A callous disregard for human suffering

A callous disregard for human suffering

Demonstrating for the Palestinian cause in the wake of the massacre of Israelis shows hatred that trumps compassion.

Do the people who march in support of Palestine really care about the Palestinian people, or do they just want to vent their hatred towards Israel? 

Campaigning for the Palestinian cause is entirely reasonable.  No-one can deny the suffering that Israel has caused Palestinians nor the right to demonstrate in support of them.

But to do so in the aftermath of wholesale butchery committed by the leaders of that cause betrays a callous disregard for human suffering. The Australians who gathered to support Palestinians this week displayed open contempt for the pain felt by Israelis and the grief of Australian Jews, many of whom have family and friends affected.

Though they held a minute’s silence for casualties in Gaza, they chose not to mark or mourn the Israeli dead.

Though they held a minute’s silence for casualties in Gaza, they chose not to mark or mourn the Israeli dead. If dead children in Gaza are a tragedy but dead children in Israel are nothing to them, they are not human rights campaigners, they are partisans sharing in the hate of those who commit massacres.

When Israel or its citizens kill, hurts or humiliates Palestinians, I hang my head and shrink. I feel for the pain and suffering it has caused the victims. When Israeli settlers torched cars and attacked residents of Palestinian villages in the West Bank earlier this year – an act that can barely be used as a comparison with the 1200 people killed this week – Israelis and Jews everywhere expressed their shame and disgust. There was compassion for the victims.

But those who gathered at the Sydney Opera House to protest the display of Israel’s colours were opposing a display of compassion. Their blinkered attachment to the Palestinian cause does not allow them to feel anything for Israel’s victims.

The massacres committed by Hamas have sickened people of common decency across the world. I would have hoped that included people who support the Palestinian cause.

Those who gathered at the Opera House to protest the display of Israel’s colours were opposing a display of compassion.

Yet in Lakemba, we saw the deeply grotesque spectacle of celebration, at the Opera House we heard antisemitic chants, and in Melbourne protesters waved Palestinian flags and called for Palestine “from the river to the sea”, which means for the complete destruction of Israel.

At best, those who demonstrated for Palestine in the wake of the massacre of Israelis display incredible naivety. As a group, these people have had no experience of war. After the march they can go for a drink and return to a safe, comfortable home where food is plentiful, there are no air raid sirens or emergency bunkers, and the only objects flying across the skies are passenger jets.

There are times when arbitrary equivalence is rendered irrelevant. This is one of them.

At worst, they betray a characterisation of Israelis as all-powerful and inhuman, which echoes the antisemitic stereotypes that have dogged Jews for millennia. For Australian Jews, this is disturbing in the extreme.

Their crude binary logic – that any compassion for Israel somehow betrays Palestinians – is a wilful failure to acknowledge the complexity of human conflict. There are times when arbitrary equivalence is rendered irrelevant. This is one of them.

The overriding message of their march is that their hatred of Israel – and contempt for Israelis –  trumps their concern for human suffering.

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