Violence is not an acceptable mode of public discourse. This isn’t too difficult to understand. Even when someone is infuriating, implacably ignorant, a standard-bearer for evil, even when someone breaks the law, individuals are expected not to use violence to express their displeasure.
George Galloway was violently attacked this week. George Galloway is one of those people who no doubt would leave the human race better for his absence. He has made the most egregious statements and actions, from praise for Saddam Hussein, propaganda work for Ahmedinejad and Khameini, and his lying to the House of Commons over conspiracy theories he spread on Press TV.
It is unfortunate that George Galloway is part of our species, let alone a representative in Parliament. Going up to him and assaulting him remains wrong.
That’s not hard to fathom – a number of reasons have been expressed already but really it comes down to the fact that people should not go around hitting each other in a civilised society.
That’s what makes the reaction in some pro-Israel circles so bizarre. Most leading figures on hearing the news of Galloway’s attack immediately condemned vigilante violence, as well they should. Yet days ago a crowd-funding drive for Galloway’s alleged assailant’s legal fees began. The description reads:
While I do not support violence, I DO support the fact that Neil alledgedly stood up for Israel. He allegedly punched George Galloway in the face for making the comment that Bradford (in the UK) had been “declared an Israel-free zone” and urged people to reject all Israeli goods, services academics and tourists. Please help fund his legal costs!
The basis for this drive is not that Neil Masterson, the alleged assailant, is innocent. It’s that he’s guilty, and yet worthy of our support because Galloway had it coming.
George Galloway should be prosecuted for some of his statements, including when he declared Bradford an “Israel-free zone”. This much is obvious – any Briton publicly declaring that their city should be a Pakistani-free zone would rightly be prosecuted for inciting racial hatred. Galloway is odious, racist and a symbol for some of the worst things in Britain.
We still can’t hit him.
We also can’t say that we don’t support violence as part of a drive to support the perpetrators of violence. It just wouldn’t be consistent. Masterson’s alleged attack was not a necessary step, it did not achieve anything. It is the type of attack Galloway himself would condone, as he did when he said a suicide bomb attack on Tony Blair would be morally justified. We can’t sink to that level, nor can we in any way condone it.
There may be nuances in this case, such as the dubious notion that the assault was religiously aggravated (the issue was clearly not Galloway’s religion, but his beliefs, and in any case it is not clear whether Masterson himself is Jewish).
That’s not at issue. The people who wish to fund Masterson’s defence have clearly made the same assumptions as everybody else as to the facts of the case and its motivation. The assumption that Masterson decided, without immediate provocation, to go and attack George Galloway.
Something is clearly wrong in a number of pro-Israel circles. That over $4000 have been raised in three days, and that over a thousand people have helped to publicise the fund is horrifying. No matter how slighted, maligned and defamed we are by the likes of George Galloway, no matter how little we can stand his racism or anti-Semitism, his rape apologism and his apparent dictatorship fetish, it behooves us to retain the norms of civilised discourse.
Until those elements of pro-Israel circles can understand that, we’re eternally bound to be fighting a war on two fronts. On the one hand, against the purveyors of lies and misinformation designed to slander the Jewish state, the supporters and apologists of terror, and the out-and-out anti-Semitic. On the other, against those within our own ranks who would give up the moral high ground we so clearly hold – in order to sate their rage.
It is an unfortunate fact that we, the pro-Israel community have to deal with misinformation, prejudice, lies and violence from many opponents of Israel. We are already suffering from Neil Masterson’s action – the words “Zionist terrorist” have already been spouted, admittedly in a clearly malicious and anti-semitic tweet.
I believed that the pro-Israel community was one that loved peace. I believed, under rocket fire in those first couple of days before any response, that we put more effort and more patience into peace than any other society on earth. I believed that we were a group of people deeply committed both to our own security, but also to making the world a better place.
The people who donated to Neil Masterson’s defence have lost sight of that. The struggle has become more important than the goal. We need to support Israel, but not by attacking those who oppose it. We bolster Israel by showing how its supporters act in a superior way to its attackers. By funding Neil Masterson’s legal defence, no one is supporting Israel, or fighting anti-Semitism; even as Galloway remains a symbol for those things.
They are descending to the level of Galloway himself, and until they stop, they have no place in our community.