Israel on Trial

“We are a people who were the victims of apartheid. We know what apartheid looks like… we will not be passive bystanders & watch the crimes that were visited on us being perpetrated on other people elsewhere.” – Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa

The media silence on the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to ensure its forces do not commit acts of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, is deafening.

The International Court of Justice ruling is not the final word on whether Israel’s actions amount to genocide, but it provides a very strong indication that the judges believe there is a credible risk to Palestinians under the genocide convention. Although the courts powers of enforcement are limited this is not without consequence.

Firstly, the president of the court, Joan Donoghue, said Israel must “take all measures within its power” to prevent acts that fall within the scope of the genocide convention and must ensure “with immediate effect” that its forces do not commit any of the acts covered by the convention.

She also said: “The court is also of the view that Israel must take measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to the members of the Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip,” the US judge said. “The court further considers that Israel must take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

The consequence of this is that defiance of this by Israel means war crimes at scale and under international legal scrutiny. The current tactic of starvation is happening in real time and in plain sight.

As Kenneth Roth, the former executive director of Human Rights Watch pointed lout: “On the need to allow humanitarian aid to a starving population in Gaza and to prevent and punish the incitement of genocide, even the respected Israeli judge, Aharon Barak, joined the majority, making the vote 16 to 1 – a powerful repudiation of those who try to chalk up challenges to Israel’s conduct in Gaza as an unfair double standard or antisemitism.”

The mounting death-toll, the numbers of children involved, the collective punishment is an obscenity, but it is an obscenity the west is complicit in. And the consequences of this ruling are not just about the politics of evasion, they are about the active support from the US and Britain in this travesty. This ruling then has consequences for Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak but also for Keir Starmer. If Tony Blair’s New Labour came in on a wave of popular enthusiasm for renewal and was later tarnished by the Iraq war, Keir Starmer’s Neo Labour will arrive on a wave of disillusionment and is already stained by his support for Israel’s actions in Gaza.

This is important, not because it will effect Starmer’s ascending to power, the brutal realities of the conflict will not really enter a UK election campaign being slugged out between Tories and Labour, but it does effect Starmer’s moral standing.

As Rishi Sunak’s government unravels into a festering shambles unlikely to see-out the last few months intact, the incoming party resembles a well-oiled, if principle-free, machine. Starmer and his senior colleagues have assembled a ruthless array of content-free slogans and non-policies that is resistant to media-attack and is soaring in the polls promising Conservative annihilation. Tory in-fighting means that now even the right-wing press (the Mail and Telegraph and GB News) are turning on Sunak, according to Andrew Marr.

What we are now seeing – and few thought this was even possible – is the British political landscape turning even further to the right. As the British Labour Party takes up policy positions adjacent to the former Conservative Party, the Tories are in danger of being annihilated and replaced by something else altogether. Writing in the New Statesman Marr writes; “As morale and discipline inside the Conservative parliamentary party continues to unravel, there is a belief that the right-wing media, far from fulfilling its old role as a flying buttress, supporting it from the outside, is busy fomenting rebellion and flirting with the challenger party, Reform UK. At the most extreme, some Tories see the emergence of an increasingly powerful British alt-right.”

The argument Marr constructs is that the new editors of Britain’s key right-wing press are of a new generation, unbiddable by the previous circles of upper class London cronyism and more driven by data, (and Dacre). They are, Marr argues, driven by instant data on their readership and responsive to their politics. And what their politics is telling them is that these people are dismissive of Sunak’s government and demanding a harder/tougher approach on immigration.

Tougher than Priti Patel and Suella Braverman? Apparently, yes. What they want, and the threat that is waiting in the wings is Richard Tice’s Reform Party, with an eager Nigel Farage at the helm ready to pounce on a wounded and collapsing Tory Party. If this sounds far-fetched you’ve not been paying attention to the debacle of British politics.

When you put this all together what you have is the possibility of a completely re-cast British political map. The Labour Party is a hollowed-out shell of its former self, with any last remnant voices of the left expelled, alienated or isolated. The incoming party is unlike any previous version of itself and its position on Israel is only emblematic of its wider positioning. The Conservatives will either be taken-over by people who believe Sunak is not extreme enough or face such defeat they will become politically extinct, and the SNP may also be facing huge losses at Westminster, depending on what polls you believe and to what extent Starmer’s sea-change washes north of the border.

While such changes might see celebrations at the idea of ‘getting rid of the Tories’ or ‘booting out the SNP’, the era it heralds in is one of such cynicism and such dark politics, it will be little to cheer. The danger is we are entering a new era where the ‘rules based order’ is meaningless and where the two main political parties compete to put-out the most extreme and brutal politics both at home and abroad.

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  1. James Mills says:

    ”Two main parties” – two cheeks of the same arse !

  2. CathyW says:

    Another fine, if depressing, article Mike. I note the number of Western states who have instantly suspended support to the UN agency providing essential relief in Gaza, based on an accusation (emanating from Israel) that a few – which the agency says have been sacked – of its many thousands of personnel were complicit/involved in Hamas’s Oct 7 attack. Contrast that with their continued arming, funding and ‘diplomatic’/political support of the Israeli state… despite the ICJ’s warnings re genocide. National demo in support of Palestine next weekend needs to be as big as we can make it.

  3. SteveH says:

    Why is it, that the intelligentsia of these Islands hate their own people and nation, when you do not see it in Africa, Asia – everywhere outside of the Western world?

