Moral equivalence must be one of the overriding curses of our age. Even those who are capable of making moral judgements now often find it easier to make equivalences between sides than to study facts and work out who may be or right or wrong. So whenever any conflict breaks out, much of the world can be relied on – from the United Nations downwards (or upwards) – to call for a cessation of the "cycle of violence." In Britain last week, there was an especially flamboyant example of this trend, courtesy of the noble Baroness Warsi.
This is the woman who was promoted by Conservative party leader David Cameron seven years ago; once the Conservative party became the party of government in 2010, she became the first Muslim woman to attend Cabinet in Britain. She could have done an immense amount of good in that role. She could have led reformist trends within the Muslim communities in the UK. She could have acted as a demonstration that Muslims can be loyal British citizens without side clannish, religious or sectional interests overriding other interests. Instead she turned out to be a force of extraordinary regression, and someone who turned out to bang some very predictable drums.
This summer, when Israel was forced once again to engage in a highly targeted air and ground operation against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, the British government held fairly firm in support of our ally, Israel, in doing what it needed to do to a terrorist group that was kidnapping and murdering teenagers and heavily rocketing Israel.
But Baroness Warsi – who had only ever reached Cabinet because of David Cameron's personal championing – resigned in protest. She claimed in her resignation that Britain's ongoing support for Israel was morally indefensible.
It is always fascinating seeing this tug occur within the political identity of someone who presents themselves as a "progressive." Baroness Warsi's parental country of origin is Pakistan, and she made a fair amount of play during her time in office as someone who could uniquely advance the cause of Britain inside Pakistan and other Muslim-majority countries. But it was Israel that caused her to resign.
This month she cropped back up when four civilians were murdered in the most brutal fashion while praying in a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood in West Jerusalem. This slaughter – which occurred in territory that any and every peace plan would place indisputably under Israeli jurisdiction – included the slaughter of one Druze policeman, three American rabbis, and one rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, who had been born in Britain and had a joint British and Israeli passport.
While the blood from the attack was still on the floor of the synagogue, Sayeeda Warsi was out of the starting gate. She began to tweet British pro-Israel groups and also, crucially, British Jewish communal figures, to express a moral equivalence between the people who had just hacked four rabbis to death while they were praying in a synagogue, and those Israelis who have been protesting that it is outrageous that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem – a site holy to both Muslims and Jews – is allowed to benefit Muslims only.
She first tweeted: "Israeli extremists storm Al Aqsa & intimidate worshippers Palestinian extremists storm synagogue & kill 4 worshippers #Tragic #peacenotwar." She then tweeted: "Both @David_Cameron & @Ed_Miliband say a Palestinian life is equal to an Israeli life so let's ALL condemn the killing on BOTH sides."
The fascinating thing is that it is all part of a pattern for the Baroness. On her Twitter feed, both before and since leaving office, she has used the networking site to micro-comment on all things Israeli. Barely a conservatory can be built in Israel without the Baroness butting in from London to condemn Israel.
As is her right, of course. Even people paid by the taxpayer to fulfill no particularly discernible purpose are free, in their downtime, to vent their opinions on Twitter. What seems odd is this obsession with Israel. It is not a country or a region with which she has any special ties. She has no reputation as an expert on the conflict, or on ending conflicts in general. Yet here she is, week in and week out, micro-commenting on Israel. Given the window onto the soul that Twitter can provide, does it seem unfair to ask why this obsession? And to raise a curious disparity.
What is odd is that this Baroness, who claims to be motivated only by moral outrage, is so silent on the considerably worse moral outrages that go on day in and day out in a country with which she does have ties — of which she made a virtue while in office.
Yet Baroness Warsi ignores entirely the horrific and continual human rights transgressions in her own family's homeland of Pakistan. Whether it is Christians being burned alive, or the practice of so-called "bonded labor" (slavery), Warsi appears utterly unconcerned.
No criticism here... Above: Baroness Warsi meets with Shahbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Pakistan, in October 2012. (Image source: UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office)
There are around 350,000 Pakistanis who have become refugees since the launch of a major Pakistani military offensive in the tribal region of North Waziristan. Yet not a peep from Warsi. Nor has she bothered to find out how many Pakistanis have died as a result of air strikes. This revealing lapse occurs despite the fact that if there is one thing of which we can be sure, it is that Pakistan's military does not warn civilians in advance of an attack, as the Israeli Air Force does. As a result, Pakistan's aerial campaigns will undoubtedly be killing a far higher ratio of civilians to terrorists than in Gaza.
At present, a Christian mother in Pakistan is due to be hanged for blasphemy. I can find no stirring campaign or comment by the noble Baroness. Nor can I find any persistent campaign run by her to highlight the despicable ongoing case against a Christian woman in Pakistan, Asia Bibi, who has been charged with the capital offense of "blasphemy." And that despite the fact that there are Muslims in Britain who support the case against Asia Bibi and who could do with being opposed by a prominent British Muslim.
Why does Baroness Warsi not use her position to fight against these hourly injustices and outrages being committed in the country to which she is so closely tied? Hangings for "blasphemy," as well as the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, may be common occurrences in Pakistan, but what increasingly obsesses Warsi appears to be only Israel.
In this she is hardly alone. Making moral equivalences about Israel and her enemies today almost always goes hand in hand with a blind spot to the real human rights atrocities occurring almost everywhere else in the Middle East other than in Israel, not to mention many countries farther afield.
In many ways the story of Sayeeda Warsi is just a story about the diminution of an already diminished figure. But it also points to something far more important: the obsessions and blind spots of Baroness Warsi are the obsessions and blind spots being taught to a generation.
To persuade people that the human rights outrages of our time are happening not in places such as Pakistan, where she could actually do some good, but in Israel — where alleged outrages are often proven not even to have existed, as with the Goldstone report or the UN's exoneration of Israel's actions in the Turkish Flotilla boat, the Mavi Marmara.
A person of real character would stand up to this trend. Instead, Warsi is instead using her position to whip up anti-Israel activity and, accidentally or otherwise, helping to develop the world's growing ethical blind spots. She has become a one-woman walking demonstration of why Britain's House of Lords needs reform.