An excellent article by Howard Jacobson in The Independent argues the obvious rationally, humanely and, of course, articulately. Some points from it:
In the matter of Israel and the Palestinians this country has been heading towards a dictatorship of the one-minded for a long time; we seem now to have attained it. Deviate a fraction of a moral millimetre from the prevailing othodoxy and you are either not listened to or you are jeered at and abused, your reading of history trashed, your humanity itself called into question. I don’t say that self-pityingly...
...My first challenge is implicit in the phrase “the fighting in Gaza”, which more justly describes the event than the words “Massacre” and “Slaughter” which anti-Israel demonstrators carry on their placards. This is not a linguistic ploy on my part to play down the horror of Gaza or to minimise the loss of life. In an article in this newspaper last week, Robert Fisk argued that “a Palestinian woman and her child are as worthy of life as a Jewish woman and her child on the back of a lorry in Auschwitz”. I am not sure who he was arguing with, but it certainly isn’t me...
...Rhetoric is precisely what has warped report and analysis these past months, and in the process made life fraught for most English Jews who, like me, do not differentiate between the worth of Jewish and Palestinian lives, though the imputation – loud and clear in a new hate-fuelled little chamber-piece by Caryl Churchill – is that Jews do. “Massacre” and “Slaughter” are rhetorical terms. They determine the issue before it can begin to be discussed. Are you for massacre or are you not? When did you stop slaughtering your wife?
I watched demonstrators approach members of the public with their petitions. “Do you want an end to the slaughter in Gaza?” What were those approached expected to reply? – “No, I want it to continue unabated.” If “Massacre” presumes indiscriminate, “Slaughter” presumes innocence. There is no dodging the second of those. ...
...And Israel? Well, speaking on BBC television at the height of the fighting, Richard Kemp, former commander of British Troops in Afghanistan and a senior military adviser to the British government, said the following: “I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare where any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of civilians than the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) is doing today in Gaza.” A judgement I can no more corroborate than those who think very differently can disprove....
And so on.
Language is the point. Slaughter, massacre, extermination, holocaust, being called a Nazi is the point. Jacobson writes apropos the abhorrent sounding Caryl Churchill play where the claim is made that Jews (Jews, not Israelis) are deliberately bred with hatred towards Arabs. Once bad people tried to exterminate them, now they are trying to exterminate another people. Exterminate, you realise. So let them not dare upbraid the world with their holocaust when we can see who the real culprits are now. Perhaps they should have been exterminated. Er, controlled.
Language is vital and it is being determined in what I used to think of as liberal media, the BBC and The Guardian and the Independent too. The first word was disproportionate (though no one as far as I am aware explained what a proportionate response would be). It is from there we proceeded from disproportionate, to slaughter, to massacre, to genocide, to extermination.
The terms stick irrespective of any proof to the contrary. The bombed school that was not bombed, the Jenin massacre that wasn't a massacre, the shot boy who was not shot by Israelis. None of that matters. The fact that Israel left high-tech greenhouses and factories behind in the Gaza Strip which were immediately destroyed by Hamas, counts for nothing. You would think Gaza City was tents and rubble. It is a modern city. Check the photographs on Google Earth.
Deaths there were, and a great assault, that is undeniable and terrible. The rockets weren't going all one way, of course but the ones pointed at Israel were ineffective. They were pointed at population centres but didn't get there. Maybe there should have been no retaliation at all. Maybe there was another way. Maybe it is possible to negotiate with Hamas whose charter demands Israel be wiped off the face of the earth. Maybe they don't mean it. As long as there's a maybe maybe one should work with it.
But the language mounts.
Let me suggest a possible shape of things to come.
1. Universities are pressured by both UCU and students to boycott Israeli universities. The words massacre, slaughter, genocide and extermination will play a powerful part in this. (This last sentence should be repeated at the end of each suggestion);
2. Jewish academics will be asked to sign documents distancing themselves from Israel, that is to say from half the Jewish population of the world;
3. If they don't they will be forced out by psychological and other means such as whispering campaigns, secret blackballing, blocked promotions and so forth. They will be excluded from all representative committees;
4. Jewish Societies will not be allowed to operate or invite speakers, unless they sign up to conditions as above, if not they will be physically intimated by acts that university authorities will overlook;
5. In the press there will be an increasing plethora of negative stories involving people who may or may not be Jewish but about whom rumours will be allowed to circulate. The word 'Jewish' will not be used but some kind of Zionist link will be hinted at;
6. As the financial crisis deepens - and it will - it will be those bankers, financiers and economists who are Jewish whose names will be mentioned and whose names will stick;
7. There will be pressure on editors to restrict the number of articles written by journalists with suspected Zionist sympathies and in the papers themselves there will be more hooked Stars of David and pictures of Jews with hooked noses on display;
8. The cultural press will find more Mearsheimer and Walt style articles / conspiracy stories. The LRB and the TLS will run with these and others will follow;
9. Jewish characters will be villains in the new wave of European then Hollywood films; Synagogues will be burned down. Jewish children will be ever more frequently beaten up in London streets, some arrests will be made but news of these will occupy ever less space in the press.
10. Jews will be blackballed out of clubs, both social and sporting; there will be calls for the entry of Jews into higher education, culture, the press and finance to be restricted;
11. Either Iran nukes Israel or Israel is finally eradicated from the earth by military, combined with political, pressure, no-one will want Israeli refugees. A genuine massacre of Israeli citizens will take place, but these will be called reprisals, condemned but understood;
12. Jews go back to being periodically persecuted minorities.
You think this is paranoid. Some of this is being attempted, has already happened, and goes on happening. Do go on with your talk of massacres, slaughters and exterminations. And of course I am paranoid. I was born that way. It's in the genes, you know.
ps It is worth checking the replies to Jacobson's article and asking how many of them address anything he actually says.