    Your rhetoric and political ambitions do nothing but undermine the very security, safety, privilege and opportunities you take for granted.

    People in these totalitarian places are bemused by your luxury beliefs. They know how cruel the world can be.

    What most of the educated entitled like you haven’t grasped is that the people who run our government, civil service and institutions are just like you. The Tories are mostly culturally left wing, but know that the nation as a whole isn’t. You simply dominate the legacy media and the public discourse.

    Those who disagree with you are simply calked “far-right” thugs. What’s more You seek to punish the West as a whole because of the stupidity of the Germans in the 20th Century.

    Germany is also responsible for creating that other madness – Marxism and the Frankfurt school. Why be selective? Russia, China, Africa and South America have learned to their cost adopting Marxism as their political philosophy, yet people like you persist in promoting its variants.

    Look closely at European mainland countries. They are seeing a shift to the right, led and supported mostly by young people.

    Perhaps being closer to the Russian Bear and the theocratic Islamic world to their South has focused their mind?

    I urge you to employ critical thinking not critical theory and postmodernism. You will do greater good in the world than your identity group ideology does now.

    1. 240128 says:

      Why shouldn’t we study the social, historical, and ideological forces and structures which produce and constrain it our culture (critical theory) or remain sceptical elements of the Enlightenment (‘Western’) worldview, question the ‘grand narratives’ of modernism (capitalism’s ideological expression), reject the certainty of knowledge and stable meaning, and acknowledge the influence of ideology in maintaining political power (postmodernism)? Just because they don’t do it in authoritarian countries isn’t a good reason for us not to hold our own establishment to account.

    2. John says:

      Congratulations Stevie you have managed to complete a comment without managing to use the term graduates for your outpouring of hate. Instead you have used the term intelligentsia which is very unfortunate because if you even have a passing knowledge of history you would realise that dictators of left and right normally try to eradicate the intelligentsia as a matter of priority. Have you ever wondered why?

      1. SteveH says:

        You miss the point. Its not the far right, or even the far left we should fear as such. Its the weakening of Western civilisation.

        The only reason we have stayed ahead of the totalitarian regimes is because we understood how dangerous the world is and has always been. There has been a steady progress of liberal social justice, but shared much more.

        Today, group identity politics has undermined The West’s strength and cohesion. Our enemy’s have never had democracy either before our contact with them or after. In Africa rampant corruption and coup’s are the norm.

        Islam immediately began its conquest across the Magreb and across the rest of the gulf, Persia and across to what is now the edge of China. It even took over a bit of Europe for a time, before some parts of Christendom fought back.

        This has been the pattern since time immemorial.

        Most empires and civilisations fall due to internal pressures, disunity and arrogance of the ruling classes. You are actually the ruling classes.

        If you get the things you want as critical social justice warriors how long do you think we would survive before being taken over by peoples and forces who do not share your politics. We do not live in isolation of all those fascist totalitarian states. Yes, you would be the first to be lined up and shot. Why should they trust you? Its your class that undermined our ability to fight our nation’s survival.

        They are more likely to trust the working classes, and certainly would need them more.

        Remember what the Russians did at Katyn Forest in 1940, when they massacred the Polish intelligentsia .

        We will only survive if we make the effort to preserve and share a common identity and values.

        1. John says:

          I said it was dictators (be they of left and right) that we should fear.
          Dictators tend to bang on about shared identity and values which in reality means their own identity and values which if you don’t share can mean your in trouble.
          I am old enough to be comfortable with my own identity and values.
          I am also comfortable with others having their own individual identity and values as long as they are living within the law of the country, paying their taxes in the country and not causing or inciting harm or hatred towards other people. I am pretty sure I am not in the minority with this approach in fact you could almost describe them as one that is shared by a large section of the population.

        2. 240129 says:

          So; basically, you’re saying that we should give up our liberal democratic values (freedom and equality) in order to save our liberal democratic values. That’s clever!

        3. Wul says:

          Steve, you really need to play Fascism Bingo with some of your own ramblings:

          “Our society being weakened”
          “The intelligentsia…hate their own people”
          “Your luxury beliefs”
          “Educated entitled like you”
          “Undermined The Wests strength and cohesion”
          “We will only survive if we…….share a common identity and values”

          You are on point with just about every trope of fascism and dictatorship. You, yourself would probably feel right at home in one of those “totalitarian places” that you seek to warn us about, because you agree with their leaders’ methods.
          You want to crush protest, so that our civil rights and democracy can be saved? That’s stupid.

          And who are the “You” that you rail against in your diatribes? Supporters of Scottish independence?

          Umberto Eco distilled the 14 typical elements of “Ur-Fascism or Eternal Fascism,” while warning that, “These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.”

          *The cult of tradition. “One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.”

          *The rejection of modernism. “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense, Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”

          *The cult of action for action’s sale. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”

          *Disagreement is treason. “The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture, the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”

          *Fear of difference. “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”

          *Appeal to social frustration. “[…] one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.

          *The obsession with a plot. “The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.”

          *The enemy is both weak and strong. “[…] the followers must be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”

          *Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”

          *Contempt for the weak. “Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”

          *Everybody is educated to become a hero. “in Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.”

          *Machismo and Weaponry. “This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons—doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.”

          *Selective Populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.

