Perhaps one of the greatest feats of government propaganda of recent times has been the remarkable ease with which the Conservatives have been able to argue straight-facedly that our current economic tribulations are the legacy of years of unrestrained expenditure on welfare. Despite the incontrovertible evidence that rapacious financiers brought about the financial crash, plunging the economy into recession and saddling taxpayers with an onerous national debt,  Cameron and his coterie of free market apologists have been allowed to traduce the unemployed as skivers and claim that the path to economic salvation consists in withdrawing support for the destitute and needy.

If such scurrilous claims have gone unchallenged, it is largely because the government has been ably seconded in its attacks upon the most vulnerable in society by the ostensible opposition party in British politics. Labour has displayed  little interest in exposing dissimulation about a distended social budget and has instead joined in baseless denunciations of the ‘feckless’ poor, only tempering its support for swingeing cuts in public spending by arguing for greater compassion in the way they are administered.  Pervading the public pronouncements of Labour politicians there is thus a strong note of puritanical scorn for those discarded by the economic system and left to languish on benefits,  and an unvoiced assumption that the indigent must be sacrificed so that millionaires’ can feel secure in the enjoyment of their obscene wealth.

As this interesting analysis by Reuters makes clear, however, Labour exemplifies a disturbing tendency that is discernible, to a greater or lesser extent, in the political postures of all the old parties of the European left. With a wearisome consistency, social-democracy has fallen prey to the mendacious claims of neo-liberals and now gaily repeats the same platitudes about an over-generous welfare state being at the root of our straitened finances. Consequently, the social-democratic Danish Prime Minister speaks of finding the ‘right formula’ and striking a balance between ‘fiscal constraint’ (a euphemism for cuts in welfare spending), ‘social welfare for the needy’ and the ‘restructuring of our welfare model’ (yet another euphemism). With a similar disdain for the plain meaning of terms, the Dutch Labour Party insists on the need for a more ‘participatory’ society, in which the unemployed are ostracized by the ‘industrious’ members of society and poverty is ascribed to personal failings.

It is as if the mainstream parties of Europe have entered into a tacit accord to exculpate the bankers whilst holding up the poor to relentless derision, rewriting recent history so as to justify their assault on the living standards of, not merely the unemployed and disadvantaged, but working people struggling to survive on increasingly paltry wages. Is it any surprise then that, having been disowned and even vilified by their nominal champions, those victimized by austerity measures are beginning to abandon in droves the mainstream left, repulsed by the hypocrisy of politicians who have hitherto taken them for granted? In Germany, the social-democratic party registered last month ‘their second worst election result since World War Two’,  whilst in Austria and Italy the ruling centre-left parties were similarly chastised at the polls as a result of their dedication to massive cuts in spending on welfare. Moreover, these electoral outcomes are likely to be replicated in France if Hollande perseveres in his misguided policy of trying to placate the right through invidious reforms to the country’s social security system.

Are these events harbingers of the European left’s approaching political demise? What is becoming increasingly clear is that such individual electoral results are symptomatic of a pan-European phenomenon, evidencing a growing feeling of disenchantment with the distinctly right-wing course charted by social-democratic parties. Is the left’s electoral plight a cause for concern, as the article implies – a sign perhaps that ‘the left has lost its political narrative’ and ‘the belief in collective social progress has lost much of its credibility’ – or alternatively should we take heart from the fact that millions are finally awakening to the fact that the traditional European left long ago ceased to embody the aspirations of ordinary working people?

No sooner had the news broken of Margaret Thatcher’s death than the glorious tributes came flooding in, a veritable deluge of unreserved praise for the Britain’s first female Prime Minister. Cameron was so affected by the news of her  passing that he cut short his trip to Europe to return home and extol Thatcher as a ‘great leader, a great prime minister, and a great Briton’ from the steps of 10 Downing Street. The media universally echoed this glowing assessment, combining to castigate as mean-spirited those who demurred from the propaganda being indulged in by political pundits. Even Labour was not to be outdone in professing their respect for Britain’s iron lady. Ed Miliband noted that whilst he disagreed with her on many issues this did not prevent him from feeling huge ‘respect (for) her extraordinary achievements and extraordinary personal strengths’, whilst former Prime Minister Tony Blair observed that ‘she was a towering global figure’ and would be ‘sadly missed.’

