-jew-haters-1408042650&quot;It’s Britain, So the Anti-Semitism Is More Refined

  • Travis

    The last decade or so has convinced me more than ever that the best of Britain lies buried in Flanders, the Somme, and Passchendaele. The last flicker of the “Old England” was “Operation Dynamo” (May, 1940 (when the B.E. F. was successfully evacuated fro France to fight again) and Britain has not been the same since Dunkirk. The Margaret Thatcher’s and Winston Churchill’s were the exceptions.

    • Bavi

      You seem to know jack shit about Britain if you think thatcher was the best of Britain. You talk of old operations as if they could be pulled off today if we just had the balls to do it. Just look at our armed forces and our special forces and tell them they have no balls.

      • Travis

        Far from perfect yes, but she revived Britain. the likes of a wanker such as you trashing her tells me she did a pretty good job. Ted Heath seems to be more your cup of tea.

      • Art Deco

        I’m fascinated to know who would be your candidate for the ‘best of Britain’ in the sixty years since Churchill’s retirement. Harold Wilson? Michael Foot? Neil Kinnock? Arthur Scargill? Jimmy Savile?

        • Mr. Idaho

          XD Jimmy.

  • Norman_In_New_York

    Two more quotes that I feel are relevant to this discussion.

    Orwell – “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

    Churchill – “He [Neville Chamberlain] had a choice between war and dishonor. He chose dishonor. Now we shall have war.”

  • Art Deco

    allowing the luxury of self-righteousness over Israel’s terribly un-British behaviour

    Israel has a 22 member cabinet. Two members are ca. 43 years of age, four are between 47 and 54, and the rest are older. If you’ve actually exhibited terribly British behavior throughout the course of your life, you get into that age group and the blood supply in your alcohol stream is getting thin and your teeth are a mess.

    Without a doubt, David Cameron’s teeth are rented.

    • SoreHeed

      Aah the old bad teeth joke again . Well done………

  • Gary

    That is a very interesting piece, especially the part about ‘justified war crimes.’ Somehow it seems like a very British thing to say.

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