          *Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”

          1. SteveH says:

            You can quote as many intellectuals as you like, and even attribute fascistic tendencies to me. That’s fine. We currently live in a democracy. You’re safe and free to do so.

            What you shouldn’t expect is to go unchallenged.

            This is the kind of freedom I was (and still am) happy to put my life on the line for.

            But you know, the thing that has saved us in a dangerous world is our clear sense of who we are, and the values we share.

            All I see the intelligentsia do is sneer at our traditions, our history, our heritage, the things that have united us. You seem to value more the cultures of the many peoples who have come to our shores in recent decades. Yet, these are more often the cultures that lack the freedoms and values we have treasured and which have served us well.

            A friend was gutted when he settled in Britain. He imagined freedoms that were not available in his native Pakistan. He said the community he settled into were more oppressive than he could have ever imagined. He said we have imported whole villages that would have been considered troublesome even in Pakistan’s big cities.

            I don’t blame them. I blame you, the educated elites. I’d say you were more indoctrinated than enlightened. Afraid to say anything that would challenge the groupthink and status.

            You may have the language and the extensive reading list to argue the hind leg of a cuddy, but I don’t think any you have any idea of the real world dangers of appeasement or your self-loathing of our own nation and identity. Why do you think the world has become so dangerous for us in the West in recent times.

            Totalitarianism respects only raw strength.

            They say our wars were won on the playing fields of Eton. That’s debatable, but the assertion that future wars are more likely to be lost on the campuses of our top universities is far more credible.

            How many of you would fight to the death for what you hold dear? Very few I’d guess.

            How many of the new “Britons” would fight to the death for a nation they don’t identify with? Especially if, for example, they happen to share the same religion as our foe, or do not believe that a Totalitarian Russia or China is even a real enemy.

            I think that they’d be content to live under non-British enemy rule, whether they be Scots, or the English.

          2. 240201 says:

            ‘…our clear sense of who we are, and the values we share.’

            What identity and values are those, then, Steve? ‘We’ (‘Britishness’) nowadays encompasses many identities and values, from all corners of the world, and not just yours.

      2. SleepingDog says:

        @John, according to this BBC Arabic investigation, a USA-registered company of mercenaries has been carrying out just such assassinations targeting MPs, hunan rights lawyers, teachers, imams, pro-democracy reformists etc on behalf of the UAE in Yemen.
        So many UK and USA despotic allies simply designate civil rights activism as terrorism while conducting state and state-sponsored terrorism against civilians and their families, calling it ‘counter-terrorism’ (and actually employing convicted terrorists too). What is it about USAmerican and British special forces that makes their alumni such highly-sought-after death squad material and trainers?

        1. SteveH says:

          Maybe, they’re trying to keep us safe? Yes, even people like you.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @SteveH, I can imagine those mercenaries trying to return home to the USA with their $1.5 million/month paychecks, or maybe they just like killing people by cowardly car bombs or night raids, or maybe they love the homosocial lifestyle, but by what incredible stretch of the imagination could their murders their and training of UAE-backed Yemenis to train and deploy captured Al-Qaeda terrorists to assassinate the children of female human rights lawyers “keep us safe”? Even the murder-torturers of the CIA with their penchant for overkill, destabilisation and creating failed states are aware of the concept of ‘blowback’. Indeed, the special skill of both British and USAmerican Empires is to create enemies where none existed before. Team America, World Police! And tag-along Tommies.

            Well, not everyone agrees that your self-described whoring of your services to any ‘totalitarian state’ who’ll have you is a good idea.

          2. Wul says:

            Steve, you really, really need to try to understand that people who criticise their own country’s actions can and do “love their country”. It is perfectly possible for me to love the UK and it’s freedoms and traditions but still seek to make it better, fairer, happier, more safe.

            In fact, I would venture that those of us who do criticise our country, actually love it more, and in a more genuine and honest way than those who love a flag, but despise their fellow countrymen. These people are stronger, tougher, more “ballsy” and patriotic than any hired gun, going abroad to shoot people living in their own country.
            I also see people (“patriots” all) like Boris Johnston, Cameron, Sunak etc as being close to traitors because they seek power and money above all else and would happily cripple their own country to increase their own personal wealth.

            I am not a member of the “intelligentsia”, or an “educated elite” (oh how you love your labels!). I’m getting by here on £250/week and work in a manual trade. I’m out in the mud, rain, cold and dreich day after day. Earning a crust.

          3. SleepingDog says:

            @Wul, very well put, and forward-looking too. If our ancestors never sought to improve their society but dwelt on tradition and self-flattering myth, where would we be now?

          4. 240202 says:

            ‘If our ancestors never sought to improve their society but dwelt on tradition and self-flattering myth, where would we be now?’

            According to modernity’s critics, we’d be in a much better place. That ‘improvement’, they would argue, has led to our greater alienation from and degradation of the natural world, and that we need to get back to the more authentic relationship with our environment that (for example) our Celtic ancestors enjoyed.

          5. Niemand says:

            Wul – I also agree but with a major caveat: there is often not much balance in showing appreciation for ones home land. If the rhetoric is solely critical and the appreciation only implied / assumed then it is not difficult for some to get frustrated. Acknowledging, even celebrating the good matters too. So it is hard to say you love your country more if you only show it through criticism often of the quite vitriolic kind.

