Wednesday 28 February 2024

Their anger has gone too far now.


There are lots of different people going on demonstrations in support of the Palestinians, calling for a ceasefire and who are concerned about the death toll and the number of injured in the Israeli Hamas conflict since October.

People on the Left and especially the Far Left are most likely to demonstrate. Along with them are some people without particularly strong views who have been swayed by horrible scenes on the news. The next biggest demographic is probably ordinary Muslims who might up to now have not been particularly involved in political issues. Finally, there are some Islamic fundamentalists.

The Left and particularly the Far Left is motivated mainly by dislike of the West. It only ever demonstrates if either Britain or the USA is involved in a war or if a western ally is involved. It is always particularly hostile to Israel.

Israelis are viewed falsely as being, white, European colonisers while Palestinians are viewed as brown, Middle Eastern victims of colonisation and oppression.

I think its reasonable to suppose that the vast majority of British Muslims overwhelmingly sympathise with the Palestinians. Most Muslims will have their view of the justice of the conflict. This is no different from how anyone else views foreign affairs. We are all allowed to think as we please about foreign wars. In this they are no different from large numbers of other Brits who support the Palestinians in a perfectly peaceful legitimate way.

But if we are to analyse the justice or injustice of the Israeli-Hamas conflict we have to put it into a historical context.

Since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 there have been approximately 116,000 deaths. We don’t know exactly how many deaths the present conflict has involved, and we don’t know how many fighters and how many civilians have been killed. We don’t know how many Palestinians have died because of friendly fire from Hamas rockets and how many have died because of Israel. But a lot of people have died. It may be more than 30,000.

Well let’s go back to a similar date to when Israel was founded.

1 The Partition of India                    1946-1948          200,000–2,000,000

2 Kashmir conflict                           1947-                   80,000–110,000

3 Algerian War                                1954-1962           400,000–1,500,000

4 First Sudanese Civil War             1955–1972          500,000+

5 North Yemen Civil War               1962–1970          100,000–200,000

6 Nigerian Civil War                      1967–1970           1,000,000–3,000,000

7 Bangladesh Liberation War        1971                     400,000–3,600,000+  

8 Invasion of East Timor               1975–1976          100,000-200,000

9 Lebanese Civil War                    1975–1990           120,000–150,000

10 Afghanistan conflict                 1977-                    1,400,000–2,500,000

11 Iran–Iraq War                           1980–1988           500,000–1,500,000

12 Second Sudanese Civil War     1983–2005           1,000,000–2,000,000

13 Algerian Civil War                   1991-2002            44,000–200,000

14 War on terror                            2001-2021            272,000–1,260,000

15 War in Darfur                           2003-                    300,000+

16 Boka Harum insurgency          2009-                    350,000+

17 Syrian civil war                       2011-                   506,750–613,407+

18 South Sudanese Civil War       2013–2020           383,000+

19 War in Iraq                               2013-2017          195,000–200,000+

20 Yemeni Civil War                    2014-                   377,000+


All of the conflicts that I have listed here have involved Muslim states or people. Sometimes it has been Muslims fighting Muslims, at other times it has been Muslims fighting non-Muslims. But in each case the number of deaths has exceeded the present conflict between Israel and Hamas and in most cases, it has far exceeded the deaths in all of the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts since 1948.

In each of these conflicts innocent women and children died either directly or indirectly from war. The Bangladesh Liberation War in particular involved the murder of up to 3000,000 Bengalis and the rape of 300,000 women.

At the time of many of these conflicts we did not have 24-hour news, nor did reporters have the same degree of access as they do now. But the suffering of the people involved in these conflicts whatever their race or religion was similar if not worse to that suffered by Palestinians in Gaza. It is not worse to be killed or wounded in Gaza because there are pictures on the BBC news.

Most of the conflicts listed received minimal coverage in the British media and few if any demonstrations. Many of these conflicts are all but forgotten today. How many people know about the mass displacement of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims during the partition of India. How many know about the Bangladesh’s War of Independence? Very few, I think.

Yet everyone knows about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and appears to think that it is both quantitatively and qualitatively worse than any other conflict in recent decades. But this is false. It is a grotesque distortion.

The present war between Israel and Hamas is relatively small scale. It far less brutal than most wars in history. Israel is taking more care to avoid civilian casualties than any of the other wars listed. Yet none of the above wars involved continual demands for ceasefires from the SNP nor mass demonstrations on the streets condemning one or other of the participants.

If every single Muslim nation involved in the wars of the past decades had been condemned by Muslims all over the world not least because they so frequently involved the deaths of innocent Muslims, I would be more inclined to take seriously their condemnation of Israel. But British Muslims were largely silent about the war in Yemen or Darfur or the Iran-Iraq War. There were no calls for a ceasefire then.

It is perfectly legitimate to criticise Israel, but only if it is done in the same proportion to the criticism you make about other wars and worse wars. If you ignore larger numbers of innocent Muslims being killed in Yemen or Bangladesh, you have no moral right to criticise Israel when it responds to being attacked. It is not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel if that criticism is justified and proportionate, but it is anti-Semitic to criticise only Israel and to ignore other far worse wars.

The lives of the countless millions who have died in wars involving Muslims since 1945 including countless innocent Muslims are just as valuable as any other lives and just as valuable as the innocent civilians who have died in Gaza. Our shared humanity is more important than whether we share a faith.

But it is quite wrong to condemn only Israel while condemning no one else who has fought wars in the past decades. It is quite wrong to have mass demonstrations for months about a relatively small-scale conflict while ignoring or not even bothering to find out about much larger wars involving your coreligionists.

To condemn only Jews who fight wars while not giving a damn about Muslims who fight wars that are more terrible is anti-Semitic. It suggests a warped judgement. It’s just fine for Muslims to kill Muslims, we won’t demonstrate about that. But if anyone else and especially Jews are involved in a war with Muslims we will demonstrate and threaten and if our MPs don’t do what they are told well they should be careful and will deserve what they get.  

This is not merely a biased and warped judgement. It is biased and warped morality.

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