 

But the memory of her crimes is not so easily expunged, and the public has resisted the hypocritical entreaties of Blair and his ilk to maintain a respectful silence in the wake of her death. Recognising that Thatcher’s supporters have not seen fit to abide by this stricture, her victims have sought to counter the gushing appraisals that would otherwise hold unchallenged sway in the media. Across the country, people marked the news of her death by holding street parties, sending populist newspapers such as the Daily Mail into paroxysms of fury at the disrespect shown the ‘patriot’ prime minister by the British public. Whilst MPs hastily congregated in Westminster last Wednesday in a display of self-abasing, saccharine admiration for Thatcher, thousands were busily downloading ‘Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead’ in a bid to send the song to number 1 in the UK charts. As Cameron outlined plans for a public funeral costing 10 million pounds to the taxpayer, police were frantically scanning social networking sites to identify potential protestors and devising plans for a security lock-down along the route of the cortege.

 

The eulogistic assessments, so at variance with the popular mood, are not the only disconcerting feature of the mainstream reaction to her death. Even those public figures who admit to having no sympathy for her policies have hastened to assure us that her career is too complex, too ambiguous and multi-faceted, for us to lapse into the mistake of thinking it can be encapsulated in one summary judgement. They argue that the fact she exerted a seminal influence on politics is alone enough to command our unquestioning respect, regardless of whether that influence was wielded in the public interest or not. The word ‘transformational’, for instance, has been oft-used in connection with her policies, even though few of her nominal critics care to expand on precisely why she was transformational.  Nick Clegg last week stated: ‘I am not someone who agreed with a lot of what Margaret Thatcher did. But that doesn’t mean you can’t acknowledge and pay tribute to what she was as a politician and to her significance as a prime minister.’  He condemned the street parties celebrating her death as ‘puerile.’ Likewise, Tony Blair commented: ‘Even if you disagree with someone very strongly you can still, particularly at the moment of their passing, show some respect.’

 

Yet which is more puerile: the emotional outpourings of public revulsion towards Thatcher taking place in cities across Britain, or the timorous response of the mainstream left, petrified of appearing overly critical towards a figure of right-wing devotion? The strange combination of impassivity and equivocation with which alleged political foes have treated Thatcher’s legacy suggests that they view politics as little more than a parlour game. The impact of political decisions on real people, the devastation wrought by Thatcher’s policies, arouses neither their disgust nor wholehearted approbation, because their conception of politics does not extend beyond the plush confines of Westminster. Indeed, there is something more disturbing about the passionless voice of Ed Miliband, droning on about how Thatcher ‘broke the mould’, than the effusive accolades we’ve come to expect from Conservative stalwarts. For politicians like Miliband, the economic travails of the masses are not something to be taken seriously, and so the idea that politics can evoke strong passions is foreign to their comprehension. The only thing likely to shake Miliband from his torpor is the prospect of being elected to power. His anodyne response to Thatcher’s death provides a telling insight into his political immaturity.

 

By any objective reckoning, people have good reason to revile the legacy of economic ruin bequeathed by Thatcher. During her premiership, the nation’s collective wealth was mercilessly plundered. Mines were closed and nationalised industries privatised; financial markets were deregulated and gamblers in the city given free rein; unions were hamstrung and rendered ineffectual by restrictive legislation. Unemployment soared as Britain’s manufacturing industries were ruthlessly dismantled on the spurious grounds that they had become uncompetitive, all to make way for a burgeoning financial sector that was eventually to propel us to the brink of bankruptcy. Tax cuts on income were introduced but only by raising the rate of VAT and thereby increasing taxes for the poor. Mining communities were laid waste as the government set about neutralising the most formidable threat to its free market policies in the form of the NUM. As a result of Thatcher’s malicious attack on working people, both unemployment and under-employment have now become endemic and generally accepted features of British society, whereas previously governments prided themselves on a policy of ensuring work for all. With service sector jobs predominating, many people who might have received training in skilled, industrial occupations are forced into precarious, low paid work in cafes and supermarkets. Most importantly, the evisceration of our industry has linked our economic fortunes with the actions of reckless financiers who have now plunged us into the worst recession of the last 80 years.