            Much as I enjoy this site I have not read a single article ever showing appreciation for the UK, not as a political entity (obviously going to be unlikely!) but for its ‘freedoms and traditions’, culture etc. What one gets is the total opposite, relentlessly – a condemnation of the UK, ‘Britain’ and quite often England too (by implication and sometimes overtly). The content is dominated by a very bitter nationalist perspective banging its heads against a brick wall over and over in a visceral hatred for anything that might have any kind of unionist tint, which is anything not overtly nationalist – everything is painted in this light – on or off the bus. In the process the analysis loses touch with reality, gets more and more extreme, and is so blinkered it can become worthless.

            I do not think this approach will do anything now to bring about independence as relentless negativity, even hatred undermines trust and is a turn-off for most who as you say, do have some love for aspects of the country they live in including the UK.

          6. SleepingDog says:

            @Niemand, but maybe many people prefer silent appreciation, like, oh I don’t know, paying their taxes and stuff? You can quickly get into ridiculous amounts of trouble when trying to articulate what you claim is great about your country (thinking of John Major and back to basics, for example). So many aspects are subjective, contested, forgotten and denied. Obviously I don’t know whether the likes of SteveH pay any British taxes or vote in British elections, but actions do speak louder than words (like all those self-styled British patriots buying foreign cars).

            And, of course, just when it looked like the British might consider ending their Empire, they didn’t. So there’s that. Many things have regressed recently. At any moment we might participate in an omnicidal World War 3.

            And even if pick out undoubted highlights like the dramatic works of Shakespeare, how much of that isn’t really English at all, but culture culled from around the known globe? If Anglo-British culture (just think of the cuisine, for a start) is at best highly-integrative of foreign influences, what does it say about trying to claim it for one country? Or that abysmal BBC term, ‘British sScience’, maks me bowk.

            So what does your highlights package look like?

          7. 240203 says:

            What’s ‘great’ about Britain – my highlights.

            The people: Britain is home to one of the most diverse and multicultural populations in the world; its strength lies in its diversity.

            The beaches: the island has miles of unspoilt coastline to explore, and from which no one’s ever far.

            Our gardens: there are hundreds of wonderful gardens we can enjoy, from grand estates that have been taken into national trust, to our botanical collections and ‘hobby’ gardens in our towns and villages.

            Our built heritage: we have a plethora of iconic buildings, streets, bridges, and other landmarks we can enjoy.

            Sport: a diverse and busy year-long calendar of sporting events in which we can participate.

            Music: there’s something for everyone, with bustling music scenes up and down the whole of the country.

            Our national parks: public access to mountains, waters, woodlands, moorlands, etc,

            Our cities, each of which has its own diverse history and culture we can explore. London especially is arguably the most cosmopolitan city in the world; over 300 languages are spoken in the capital alone.

            There’s a lot more besides: our scientific research, our health service, our festivals, our vibrant civic society, our arts, our literature… All great stuff.

          8. SleepingDog says:

            @Editor, ach, there are none so blind.

            Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist seems oblivious to the reasons for diverse and multicultural Britain which are its colonial ransacking of other countries and centuries-long trafficking in racialised chattel slavery and its descendant practices. Its strength lies in its military, perhaps (also duplicity, secrecy, psychopathy etc).

            The UK, known as the ‘dirty man of Europe’, befouled its own beaches until forced to clean them up by EU regulations. Still it pollutes the planet not least by radioactive discharges into its surrounding seas.

            The National Trust is besieged by entrant bigots, engaging in the national sports of culture wars and racism.

            Sure, we built a lot a grand houses on the proceeds of slavery and filled them with the loot of Empire. But we are not so respectful of others’ built heritage; we don’t have to go back to China’s Summer Palace, we can see the results of the British government’s backing of Israeli genocide in Gaza on our screens every day. Though we can still enjoy many public statues to imperialists and slavers, thank God.

            Cheating at sport is as proud a British tradition as hypocritically trumpeting its unique notion of ‘fair play’, but other countries have somehow managed to participate in sport too (unless they’re reduced to surviving in bomb craters at the moment).

            Music, yes, although some popular tastes seem stuck in violent mythological past where press-ganged British naval cannon fodder are reimagined as not-slaves. Again, other people have music.

            In what remains of our nature-depleted national parks, the public may indeed bathe in rivers of turds and wander over the majestic deserts of our denuded native peaks. Of course, large areas of the country are off-limits due to secret military bases, often occupied by our Top-Empire the USA, or land handed out to top thugs of William the Conqueror and left to inheritors, or simply enclosed from the commons over the years, or elitist golf courses, grouse moors etc.

            I imagine one of the languages currently spoken in London, home of the dark fortress of the evil Empire of Granbretan, is Pish. Some commenters here seem fluent in it. Yes, many of the fruits of Empire, neoliberalism and an intense system of social cheating are on display in London, although the secretive history of Empire is still somewhat tucked away from public gaze. Still, in future we can hope that new attractions, like a reconstruction of the London Cage with museum and gift shop might continue to appear.

            We Brits have abandoned much of science (indeed some have long embraced anti-science) along with the EU, our medics are warning that the NHS is on the verge of imminent collapse, our festivals have their critics, our mainstream-corporate culture continues to lurch towards the far right, our arts have often prostituted themselves for fossil-fuel funding and much of the literature produced appears to be in the service of reactionary propaganda.

            The global reputation of the British appears to be fast shrivelling. But hey, as we own the language, we can boldly redefine the word ‘Great’ as we see fit, so there.

