Something odd is happening. A sort of glitch or malfunction. Liberal politicians who refuse to call for a ceasefire in Gaza or halt support for Israel’s assault are no longer making sense, and increasingly seem as though they are going through a crisis. Garbled language and contradictory statements are becoming common among establishment figures. When Keir Starmer was asked if cutting off water and supplies are actions that fall within international law, he said on live radio that Israel “does have that right”. Then, his party claimed he never said this at all. When Starmer said that Labour would not recognise Palestine unilaterally, his own shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, told the Financial Times that Labour would consider it.
Nowhere are these contradictions clearer than when politicians express unequivocal support for Israel’s actions while also expressing concern for civilians in Gaza. In a post on X, Lisa Nandy, the shadow international development secretary, appeared to support the suspension of funds to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, because “allegations this serious demand a serious response”, while also “seeking reassurances” from the prime minister that aid could still be provided. I had to read her statement several times to try to understand what she was getting at. Meanwhile, David Cameron said he was “worried” that Israel may have broken international law, but that this did not change the UK’s stance on exporting weapons to Israel. Riddle me that.
You might call this tendency Schrödinger’s policy. The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said that 7 October could not be taken as licence to “dehumanise” others, but his government chose twice to invoke the right to bypass Congress and provide more weapons to Israel.
This dissonance is a product of attempting to reconcile an irreconcilable position. The facts are simply too stark for anyone to confront them while plausibly continuing to support Israel’s actions in Gaza. [Continue reading…]