 

Yet for all the suffering, all the unemployment, all the ‘necessary’ pain endured by millions of people in the effort to attain ‘efficiency’, the record of economic growth produced by Thatcher’s policies was singularly unimpressive and failed to match that of her more socialist predecessors. In the thirty years since Thacher’s accession to power, GDP has in fact grown by less than in the thirty year period following World War 2. Conservative politicians, including those who served under Thatcher, have been at pains to disclaim responsibility for the wanton deregulation that brought about the collapse of the banks, implausibly suggesting that the financial crash arose purely from Labour’s stewardship over the economy. But this is one thing for which they cannot deny responsibility. Despite their claim to have rescued Britain from the stultifying embrace of Keynesianism, the terrible human toll of their policies was not paralleled by higher rates of growth and greater prosperity for the many. What, at the end of the day, was it all for?

 

You will not discover the answer to that question from listening to the puerile ramblings of mainstream politicians and BBC newscasters, eager to obfuscate the issue by harping on the need to refrain from criticism out of respect for the memory of the dead. Those celebrating Thatcher’s demise are perfectly aware of the considerable effort being invested to sanitise her reputation for posterity, and need no instruction in matters of taste from the Controller of BBC Radio 1, who condemned ‘Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead’ (rated at number 2 in the UK Charts) as a ‘personal attack’ on a woman not yet buried and refused to broadcast the song in full lest it offend her grieving family. Consideration for the victims of her policies will unfortunately not prevent the BBC from airing Thatcher’s publicly funded funeral on Wednesday, which will be attended by dignitaries from across the world in a show of reverence for the dead Prime Minister.

 

For those whose critical faculties have not been dulled by the torrent of adulatory coverage, the Thatcher years will be seen as an extended paean to the cult of greed and a sustained onslaught against the working classes from which we have never fully recovered. The anguish and woe of those years lingers on in broken communities across Britain, and in the plight of those now forced to bear the heavy price – the young, the disabled, the unemployed – for the calamitous prioritising of finance over manufacturing. No doubt the 1% has good reason to hail Thatcher as a great leader, but the vast majority of people should not be deceived as to the odiousness of her legacy.

 

In 1948, the Labour minister Aneurin Bevan, reflecting on the hardships of his youth as an unemployed miner in South Wales, had this to say in response to Tory attacks on the welfare state: ‘no amount of cajolery can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory party that inflicted those experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation.’ His remarks were immediately seized on by the press, unused to such impassioned displays from a government minister, and decried as inflammatory. He was portrayed as a crazed fomenter of class hatred, afflicted by a ‘mental disease’, and influenced by these depictions Tory supporters began appearing at his public meetings wearing placards inscribed: ‘lower than vermin.’  Bevan, however, was simply giving sincere expression to the human cost of policies formulated in Westminster. To have maintained a decorous facade and suppressed the memory of those evils would have been to imply that he considered politics essentially a trite affair, devoid of fateful consequences for millions of people, or at least consequences that should preoccupy the minds of ministers. In the wake of Thatcher’s death, we should not permit a patronising media to rule on the propriety of expressing anger towards a woman who left a trail of devastated lives in her wake, especially as that media is assiduously engaged in an effort to sacralise her memory. To remain silent, maintaining a respectful reticence in the face of such propaganda, would be to demonstrate a strange lack of moral concern for Thatcher’s victims.