          9. 240203 says:

            The main reason why British society is so cosmopolitan is not the cultural appropriation that undoubtedly took place during the colonial period in its history, but the postcolonial migration and the more or less successful integration of our migrant and indigenous cultures into a rich and cross-fertilising multicultural whole that has since occurred. (Cue a tirade from SteveH, for whom postcolonialism – the academic study of the cultural, political and economic legacy of colonialism and imperialism, based on a critical theory analysis of the history, culture, literature, and discourse of imperial power – will be anathema).

            And I get it: you don’t like Britain’s coastline, its gardens, its buildings, its sport, its music, its landscapes, its cosmopolitan cities, its multiculturalism, etc. And that’s okay; tastes vary. But these are aspects of the country that I love; my ‘highlights’ if you will. I think they’re great.

            I could also give you a list of aspects of the country that I hate.

          10. 240203 says:

            It is lovely, Mike! A wee walk along the raised mires of the Cardurnock Peninsula does wonders for your mental health.

          11. But don’t other countries have parks and people and sport and music and beaches and stuff?

            I’ve travelled abroad in the past and I’m sure I saw these things in other countries?

          12. Niemand says:

            @SD For me it is not so much about me naming the highlights since as can be seen from the exchange above, anything one suggests can be turned into a negative so it feels a bit pointless – and that is the problem I am highlighting – people do not warm to having what they do appreciate undermined and dismissed at every turn – it makes them resentful because what is left of life if there is no longer anything to appreciate that isn’t framed within a negatively dogmatic and dialectical worldview and that the only things you can really appreciate are those that incorporate this worldview? It taints everything and sucks what joy we try and eke out of life. At its worst it feels like listening to a preacher telling you over and over your original sin will probably send you to hell without continual atonement.

          13. SleepingDog says:

            @Niemand, but surely my points are realistic rather than dogmatic, and inform my political views rather than the other way around (trying to distort and cherry pick facts to fit political views)?

            I suggest that falling back on a mystical essence of Britishness is as problematic as listing trite aspects like warm beer and village cricket. And that a ‘balance sheet’ approach is problematic in the sense of agreeing that someone is a mass murderer but on the other hand makes a nice cup of tea.

            Bella has covered this comprehensively, but I think the sustained impression that Unionists so often seem unable or unwilling to convincingly articulate *why* they are Unionists is worth continued investigation. Partly of course for the White Teeth question (I’ve only seen the dramatisation): how is it that a love of Britishness can be completely independent from a firsthand knowledge of Britain?

          14. 240203 says:

            Yes, they do. But SD asked for a list of things about Britain that are great, not for examples of things that make Britain better than other places. Those were my highlights.

          15. Niemand says:

            Nothing can be divorced from context and neither should it attempted to be (if bad stuff needs to outed then let it be, we live in an era of inevitable reckoning, like it or lump it, you reap what you sow) but for me it is a question of degree / balance and indeed, fairness.

            For example you said:
            ‘Music, yes, although some popular tastes seem stuck in violent mythological past where press-ganged British naval cannon fodder are reimagined as not-slaves. Again, other people have music’.

            I am really struggling to understand how when looking at British popular music of the last 70 years or so (including Scottish of course, particularly in the post-punk era, a very British phenomenon written about in this site), this would be the response to someone suggesting the UK had made a pretty great contribution to the field, and yes in this case, quite probably greater than many, if not all other Western countries bar the US.

            You mentioned above how Shakespeare had influences beyond British culture, specifically ‘not English at all’ which is undoubtedly true but isn’t that the whole point and why he has such universal appeal? The reason British rock and pop is so popular worldwide is due to its capacity to absorb influence, even simply take it, from anywhere and is the very opposite of parochial and inward looking. The fact some of this can potentially be traced back to colonialism does not make it aesthetically negative overall and is also why it is has such wide appeal.

          16. SleepingDog says:

            @Niemand, I accept your points (my reference was to The Proms) and expertise in music, although I wonder if you are concerned that music and the arts in general are once again becoming an elite occupation as funding for public education diminishes and both the Conservatives and Labour seem to be in favour of more cuts to public spending? I wonder about the proportion of British society able to play a musical instrument compared to other cultures. And maybe Britain didn’t contribute as much to classical music as other European nations? Plus there’s the history of patriarchy that limited access before the period you cite.

            Put another way, valuations should not only be against other nations but against what alternatives were and are possible.

            Oddly enough, one aspect of British culture, computer games, really does have a claim to be exceptional in global terms (partly due to the UK home computer boom), and computer game music is strongly represented within that.

          17. SleepingDog says:

            @Niemand, and Shakespeare may have wide if not universal appeal, yet the pre-revolutionary art of the dramatic plays contains a devastating critique of the system of hereditary monarchic rule present in England. Something echoed in punk rock in 1970s UK (and Game of Thrones more recently, see Philomena Cunk’s take on Shakespeare). That is quite specific, appears at scale when surveying the oeuvre, and requires ‘judicious barbering’ (Germaine Greer’s term) in production and performance to tone down the works’ republican barrage.

            This comprises something of a problem for Unionists and their dynastic-ancestor-worshipping ilk who in praising the jewels of Anglo-British culture are often stuck with the discomfort of lauding Anglo-British political systems’ (etc) fiercest critics. Presumably this occasionally applies in music too?

