As I was driving locally, my attention was snagged by a sea of unexpected blue and white.
All the traffic slowed to take in what was happening on the little patch of green facing onto the main road.
It was a demonstration – about 20 or so people wrapping themselves in Israeli flags, and waving banners denouncing ‘Pay to Slay’.
The demonstrators looked pleased with themselves, but I think if you didn’t have any idea what Pay to Slay means, you wouldn’t be any wiser after a quick drive-past.
Pay to Slay is the shorthand way of describing a policy operated by the Palestinian Authority (PA), in which families of Palestinians who carried out attacks against Israelis are financially rewarded, commensurate with the amount of time they serve in Israeli jails. The PA justifies this unpleasant action by saying if it did not support the families, Hamas would.
Now America is considering swingeing legislation against the PA, which it wants to stop legitimising terror by rewarding violence. I don’t have any problems with that approach, but, sadly, as seems to be usual with the Trump administration, it is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and risks a blowback that will make the already delicate situation between Israelis and Palestinians even worse.
As ever, the mantra should be that being smart should take precedence over being right. There are smart ways to operate – and I am not sure that wrapping oneself – literally — in the Israeli flag is the way to denounce Pay to Slay.
Perhaps it was the sight of all those flags that I found disturbing – not quite as disturbing, however, as the forest of Palestinian banners waved in tribal loyalty at the Labour Party conference.
I came away from Liverpool muttering under my breath, “Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn”, just to see how it sounded, and I felt faintly sick.
Liverpool, should we be in any doubt, was just a taster of what’s in store if Theresa May’s government makes a complete and utter hash of the Brexit negotiations to the point where a political convulsion will allow Corbyn in through the front door of No 10, through a back-door channel.
It’s been a vile couple of weeks and there is every sign that things will continue to degenerate. We face anxiety externally and internally, but for some people nothing anyone can say or do is good enough.
Example: the hoax bomb call phoned in to a Jewish Voice for Labour event in Liverpool, believed by Merseyside police to be a credible enough threat to cancel the event. The Board of Deputies, doing its best in a feral atmosphere, denounced the call as antisemitic. Immediate ferocious response to the Board from some on the right of the Jewish community. Are we now in a time when fake bomb threats are tolerable – because we don’t agree with the politics of those at whom such threats are levied?
Example: endless, vituperative attempts by those on the left to “prove” that MP Luciana Berger did not have police protection in Liverpool. No matter how often they were told that no one received protection inside the conference security zone – not even Corbyn – the haters, and anyone defending Berger, got the full force of “kinder, gentler politics” – ie foul-mouthed abuse.
Let’s agree as follows: physical, verbal and emotional abuse is wrong and unacceptable.
We are smarter than this. And for me, if you want to wrap yourself in an Israeli flag, downtown Hendon is not the place to do it.