Years before George Orwell wrote such books as ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ and made the art of social reportage uniquely his own, the American author Jack London penned an excoriating first hand account of the rank poverty endured by England’s working classes.  The ‘People of the Abyss’ was based on the author’s experiences over several months living in London’s East End at the turn of the last century. When I first read it, one chapter struck me above all others, and seems strangely pertinent now. The passage recounts a meeting with a former docker, Dan Cullen, who had been languishing for years in a state of near indigence, sustained only by charitable donations from friends. London describes the process by which he had been reduced to this condition:

He did not cringe to other men, even though they were his economic masters and controlled the means whereby he lived, and he spoke his mind freely, and fought the good fight. In the `Great Dock Strike’ he was guilty of taking a leading part. And that was the end of Dan Cullen. From that day he was a marked man, and every day, for ten years and more, he was `paid off’ for what he had done …. Dan Cullen was discriminated against. While he was not absolutely turned away (which would have caused trouble, and which would certainly have been more merciful), he was called in by the foreman to do not more than two or three days’ work per week. This is what is called being `disciplined,’ or `drilled.’ It means being starved. There is no politer word. Ten years of it broke his heart, and broken-hearted men cannot live.

Dan Cullen was a victim of the deplorable practice of blacklisting. His crime was to have been a member of a union and to have stood up for his fellow workers. The private employers whom he had dared to offend never let him forget the consequences of his waywardness.

Usually, books like this are treated as historical documents affording an insight into the desperate economic plight of Britain’s poor, before the advent of the welfare state and legislation to rein in the free market’s excesses. They inspire a sense of revulsion among modern readers at the petty vindictiveness of private employers, able to ruin a man’s life beyond repair merely because he would not quietly accept the indignities heaped upon him by avaricious bosses, and settle down to a life of back breaking toil as a wage-slave. Recent startling revelations, however, demonstrate that we have no cause for smug self-satisfaction about how far we’ve come in the intervening century, since, in at least one important respect, we are still living in the Britain described by Jack London.

A hundred years after Dan Cullen died, thousands of working people are still being placed on black-lists for such offences as raising concerns about health and safety and being a union rep. Last July, 86 people launched a legal action for the loss of earnings and psychological distress they experienced after being denied work for years. An ex-scaffolder, Mick Abbot, whose file stretches back to 1964, gave some idea of the shattering impact being blacklisted had on his life: ‘This nearly ruined my marriage and it meant that my children were on free meals at school….They have been watching me all these years and passing this information around, blighting my life over four decades.’ Steve Kelly, an electrician, was fired by the building firm McAlpine and blacklisted after refusing to work on a moving platform without proper training. As a result, he ‘suffered severe financial strain, my wages were cut in half which caused immense stress paying bills and putting food on the table. I was out of work for a year apart from few weeks here and there in 2001. Being sacked from Colchester Barracks after only two days piled up the stress and caused a nervous breakdown for me eventually.’

The legal action comes several years after a raid on the offices of the Consulting Association unearthed a list of 3000 workers, mainly in the building sector. For a subscription fee, 40 construction firms were able to gain access to the list and cross-check the names of job applicants against it. Many of these firms were beneficiaries of lucrative public sector contracts. Speaking to MPs, the directors of McAlpine and Balfour Beatty admitted that they had vetted workers employed in the construction of the Olympic stadium. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg, since, according to the Information Commisioner’s Office, only 5% of the Association’s documents were seized during the 2009 raid. Not only the building sector, but a number of other professions may well be affected. For his involvement over 16 years in supplying firms with information on workers, the chair of the Consulting Association, Ian Kerr, was fined a measly £5000.

