Social Theorist and Philosopher

Criticising the War on Gaza

Useful Idiots and Anti-Semites

In the House of Lords, on Holocaust Memorial Day, Lord Eric Pickles, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues, described demonstrators against the Israeli war on Gaza as “useful idiots.” I have been consistently slurred in the last decade as a transphobic bigot, so to be described by this new epithet at least makes a change! Where transactivists and their allies have attributed me with malign intent to erase all trans-identifying people, Pickles suggests I have a deficiency of intellect so severe I am little more than a puppet for the wicked designs of crazed Islamist terrorists pulling the strings of my haplessly naïve mind to enable them to erase all Jews.

Disparate accusations of my agency or lack thereof, share almost identical characteristics. Each is an example of reductive binarism and an Orwellian reversal of the truth. Regarding Israel, I either sign up for a religious-type faith that Israel is unequivocally on the side of the angels, is morally blameless, and holds itself to the highest standards of international law, or I hate Jews. In New Speak, “Ceasefire now” is not a call for peace but an example of hate speech; objection to the slaughter of thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians, the razing to the ground of their homes and infrastructure, is not fear that genocide of Palestinians is taking place but is a call for genocide of the Jews; endorsing the rights of Palestinians, who bear no responsibility for the Holocaust, to live freely on their ancient lands “from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea” means I want Jews to be homeless.

Some feminists have also imputed me with having revealed myself as in reality an anti-Semitic rape apologist. Nicole Lampert, for example, argues that by publicly protesting Israel’s war on Gaza, but not the grotesque sexual violence of women perpetrated by Hamas on 7 October, feminists like me have revealed that we believe “MeToo” applies to all women except Jews. Feminist groups, she insists, are “whitewashing Hamas’s crimes.”

About 1.4 million Palestinians, or more than half the population of Gaza, have crowded into Rafah to escape Israeli bombardment since October 2023. Israel’s aerial bombardment of Rafah since 12 February 2024 has left five craters at least 10 metres wide and 5 metres deep. Photo credit: Said Khatib

Hadley Freeman agrees. Feminists are culpably silent about several of Hamas’s many other unspeakable acts, including, she insists, slicing open pregnant women and beheading the foetuses. She likens our moral failures to those exemplified by the alleged feminist group “Sisters Uncut” and “their ilk” who recently organised a pro-Palestine protest in Liverpool Street Station. To be identified with the aims and ethics of this group holds a certain irony for me: In 2017, Sisters Uncut, comprised largely of black-masked men in balaclavas, dangerously corralled me backward down a narrow stairwell at a Bristol venue where I was giving a talk. They threw smoke bombs into the corridors and banged continuously on the locked door to drown out my talk which was attempting to alert people to the medical scandal unfolding at the Tavistock. Sisters Uncut advised local “trans women” to stay indoors while I was in town because I incite violence!

According to Tracy-Ann Oberman, those who protest against Israel legitimate rape as “an act of resistance.” I do not. But I am not a fool. The first casualty of war is truth. I do not disbelieve the testimony of women but critically examine the narratives of politicians and military men. In war, rape takes on symbolic significance as evidence of the barbarity and bestiality of the opposing side and can become part of a propaganda machine. In the immediate aftermath of 7 October, an IDF soldier’s testimony that babies had been decapitated was a particularly explosive accusation that first emerged in Israel’s media and was initially confirmed by Israeli officials. This “truth” was circulated globally. President Joseph Biden went on to say that he had seen images of beheaded children, but The White House later clarified that USA officials had not seen any evidence. Despite a retraction, the allegation of the beheading of babies has taken on a life of its own as if it were an objective fact.

I do not for one moment deny that Hamas may have carried out acts of sexual depravity. In war, the rape of women has been utilized as a weapon since time immemorial. I welcome the UN experts’ recent demand for independent and impartial investigations of all rights violations, including those in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, and for accountability for any body of evidence that women were raped during the 7 October attacks. If the rapes occurred, then I will see them as acts of misogynistic barbarism.

A displaced Palestinian child who fled her house due to Israeli strikes holds a crying baby, as they take shelter in a tent camp amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, 13 February. Photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

The evidence that Israel has killed thousands of women and children in Gaza is, however, an indisputable fact. Over the past week many gender-critical feminists, have spent inordinate amounts of time discussing the politics of using female personal pronouns for autogynephilic men (by the way, I always use the correct sex-based pronouns) but have not, as far as I am aware, publicly commented on the escalating deadly plight of Gazan women. Dr Deborah Harrington, a UK obstetrician volunteering in Gaza, describes how pregnant women have had no antenatal care since October, are suffering miscarriages and premature births under the stress of bombardment, and now, with the destruction of hospitals, are giving birth in the street. She has also treated “children with… open fractures, partial amputations, open chest wounds, horrendous lacerations… and burns. And that was every day.” She says: “I feel ashamed and shocked that we’re doing this to fellow humans.”