            This clearly matters for after all these years we are still stuck with hereditary monarchy and jingoism. Both of which are relevant to the way our current government (supported by the Opposition) are unaccountable in their support for Israeli genocide of Palestinians. Shakespeare clearly knew what the Crusades and more local invasions by the English were all about for the English rulers.
            “Therefore, my Harry, Be it thy course, to busy giddy minds With foreign quarrels;”

          18. 240205 says:

            For a wee bit o balance, and just because it’s fun; here’s my list of things about Britain that aren’t so great.

            Our resistance to accepting that, in our age, borders are disappearing and the idea of nationhood is losing substance.

            The class system.

            The awe in which we hold privilege and celebrity, and the disdain we show towards those without either.

            Our inability to celebrate talent and unlock even more of it through greater equality of opportunity.

            The tendency for our decisions on every important matter to be driven by ideological purity or single-issue fixation rather than by argument from hard evidence, with the result that everyone feels dissatisfied with the outcomes our public discourse.

            The continued existence of private education.

            Inequality, its corrupting influence in all spheres of life, and our total failure to deal with it.

            Our utopianism; the certainty that everything used to be better in some ancient or modern ‘golden age’ or more authentic human condition.

            Our complacency about our fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

            Our continued appetite for exporting violence to other parts of the world.

            Our acceptance of apology as a substitute for improvement in the administration of our public affairs.

            Bureaucracy and it’s preoccupation with policy and process rather than outcomes.

            Our degraded sense of public service and our game-show culture; that is, our tendency to make those who are most self-regarding and on the make objects of adulation and imitation.


            Our failure to enjoy and take advantage of the fact that, in some of our schools, children speak up to 26 mother tongues and can get along fine.

        2. Niemand says:

          @SD yes I do worry about music education and funding, very much though it is not so much the elite I worry about in terms of ‘classical’ composition and performance as any of it happening at all! You are right about school music education – it has been devastated by government cuts for a long time now, such that in many schools it barely even exists. Popular music is an interesting case as arguably that form of education is not always needed for many of its forms but still, people need time and money to do it: many of the great British bands formed when people met at art school when they were there for want of anything better to do, or simply when they were on the dole. This gave them time to develop their art. That is very difficult now – even under Thatcher, the rules about such things were less draconian.

          The case of British classical composers is an interesting one – the famous quotation (from a jingoistic German), ‘land without music’ is unfair in that during the classical and romantic eras plenty of music was made but Britain did not produce a single composer of the top rank (I don’t know why as not a scholar of this) but it was not true before or after as there are plenty of medieval, renaissance and baroque composers of the top rank and plenty in the 20th century too.

          I enjoyed your comments on Shakespeare but am not knowledgeable enough to add anything.

          One other point about Britain / British and the Union / unionism: I do not automatically equate the two. I know some unionists do and plenty of nationalists but at heart I do not see them as always going hand-in-hand. I can like, appreciate and even laud certain forms of British creation (take post-punk in music) but that does not make me a unionist. So for me thinking that the union may well have had its day and political autonomy for Scotland (or Wales, even England) is the best way forward does not mean I dismiss anything ‘British’ as meaningless, let alone always tainted. I know this begs the question then of what I think British is . . .

    3. Niemand says:

      ‘The majority is not left wing’. Leaving aside what left wing actually is, you do know that if you sum Labour and LidDem popular votes for virtually every GE for many decades (I looked back to the early 1960s), they are more and often far more than the Tories? The left-of-centre vote is fatally split whereas the Tories have had precious little right-of-centre opposition, ever.

  4. 240128 says:

    The media silence on the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to ensure its forces do not commit acts of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, is deafening.

    Love it! Is the Guardian’s coverage of the ICJ ruling, to which you link in your article, ‘deafening’ in its silence? It was all over the BBC yesterday ( and the lead story in all its radio and television news bulletins. Both the Scotsman and the Herald covered the ICJ ruling AND the anti-Israeli protests outside the ICJ in the Hague; these were also reported in the Financial Times and the Telegraph. And this is not to mention the coverage it got in media outlets in North America, Europe, and the Middle East (including in Israel itself).

    Deafening silence? I think not. What on earth do you mean?

  5. Alasdair Angus Macdonald says:

    I think this could impact on a UK General Election, especially as the election is likely to be late this year or even in January, 2025.

    If Starmer associates the Labour Party with the aggressive attitudes of the Tories – and I think he will, partly to prevent the right wing media attacking him, but also because he is a British/English nationalist, with a knighthood.

    Labour, especially in England, draws a lot of its potential voters from the more educated, relatively affluent people who live in cities. Its traditional working class support, especially in towns and in former industrial areas, is not as solid as it was formerly as the much exaggerated myth of ‘the red wall’ shows.

    If conflict arises, the wavering Tories who are swithering about voting for an anodyne Labour party will return to the Tories – because they are the jingoist party. If there is conflict, the potential voters from the more educated metropolitan group might well abstain in very large numbers, because, in England they have no other viable party to vote for as those of us in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales do.

    With increasing poverty, people in poverty tend not to vote because politics has disenchanted them years ago. Some, might be attracted by the rhetoric of Tice and Farage.

    So, hostilities could result in an increase in abstentions and a drift back to the Tories. With ‘first past the post’ local issues and tactical voting usually lead to candidates being elected on a minority of votes.