Even more astonishingly, there has been no public inquiry in the years since the list was exposed, and the current government has refused to conduct one unless it is presented with some evidence that the practice is ongoing. In contrast to the massive attention given to phone-hacking by the press, which was universally regarded as an unforgivable intrusion into the private lives of mainly celebrities, this far graver breach of people’s liberties is not deemed sufficiently important to warrant a leveson-style inquiry. Yesterday’s Parliamentary debate on the subject was notable for the rows of empty seats, and the lethargic performance of the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, who after a few pro forma, perfunctory condemnations of blacklisting concluded that, as far as he was concerned, the matter was not one for further investigation: ‘Obviously, if there is fundamental new information, logically we will look at that, but we have not yet seen it.’ Labour MP Michael Meacher rightly scolded the government for its apathy in relation to what was ‘arguably the worst human rights abuse against workers in the UK since the war. It is worse than imprisonment in that it is usually imposed on the victim without his being given any opportunity to defend himself and it lasts for an indefinite period—often decades.’

There is in fact ample circumstantial evidence that blacklists are still being used. A few months ago, it was revealed that one of the managers on the Crossrail project – the new rail link being built in Greater London – had frequently referred to blacklists whilst employed by a previous company. Ian Kerr, the former head of the Consulting Association, has told a parliamentary select committee that Crossrail was regularly discussed at company meetings. Crossrail denies any knowledge of blacklisting, whilst Bechtel, the particular contractor for which the manager has been working, has pleaded ignorance of the fact he was formerly involved in the vetting of workers. John McDonnell, though, made the point yesterday that blacklisting is far more pervasive than the assurances of ‘ethical’ employers might lead us to think, and is a routine tactic employed against those who are seen to question authority:  ‘I have been on the cleaners’ picket line across the city—at Schroders, John Lewis and elsewhere. People employed as cleaners join a trade union and become the trade union representative. They are then victimised—and yes, in some instances, physically assaulted; we have evidence of that. Eventually, they are sacked or have to leave. All of a sudden, coincidentally, they cannot find employment anywhere else.’

By refusing to investigate blacklisting, the government has indicated its fundamental indifference to large-scale violations of workers’ rights, so long as it is done covertly and in a manner not likely to attract publicity.  Interestingly, none of the companies implicated in the use of blacklists have been subjected to criminal proceedings. Many of them are still engaged in carrying out profitable government contracts, and seem so far to have escaped the public opprobrium that attached to the tabloid press in the wake of the phone-hacking charges. Other companies will surely take note of this lax approach, and, rather than being deterred by the recent furore, as Vince Cable seems to think, will be encouraged by the lack of penalties.  As Michael Meacher observes, there are loopholes these companies can exploit if they so wish. In UK law, though it is illegal to compile a blacklist, it is not technically an offence to make use of one. Hitherto, the government has given no sign that it will close this loophole.

For years proponents of the market have lost no opportunity to warn us against the dangers to liberty posed by an expansive state. Interfering with the unbridled operation of the market not only discriminates against hard-working men and women, it stymies the spirit of capitalist enterprise and innovation. But, in light of the foregoing, people must surely be led to ask whether there is any system more calculated to crush the human spirit than one in which employers, facing no checks on their activities, are permitted to act like petty tyrants and deny livelihoods to thousands of workers, simply for the crime of speaking up for themselves.

Those who speculated that a second-term Obama would be more disposed to take a staunch stand against Israel can now discard yet another comforting illusion about their great liberal saviour. His strident professions of support for Israel over the past few months were genuine expressions of abject servility, rather than just mere electoral posturing.  On Sunday, during the bloodiest day of the ongoing assault on Gaza, he reiterated his abiding commitment to Israel’s right to massacre Palestinians at will and on the flimsiest of pretexts, grandly declaiming that ‘no country on earth …would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens’, and reaffirming that the US was ‘fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.’

 

The self-abasing performance had a rehearsed ring to it. After all, Obama has had ample time to hone his talent for obsequiousness to AIPAC and the lobby since the closing month of 2008, when he similarly baulked at censuring Israel as it proceeded to massacre 1400 Palestinians in Operation Cast Lead. But whereas back in 2008-9 his President-elect status was a source of generous speculation that Israel was seeking to exploit a window of opportunity, in anticipation of the incoming administration adopting a stronger line than its predecessor, no such sympathetic interpretation is possible now that Obama already occupies the White House. Netanyahu, it appears, has too much experience of dealing with a supine Obama to entertain any serious fear of a US rebuke.

