Compare and contrast these. First: “An assailant drove into a crowd of people and killed three, including a police officer, before being shot and killed by security forces.”
Second: “An assailant stabbed two young men and a police officer on Saturday afternoon, wounding them, before being shot and killed by security forces, police said.”
The first, as we must all be aware by now, refers to the event on Westminster Bridge in central London. Despite warnings from anti-terrorist authorities to expect attacks, it was rare enough to make us all — at least temporarily — familiar with the names of the assailant, Khalid Masood, and of his victims, PC Keith Palmer, Aysha Frade, Kurt Cochran and Len Rhodes.
The second event took place in Jerusalem’s Old City, and was the second attack in a week: before it happened, Israeli border police shot and killed a woman as she attempted to stab them with scissors outside Damascus Gate. The woman was later identified as Siham Rateb Nimir, 49, from East Jerusalem but I had to scour reports to find the name of the Saturday stabber, so commonplace have these attacks become: he was a teenager of just 17, Ahmed Jazal.
I thought about these two horrible incidents and the public’s general responses to them as I was reading reports of the navel-gazing hate-fest that was taking place in Cork over last weekend.
I think — and I hope I am right — that most people will have been relieved that Masood was shot dead by British police, before he could cause any further carnage.
That is the policy adopted by Israeli security forces and Israelis, on the whole, approve of such a policy.
It is a difficult and fine line to get right, a hair-trigger (literally) judgment call, and the other thing which I ought to say is that all we armchair opinion-formers should be mightily glad that we are never called upon to make such a decision.
In Cork, meanwhile, a group of academics (academics!) have been airing their beliefs that Israelis treat Palestinians like “untermenschen”, a term used by Exeter University’s Dr Ghada Kharmi. She spent much of her childhood, it should be recalled, in Golders Green, and is thus in a position to know better about the use of such language.
Elsewhere at the Cork conference — called in order to discuss the international legitimacy of Israel — a member of the audience claimed that Zionists routinely withdrew love and affection from their children in order to turn them into killers.
That is something that might draw gasps from normal people, but which appeared to concern very few of the participants.
The only person foolhardy enough to continue participation in Cork was Jewish academic Professor Geoffrey Alderman, who tells me he was received to “spontaneous applause” and had had an email from a delegate “saying that I have partially changed his mind on Israel/Palestine”.
Even if this were the case, I cannot but believe that Professor Alderman’s presence did anything but lend a spurious air of legitimacy to the conference.
It will have made the haters happy and the rest of us just outright bemused.
In such a climate, it is difficult to know how to proceed.
As I say, compare and contrast.