    In Scotland, where the ‘little Englander’ jingoism does not play well. At the time of the Falklands opposition in Scotland was very high and Iraq and Afghanistan contributed to the growing rejection of Labour. So, Scottish Labour could be adversely affected by hostilities, especially since the rhetoric of such as Penny Mordaunt and Emily Thornberry is increasingly stridently anti Scottish. Despite the travails of the SNP support for independence has remained solid with the two most recent polls showing equality between Yes and No and a majority for YES. I think that part of the drift to Scottish Labour is partly influenced by the desire to ‘get the Tories out’. Starmer adopting little Englander jingoism could cause some to move back to SNP.

    So, post GE we could have no overall control in Westminster with the Tories the largest party and Scotland still with a majority of SNP MPs and support for independence increasing significantly above 50%.

    1. Niemand says:

      I might be proven wrong but the idea that educated people in England will abstain at the GE as they will be disenchanted with Starmer is very far-fetched and I see zero evidence of it. They have much more sense than that. It does not matter how many keep saying it makes no difference, Labour or Tory, most understand it is blatantly untrue. Despite Starmer’s irritating caution it is easy to see how much his rhetoric differs from the Tories. The red wall was not a myth as it lasted for a very long time, but then collapsed. I see little evidence of Starmer adopting little Englander jingoism.

      1. 240129 says:

        Yes, Niemand. But they’d do as Alasdair fantasises they would if they didn’t have the wool pulled over their eyes by the evil ‘Media’ and the Marxists/graduates/royalists/plutocrats who control it.

  6. SleepingDog says:

    Declassified UK has been investigating Labour Friends of Israel:
    I guess if we had a codified constitution, this kind of parliamentary group supporting a foreign power would be illegal, but under the British imperial quasi-constitution, foreign relations remains largely under Royal prerogative, hence the double standards (the People don’t get to choose who our friends and enemies are, except electorally under exceptional and rare circumstances by referendum).

    Aside from whatever policies and votes accrue, the effect is to further corrupt our politics and move representation away from constituencies and closer to foreign dark money and theocratic extremists.

    I guess if any parliamentary candidate is a member of such a group, the question could be put to them during hustings about the strength and conditionality of their support for a foreign nation, and their ability to recognise and criticise their misdeeds. But anyway, I hope all reasonable proposals for an independent Scottish constitution will view these relations as what they obviously are: de facto low-level treason, at the very least.

  7. Frank says:

    You make considerable play on the ICJ ordering Israel to ensure its forces do not commit acts of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.
    The ICJ also said that Hamas should immediately release the Hostages taken in 7th October. Have you no comment to make on that?

    1. 240129 says:

      Deafening silence…

      But should we really expect Bella, as a politically committed medium, to be impartial in its messaging? It exists to put a particular spin on current affairs.

    2. John says:

      If you read Bella I am sure you will see that Bella decries the atrocities that Hamas perpetrated on 7th October.
      I, like the vast majority of right minded people in this country would like to see both the release of hostages and a ceasefire to minimise any future loss of innocent lives.
      The problem is that the current UK government and opposition does not seem to reflect this position. They rightly call for release of hostages but are so supportive of a ceasefire. It is this apparent lack of evenhandedness that many of us object to.

      1. John says:

        Last paragraph should say UK government and opposition are not so supportive of a ceasefire.
        Apologies for typo.

      2. 240128 says:

        And yet the UK position was clearly stated by Ambassador James Kariuki at the UN General Assembly tenth emergency special session on Gaza:

        1. the scale of civilian Palestinian deaths and the massive displacement in Gaza cannot continue;

        2. the 7th October attacks committed by Hamas, which killed 1200 innocent civilians, were an abhorrent act of terrorism which should be unequivocally condemned. All hostages need to be released immediately;

        3. Israel must be targeted and precise in its efforts to address the threat posed by Hamas, and must minimise civilian casualties and protect civilian infrastructure in line with international humanitarian law. The UK Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have repeatedly delivered this message to Israel, and will continue to do so;

        4. the UK supports calls for a sustainable ceasefire, where hostages are released, more aid can get in, and Hamas stops firing rockets into Israel;

        5. urgent action is needed to scale up aid into Gaza; the UK has delivered $76 million of humanitarian assistance since 7th October;

        6. more needs to be done to unlock humanitarian access and to deliver aid sustainably without interference. Access to northern Gaza for humanitarian organisations must also be secured to enable them to deliver assistance to vulnerable Palestinians;

        7. Israel should immediately increase the range of humanitarian items allowed into Gaza. This includes fuel, shelter and public health and sanitation items, and items for critical infrastructure.

        8. Israel must rapidly approve visas for staff of UN and humanitarian organisations to manage and facilitate assistance to those in need.

        9. all parties need to work towards a long-term political solution to this conflict based on the two-state solution, to deliver statehood for the Palestinians and security for Israel. Peace, justice and security are essential and must be a reality for both Israelis and Palestinians alike.

        It’s just political mischief-making and opportunism to say that ‘the current UK government and opposition does not seem to reflect this position’, that ‘the vast majority of right minded people in this country would like to see both the release of hostages and a ceasefire to minimise any future loss of innocent lives’.
        The problem is that

        1. Paddy Farrington says:

          What sanctions will the UK Government apply if these steps are not taken?

          1. 240128 says:

            I’ve no idea. I suppose that will depend on what sanctions the UN resolves and the UK government can subsequently get through parliament.