 

The constant allusions to ‘self-defence’ that litter the statements of Israel’s apologists are almost invariably framed as banalities: ‘Israel has a right to self-defence’, ‘No country can be expected to tolerate missiles.’ The phraseology is peculiar since these are statements with which no reasonable person who subscribes to international law could disagree. Yes, self-defence is a right possessed by all nations – that goes without saying. But compare these maxims with the way in which Israel actually disports itself and you will find a glaring disparity, and also discover why Israel’s supporters routinely confine their statements to the level of abstractions.

 

 The current assault on Gaza is the latest salient manifestation of a protracted Israeli campaign of aggression, designed to transform the densely populated strip into an open-air prison and its denizens into a submissive population too affrighted by Israeli brutality to assert their human rights. Ever since Hamas was elected government, Israel has maintained a punishing blockade and limited imports of foodstuffs and other necessaries to the bare minimum required for survival, putting Gazans, in the cold-blooded words of one Israeli official, ‘on a diet.’ This oppressive siege has been punctuated by periodic, bloody forays into the strip to maintain a state of ever-present apprehension and inspire Palestinians with a dread of their jailer’s capricious nature. Who knows what Israel might do, who it might kill next, if crossed?

 

The statistics vouchsafe a telling glimpse into the real objectives that underpin Israel’s military ventures. According to the human rights organisation B’Tselem, at least 750 Palestinian civilians who were not participating in ‘hostilities’ were killed during Operation Cast Lead, compared to a grand total of 3 Israeli civilians. In the three years since Cast Lead, Israel has killed 300 Palestinians, at least 80 of whom have been civilians not engaged in any military activity. Contrast this with the figure of 8 Israeli civilians killed during the same period. The term ‘hostilities’ has a political coloration and is often used by mainstream journalists to skew statistics in Israel’s favour. Since these hostilities were initiated by Israel, who is to say that the deaths of some Palestinians are rendered less objectionable by the fact they were engaged in resistance against aggression – or that these deaths should be disregarded when calculating the full extent of Israel’s depredations? In any event, the statistical imbalance is sufficiently clear to cast serious doubt on Israel’s claim that it only targets combatants, and any civilians who happen to be killed are unfortunate collateral.

 

 Critics of Israel who bemoan its counterproductive military approach, on the grounds it inadvertently leads to the deaths of civilians and tarnishes Israel’s ‘humane’ image, are missing the point. The object of military strikes is to terrorise the Palestinian population and remind them of Israel’s overwhelming military might – its ability to attack Gaza with impunity and regardless of world opinion. The current series of strikes follow a well-worn pattern of Israeli provocations designed to elicit a Palestinian response which will then serve as a pretext for a full-blown assault on the population.  On November 5th, prior to the killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jabari on the 14th, Israel shot a mentally disabled, 20 year old man (Ahmad al Nabaheen) then prevented medics from attending him for four hours. A little known fact is that Israel maintains a perimeter that extends half a kilometre into Gaza, and any Palestinian, like al Nabahenn, with the misfortune to stray into this no-man’s land is considered fair game for Israeli snipers. On November 8th, not content with having killed a defenceless mentally disabled man, Israeli soldiers killed a 13 year old boy, Ahmad Abu Daqqa, whilst he was playing football. Two days, Israel shot two more chidren, then targeted a funeral service, killing two mourners. The message Israel is seeking to convey is unmistakeable to all but mainstream journalists and Western political leaders – no-one in Gaza is safe from Israel’s wrath. 

