The barricades are up again outside the Israeli Embassy in London, as they are across many capitals of Europe. Given that even more rockets than "normal" have been raining down on Israel in recent days, any sane country would need further barricades outside the Israeli embassy in order to contain yet another demonstration of support for Israel. But no, another day in London and another Palestinian-ist and Socialist Worker party protest is going on against the Israeli state.
The protestors are not, of course, demonstrating because they especially care about the lives of the people of Gaza. If they cared about the lives of Palestinians -- or the people of the region in general -- they would have spent night after night outside the Syrian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Turkish, Egyptian and Saudi Arabian embassies, among others. They would be sore from sleeping outside Belgravia townhouses. But they are not. They are fresh and raring for the fight.
I have watched them a bit in recent days, watched the contorted hatred on their faces as they scream at the embassy and then watched their friendly sociability as the headscarfed women are driven away by their menfolk, often with their children in tow -- a family day outing in "diverse" modern London. Behind their smiles and the increasingly competent public relations that the pro-Hamas faction is managing in Britain, it is possible for some people to forget that what brings these people out is one simple thing: a hatred of the Jewish state and a desire to see it annihilated by the terrorists of Hamas or anyone else at hand.
There are those who will say this is a not-sufficiently-nuanced observation, that the motives of those protesting Israeli action are motivated by something other than a great hatred of Jews and the Jewish state. But if this were true, why would their posters say, "Stop the Holocaust in Gaza?" There is no "Holocaust" in Gaza. Anybody can see there is no similarity between the organized and systematic murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and the precision targeting of some Hamas rocket sites, some of which are deliberately hidden under hospitals, in the Gaza Strip. Why do the protestors say "Holocaust" then? They know that this way they will hurt Jews as deeply as possible. By using the term "Holocaust" for this, they will either give the impression that the Holocaust was a small and minimal thing in the history of war -- such as the confrontation between Hamas and Israel currently is -- or else that the Israelis are, in their view, currently carrying out precisely the same barbarism which made the creation of the state of Israel such an added necessity for Jews in the 1940s, and that by supposedly becoming the Nazis they are meant to abhor, the Jews have forfeited any right to be regarded as part of acceptable humankind.
Either way, these protestors clearly mean to harm, not to help. But their presence -- and the growing manner in which they are trying to wake up a far-away country to the actions of Israel, and condemn them as they would condemn Nazism, displays a trend worth dwelling on.
A protest in London against Israeli military actions in Gaza, in 2009. (Image source: STML/Flickr)
Israel has been through an exchange like this with Gaza every couple of years since Condoleeza Rice had the brilliant idea of pushing for elections in Gaza and allowing Hamas to finish with guns what they had failed to achieve at the ballot box. In the wider world's response -- as well as the facts in the ground in Israel -- certain trends can now be spotted. One is that, since the 2006 war in Lebanon, protests against Israel in cities such as London have increased in number and vitriol year on year. This is not because the confrontations between Israel and her enemies during this period are getting larger. On the contrary, no exchange since 2006 has been anything in size like the war which had to be engaged in then. Each time, however, despite the actual conflict diminishing, the protests in London and other capitals in Europe have grown.
So how can one account for this? One reason, simply put, is that you cannot have a country in which the Muslim population doubles each decade (as in Britain) and radical Islamist groups teach young Muslims to make the Israel-Palestine issue their prime concern, and expect the result to have no impact. The young men and women who pack their banners back in the car after a good day's shouting at the Israeli embassy may or may not have British citizenship, yet it is hard to say that they are British in any recognizable sense of the term. If they were, they might think that a simple sense of fair play, among other things, ought to dictate that a country being bombarded with missiles on a daily basis should, every now and then, have the right to respond by hitting the sites from which those missiles are fired as well as at the people who order the launchers to let loose.
Israel, one can probably say with some confidence, can very well look after itself. Like everyone else who has spent time in the country, and admires and even loves it, I worry for it, but I can think of no nation on earth that is better equipped or better motivated to look after itself and its people. So when I see these young protestors in London, protesting against Israel, I do not worry for the country they are shouting against. They cannot touch her. But I worry for my country -- Britain. It is a country that is finding it so difficult to integrate the millions of Muslims who have come here that (in a figure that ought to be better known) there are now at least twice as many young British Muslims who have gone to Syria to fight alongside ISIS and other such groups, than there are Muslims fighting for Queen and country here in the British armed forces.
By any standards, this is a symptom of a disastrous immigration and integration problem. The people shouting outside the Israeli embassy -- the knackered and foolish old minority of Trots aside -- can do Israel no harm. But they can do great harm to the country they are in. Europe's Israel-haters are no real problem for Israel, but they are the greatest possible problem for Europe.