            But whatever sanctions against Hamas and/or Israel the UK government participates in, it doesn’t change the fact that John’s claim (that ‘the current UK government and opposition does not seem to reflect this position… [that] the vast majority of right minded people in this country would like to see both the release of hostages and a ceasefire to minimise any future loss of innocent lives’) is mistaken.

          2. John says:

            I think you are incorrect in saying I am mistaken.
            Every additional day that goes by without a ceasefire the more innocent women & children die in Gaza. This does not apply to hostages and indeed an immediate ceasefire is probably the quickest way to get hostages released. The public in UK understand this and all polls show that majority of public (~70%) of public in UK want an immediate ceasefire regardless.
            I am sure that more than 70% want hostages released as well.
            The UK government should openly call for both and not make one (ceasefire) reliant on other to truly reflect public opinion. This would also involve voting for and not abstaining on the UN vote for an immediate ceasefire.

          3. 240128 says:

            ‘…an immediate ceasefire is probably the quickest way to get hostages released…’

            And the Israeli position is that Hamas will get the ceasefire it wants to survive and regroup if it releases the hostages in took (and stops firing its missiles into Israel) in return. That was the basis of the earlier ceasefire.

            But, whatever: you said that ‘the current UK government and opposition does not seem to reflect this position… [that] the vast majority of right minded people in this country would like to see both the release of hostages and a ceasefire to minimise any future loss of innocent lives’; the UK; Ambassador James Kariuki’s statement of the UK government’s position at the UN General Assembly tenth emergency special session on Gaza contradicts this.

        2. Paddy Farrington says:

          The only sanction I can see being applied by the UK Government is to stop support for UNRWA. Will this ‘help more aid to get in’, ‘scale up aid’, ‘deliver aid sustainably’, ‘increase the range of humanitarian items’, ‘facilitate assistance to those in need’ as stated in your list? If not, what is the point of this list?

          1. 240129 says:

            The list represents the UK government’s position on the situation in Gaza to the UN; that’s the point of it. John misrepresented that position.

          2. Paddy Farrington says:

            The stated position of the UK Government, as represented by this list, is therefore at variance with its effective position. Its effective position is to make life even more difficult for the Palestinians of the Gaza strip.

          3. SleepingDog says:

            @Paddy Farrington, well, quite. The rhetoric of British Foreign Secretaries surely owes much to them not wanting to share a prison cell with Benjamin Netanyahu for the rest of their lives, but when it comes to elucidating their position, they often appear to be suffering from mealy mouths.
            This is David Cameron who apparently forgot the UK government position that Israel occupies Gaza, and who recently tried to stoke flagging British colonialism by reversing his predecessor’s position on releasing the Chagos Islands. Meanwhile, drums get beaten, arms get sent, military actions are ordered under royal prerogative powers, while spooks and militia proxies and mercenaries and special forces death squads do who knows what.

            What we do know is that the position of the UK government is as the bottom empire in the Special Relationship with the USAmerican Empire.

          4. 240129 says:

            That may well be the case, Paddy. But I wonder why the UK government would wish ‘to make life even more difficult for the Palestinians of the Gaza strip’ than it is at present. Any thoughts?

          5. Paddy Farrington says:

            I have no idea whether the UK Government wishes to make life more difficult for the Palestinians. All I know is that the practical effect of their policy (stopping aid to UNRWA) is to do so. Clearly, the lives of Palestinians count for rather little in the machinations of the UK Government.

            It need not be so. Ireland, for example, has decided not to suspend aid to UNRWA.

          6. 240131 says:

            Yes; several major donor countries, including the UK, have temporarily suspended their funding of UNRWA while the UN investigates the alleged involvement of 12 of its employees in the October 7th attacks in particular and its infiltration by Hamas in general. But it doesn’t follow from this that the UK’s position on the Gaza conflict is to make life more difficult for the Palestinians.

            But you’re right; it will be an effect of this suspension that the plight of Gazans will worsen. Hamas is banking on this.

    3. SleepingDog says:

      @Frank, the broader point is that hostages were taken to exchange for Palestinian women and children among other prisoners being held by Israel. Some, in ‘administrative detention’ without charges. Others on relatively innocuous charges like supporting the Palestinian cause on social media. Al Jazeera showcases this short documentary on the subject. The physical, psychological and sexual abuses inflicted on such prisoners go back decades, although only recently have the Israeli occupiers started frequently posting their humiliations of Palestinian prisoners on social media.
      “The Full Report: Occupied and Imprisoned
      “Arrested and abused – a look at how thousands of Palestinians are being detained in Israel’s prisons.
      During Palestine’s 75 years under Israeli occupation, the arrest and detention of Palestinians has been a very deliberate method of intimidation and control.
      “There are more than 8,000 Palestinians currently in Israeli custody.”
      Perhaps the Israelis learnt internment from the British.

  8. Dougie Blackwood says:

    It doesn’t matter what reasonable people think or say. The Israeli govrnment is a patchwork of various small parties, most of which want an exclusively Jewish state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean sea. That government is and will continue to be supported by the USA regardless of what genocidal actions it may take.

    In modern day USA no politician will speak out against Israel as they know for a certain fact that in doing so they would be labeled Antisemite and it would be the end of their career. Many of us that are appalled and speak out at the atrocities vistited upon the Palestinians before and after their retaliatory attack are routinely described as “AntiSemite”. It is part of the definition of antisemitism that any comparison of Israeli government actions with Nazi Germany carries that label.

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