 

UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has said that ‘Hamas bears principal responsibility for the crisis.’ Perhaps he should familiarise himself with the aforementioned chronology of events. Or maybe he should at least listen to Gershon Baskin, a top Israeli negotiator who was involved in mediating the deal that brought about the release of Gilad Shalit, and who has maintained diplomatic contacts with Hamas since then. Over the past few weeks, Baskin has been involved in negotiations with Hamas to establish a permanent truce, and according to him, Israel’s leaders consciously proceeded to sabotage such a possibility by assassinating Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jabari. This calculated act is of a piece with the killing of four Hamas members in November 2008, which was similarly designed to obviate a ceasefire agreement and usher in Operation Cast Lead.

 

Yesterday (Sunday 18th November) an Israeli bomb flattened the home of the Dalu family, killing 11 civilians (including 4 children). Israel, of course, issued its usual perfunctory excuses about the difficulties involved in targeting Hamas militants, and the mainstream media duly reported them without demur. According to the IDF, at the time of writing the Palestinian death toll stands at 95. At least 22 of the fatalities, according to medics, are children. The terrified testimonials of Gazans living in fear of Israeli bombs (which can be found on B’Tselem’s website) are proof that these strikes are having the effect intended by the sadists who formulate Israeli policy. The following excerpt detailing the plight of one Gazan family is emblematic of the daily terror which thousands endure:

 

‘Since the start of the attack on Gaza on 14 November 2012, the firing of missiles has not stopped, night or day. At night it actually increases and they fall everywhere, even in areas near our house. They shake the foundations of the house and we feel as if it’s about to fall down on our heads.

The children are not going to school because everything is cancelled. They run around the house all the time and feel suffocated and ask to go outside. Of course we cannot let them go out because the situation is very dangerous. They sleep with their mother because they don’t want to sleep at night in their own beds because of the sound of the missiles. If one of them wants to go to the bathroom, he insists that his mother or grandmother go with him

It’s to be expected that accounts such as these rarely merit a mention by the mainstream media, always so wary of falling afoul of Israel’s well-oiled PR machine. But one has to wonder how far the complaisance of mainstream commentators extends. Does their spineless reporting of Israeli aggression, for instance, apply when members of their own profession are the victims?  Indeed, it seems it does. In its war on journalism, Israel has not simply limited itself to spouting falsehoods. On Sunday, it targeted two media buildings in Gaza city, on the dubious grounds that an antenna was being used by Hamas, presumably to transmit instructions to its operatives. 8 journalists were wounded – one of them lost a leg. But, of course, whilst these casualties were regrettable, we all know they resulted from cowardly Hamas using civilians as human shields. Journalists can thus rest assured in the knowledge that should they be killed by the IDF, their deaths were not intended.

There are only so many times that Israel can avail itself of the ‘self-defence’ argument before people begin to weary of the patent absurdity involved in conferring the benefit of the doubt on a country which seems to have a morbid preoccupation with war  – war against the Palestinians, war against Iran, war against Syria, and war against anyone who seeks to expose the true nature of the apartheid regime. Whilst world leaders and mainstream journalists can be relied upon to incessantly parrot the standard tropes of ‘self-defence against Hamas missiles’, there is a rising tide of revulsion amongst ordinary people against the licence afforded Israel to behave in whatever way it sees fit. The public mood is changing, and far from being a display of strength, Israel’s more and more frequent resort to violence is an admission of weakness. Aware that it is steadily losing the PR battle and that its stock has endured an irreversible decline following its sanguinary escapades over the last decade, Israel has come to rely increasingly on brute force as a way out of its difficulties. Is it a coincidence that the Israeli attack comes at a time when the Palestinian Authority is submitting a bid for recognition as a member state of the UN  – an application which is likely to be approved by a majority of the world’s nations? In the face of diplomatic pressure, Israel’s standard retort has always been to launch a fresh attack on the Palestinians. Eventually, however, it will have to face the fact that such an approach is subject to the law of diminishing returns. As abhorrence mounts of Israel’s punitive air strikes, and disbelief in its hollow justifications becomes widespread, Israel will have to choose between granting the Palestinians the right to live in peace and dignity and becoming a pariah state in the eyes of the world. 

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