OPINION - Dissent over Gaza hysteria doesn’t make you a genocidal monster

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As so often in my life, after a few days of reflection I’ve found myself looking at both sides of an argument thinking “a plague on both your houses”. That’s the polite version anyway. Since the spectacle of parliamentary procedure being overturned for fear of mob violence, we’ve witnessed a week of “my threat is worse than your threat” and “my fear is worse than your fear” one-upmanship. Our national teenage crush on binary bullshit merely demonstrates what all extremists seek to avoid revealing: that they are as unpleasant as each other.

The hard Left think Labour are being controlled by the evil Zionist lobby while the Right say Labour are in thrall of an Islamic mafia. The same goes for the BBC. Both conspiracies can’t be right. Failure to confront the illegalities of some pro-Palestinian activists invites the far-Right in. The Tommy Robinsons of this world abhor a vacuum.

We have to be able to separate our feelings about the war in Gaza from questions of the law, democracy and freedom in the UK. If we can’t do that we might as well let Jeremy Corbyn’s wife run the country. It is evasive and disingenuous to reply to justified concerns about threats to MPs and their families by saying, “Yeah, but what about all the people who’ve been killed in Gaza?”

By this logic anyone who questions the use of the word “genocide” approves of child killings. The word is as much an attempt to crush dissent as an expression of horror. Repeatedly writing GENOCIDE in capital letters doesn’t make it true either. A prominent political writer (you know the one) can simultaneously accuse the Right of inflaming anti-Muslim bigotry, while claiming Israel is gripped by “genocidal mania” and label anyone who doesn’t support an immediate ceasefire as “no better than Pol Pot” without ever seeing the contradictions of his rhetoric. (In case you don’t know, Pol Pot was responsible for the death of two million Cambodians).

We have to separate our feelings about the war in Gaza from questions of democracy, law and freedom in the UK

What last week’s vote in the Commons showed was that we are not talking about Gaza at all. We are always talking about ourselves, including the party politicians who all got caught playing party politics. That goes for the protesters and activists too. It’s less about the war and more about flexing against our closest and most hated enemies.

Young people have been sold the idea that anyone in authority is a potential fascist. But fascism lurks among them, at least in the unthinking defence of the religious fascism that Islamism represents: anti-women’s rights, anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-religious freedom and expression and — the most basic fascist tactic of all — the use of intimidation to deconstruct the norms of public life.

The nonsense emanating from Lee Anderson affects all Muslims. His was a racist statement. Islamophobia does not mean Islamists and jihadists (and their narcissistic non-Islamist mates) don’t exist and are not a danger. Far too many of us cannot maintain two different ideas in our head at the same time. Those who emphasise the threat of the hard-Right — the Fash — should not kid themselves. Islamists are the Fash too.

Calling for a global intifada might sound like a hoot, but it certainly isn’t about peace or humanitarian aid. Calling for the destruction of Israel isn’t about a solution to the conflict (unless they mean the Final one). By buttressing Islamism, the hard-Left normalise it. If you’re advocating this you are not fighting fascism — you are its midwife.

The rule of law and the right to live in peace in this country are not subject to the course of a war somewhere else. Arguing that our laws don’t apply because Palestinians are dying is preposterous. But apparently it’s okay to harass children going into restaurants because, you know, Palestine. You can intimidate MPs and their families, shut Tower Bridge, walk through the streets with racist placards shouting racist slogans and cower police officers into not tackling hate crimes because of Palestine.

Protesters have become so deranged that not entirely agreeing with them not only makes a person wrong but makes them a murderer. This even extends to kebab shop owners who sell Zionist Coca-Cola. Who’s next? Anyone eating a falafel?

Call me old-fashioned, but I was always taught religious fundamentalism was a bad thing, so I’m not overly keen on seeing fundamentalists calling for violence on our streets or the privileged progressive apologists giving them a free pass. The same goes for racism. The slogan beamed onto Big Ben would have been unforgivable if it had affected any other group other than Jews. This is antisemitism disguised as political resistance. Yet it was permitted knowingly by the police.

What is so depressing about the past week has been how the bigotry of both sides has been exposed by who they choose to obsess over. That the Left “only” see the far-Right and Right “only” see Islamists tells us everything. The far-Right and Islamists are both dangerous and both a threat to democracy. They must both be resisted now and forever.

George Chesterton is the Evening Standard’s executive editor