It is cruelty beyond comprehension that many supporters sympathetic to Israel’s military operation in Gaza, and the importance of the Holocaust and historic oppression, do not by the same token recognise that the Nakba is equally alive to Palestinians. Palestinian history includes the Zionist terrorism of 1948 and the creation of Israel; the displacement of Palestinians from their ancient lands, turning them into refugees; Israeli occupation of internationally designated Palestinian territories thus disobeying international law whilst being supported by the mighty USA; Zionist settlers aggression; the lack of a state and an army to defend itself against aggression. Hadley Freeman disavows any Israeli responsibility for wrongdoing, insisting Hamas started the war and that “there was a ceasefire until Hamas broke it.” Even a cursory understanding of contemporary life for Palestinians leads one to know that violence towards them has never been on a break.

Eylon Levy, a spokesman for the Israeli government, says that those who protest against Israel’s war on Gaza suffer “cognitive dissonance.” They “clearly have a deep-rooted pathology and are part of a well-oiled machine of hatred and propaganda that will sink to new lows to stop Israel from defending itself.” Israel was “the victim of an act of genocide, the worst act of racist terrorism in the lifetimes of Jews.” If so, then it must also be recognised that, as Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation, wrote, there is no instance since the Second World War in which an alleged liberal democracy, or any other state, has reduced “an entire population … to extreme hunger and destitution with such speed … And there’s no case in which the international obligation to stop it has been so clear.”

The weaponising of anti-Semitism to stifle critical discussion partakes in a similar psychological and political dynamic as the weaponisation of transphobia that I experienced to suppress, for example, my critical analysis of “the transgender child.” In a recent landmark case brought on the back of Maya Forstater’s success, Professor David Miller has successfully claimed discrimination by Bristol University based on his philosophical belief that Zionism is inherently racist, imperialist, and colonial. This judgment establishes for the first time that beliefs critical of Zionism are protected under the Equality Act 2010. The lawyers acting on Miller’s behalf declare the case has “drawn attention to the challenges faced by academics and individuals advocating for justice, fairness, and equality in Palestine.”

Hadley Freeman concludes that protestors against Israel must be “on glue.” I assure her I’m not. She argues that “all of these protesters … shouting for peace and a ceasefire would look less deluded if they offered any plan for how to achieve this.” The delusion, I suggest, is Israel’s. Its military operation has caused unprecedented destruction to life and property, yet there appears to be no workable strategy to effectively remove Hamas, nor any political solution to ensure Israel’s security in the long term. If Israel thinks it can combat the existential centuries-long threat to Jews by killing every member of Hamas it will indeed need to commit genocide or ethnically cleanse Gaza since Hamas members allegedly lurk in every nook and cranny, home, school, and hospital.

Palestinians with children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies, as the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas continues, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, 13 February 2024. Photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Hamas is a thoroughly homegrown organisation, having emerged out of the conditions of Israel’s illegal Occupation. It is now joining forces with Islamist groups in the Middle East who are an existential threat to Israel. If Israel had wanted this state of affairs, it could not have performed a better job of creating it. It is currently turning thousands of children into orphans and rendering them witness to the violent, bloody deaths of their mothers. As sure as night follows day, some of these innocents will become tomorrow’s vengeful militants who in the next inevitable, cycle of Palestinian uprising, will perceive themselves not as terrorists but as freedom fighters resisting a crazed, brutal Zionist terrorist occupier.

The Israeli journalist Gideon Levy says that, although Hamas carried out a brutal, barbaric attack, one massacre doesn’t justify another. Israel does not have the right to kill and destroy as much as it wants forever, without legal or moral limits. That 25, 000 innocent people have been killed to date, most of them women and children is a fact that nobody can deny. He asks of his fellow Israelis: “Do we have the right to do it? What does it say about us, about our moral standards? And, above all, how long will we go on, and where are we aiming to go? Will another 25,000 killed people in Gaza guarantee more security to Israel?”

In a never-ending circular logic, Israel cannot be criticised, because to do so is axiomatically to be anti-Semitic. The lens through which I understand the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict and Zionism, honed by living temporarily in the West Bank, is also shared with many Jewish idiots, including Hannah Arendt, but most especially that particular idiot, Albert Einstein. If my adored grandson and two granddaughters who are of Jewish heritage ask me why I march in the streets of London on a Saturday holding a banner declaring “ceasefire now,” I will tell them: “Helping to protect you!”

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