It's hard to miss the fact that Israel is something of a preoccupation for STV's online columnist Stephen Daisley. I don't think I've ever seen him more animated than when he was defending Jim Murphy against the charge of being a "mouthpiece for international Zionism".
Today, he's penned an article which takes the familiar approach of branding much of the Left as being anti-Semitic or borderline anti-Semitic on the basis of associations, and inferences that can supposedly be drawn from things people don't say, rather than things they do. It strikes me that it's only fair that a journalist who follows that approach should be subjected to exactly the same scrutiny himself. We don't hear much - in fact we barely hear anything - about what Daisley thinks of Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people. But can we gain any clues from his critique of the pro-Palestinian lobby? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, and the picture it paints is rather disturbing.
"Perhaps they don’t quite revere [Corbyn] like the other JC — a Jew born in Bethlehem and therefore an illegal Israeli settler..."
Now, obviously that's intended as a comedic aside, but what intrigues me is where the humour is supposed to lie. It's very hard not to interpret it as poking fun at the 'extreme' or 'loony left' position of caring about whether Israel builds illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Is it not reasonable to conclude, therefore, that Daisley thinks 'normal' people don't and shouldn't care about illegal settlements? Does he really think that's an attractive or 'moderate' view to take?
"Why deny the Holocaust when you can throw it back in the Jews' faces by fictionalising Gaza as a concentration camp?"
Is this not the silly rhetorical dodge of pretending that our horror at the prison-like conditions in Gaza is bogus unless the plight of those who live there can be shown to be fully as bad as that of the occupants of a Nazi concentration camp? If, on a scale of 0 to 10, a concentration camp ranks as 10, what score would Daisley give to Gaza? Is he really saying that anyone who thinks the score is higher than zero is the moral equivalent of a holocaust denier? If so, how does he even begin to justify such an offensive proposition?
"Why hurl rocks at a Jew in the street when you can hurl endless vexatious UN resolutions at Israel?"
A supremely ironic comment given that Israel is protected from critical Security Council resolutions by the immense good fortune of having an ally with veto-wielding powers. Under a more democratised international system, Israel would have several times as many resolutions to deal with, and it wouldn't be good enough to haughtily dismiss them all - or even any one of them - as "vexatious". Wasn't it Daisley's idol Tony Blair who felt that a heroic interpretation of a couple of UN resolutions was more than sufficient to justify the invasion of a foreign country?
"There is nothing anti-Semitic about sympathising with the plight of the Palestinians (though it might be nice to recognise their culpability in the conflict too)."
Sorry? What's that? The culpability of "the Palestinians"? Is that the Palestinian people collectively, as opposed to their political leadership or Hamas? You can be absolutely sure that anyone who failed to carefully distinguish between the State of Israel and the Israeli people would be swiftly dismissed as an anti-Semite, so I'm not sure why lesser standards should apply when talking about Palestine.
Of course, what Daisley is really moaning about (although again he's mysteriously shy about saying this directly) is that "the Palestinians" aren't recognised as being equally culpable. But that recognition will never come, for the simple reason that they're not equally culpable. Israel occupies Palestine, not the other way around. The fighting is invariably asymmetric, with ten (or more) innocent Palestinian civilians being typically killed for every innocent Israeli civilian. Can't it be reasonably inferred that anyone who believes that both sides are equally culpable thinks a Palestinian life is worth only one-tenth of an Israeli life? How would Daisley justify that proposition?
"There is nothing anti-Semitic about lacerating Israel for walls and checkpoints and bombs (though do address your alternative strategies to Beit Aghion, 9 Smolenskin Street, Jerusalem, Israel.)"
It does sound suspiciously like Daisley is saying that our moral outrage at atrocities committed by the Israeli state can't be considered legitimate unless accompanied by a fully-fledged alternative "strategy" (what an appalling choice of word). OK, how about this? Israel retreats to its internationally-recognised pre-1967 borders, and then it defends THOSE borders any way it likes. As things stand, many of the walls, checkpoints and bombs are in someone else's country. Am I being "immature" for pointing out that inconvenient fact, Stephen?
"Why don’t the policies of the Chinese government in Tibet or against the Uighurs in Xinjiang inspire comparable protests and boycotts? Why do none of our cultural warriors demand the Edinburgh Festival kick out Russian-sponsored acts over Chechnya or Crimea?"
It could just as easily be pointed out that Daisley's idol Tony Blair was hopelessly inconsistent in denouncing Saddam Hussein while remaining the best of friends with several other equally ghastly tyrants. If left-wing people did heap as much opprobrium on China or Russia as on Israel, would Daisley then accept their views as sincerely-held, or would he cast around for another desperate excuse to blame the whole thing on their anti-Semitic instincts?
"Israel has become the Jew of world affairs, affluent, successful, provocatively different."
Is "provocatively different" code for the military occupation of a neighbouring land? That is, after all, something that only a tiny number of other countries are currently engaged in. Again, does Daisley think the occupation is a good/benign thing? If so, why can't he say so directly? Isn't it because he knows his true views are unsayable and literally unjustifiable?
"A rooted cosmopolitan that is to blame for being the only country in that region that is free and open and truly democratic."
Which Israel is it that is "truly democratic"? Is it the one which stops at the internationally-recognised pre-1967 borders? Is it the one which includes the illegally annexed East Jerusalem, in which voting rights are extended to Palestinian residents? Or is it the one that supposedly also incorporates "Judea and Samaria"? Because the latter is not a democratic state. It could hardly be much further removed from being a democratic state. It's an apartheid state in which most Palestinians are denied both citizenship and suffrage on the basis of ethnic origin alone.
"To be an anti-Zionist is to say the Jews alone have no national rights."
Alternatively, you could be Stephen Daisley and say that the Palestinians alone have no national rights. Because that is the status quo - the Israelis have a state and the Palestinians do not. Israel does not even recognise that the Palestinians have a theoretical right to a state. When you're ready to challenge that status quo, Stephen, get back to us, and then maybe you can talk about the Left's alleged anti-Semitism with a touch more credibility.
* * *
On a separate topic, I thought there was something fishy about this passage from Daisley the other day -
"[Corbyn's] prescriptions sound original to them because they are not old enough to remember the last time they were tested in government. Endless strikes and flying pickets are inconceivable to those who grew up after trade union reform. If you try to tell them about rubbish in the streets and bodies left unburied they will accuse you of scaremongering. Inefficient state monopolies, a top rate of income tax at 83%, the debilitating culture of managed mediocrity — all these mean nothing to millennials."
And now I know what the problem is. Daisley was earlier today rueing the fact that he will turn 30 in four months' time. That means he was born in either late 1985 or early 1986, and can't possibly have even the vaguest direct political memory from earlier than around 1991. He doesn't remember Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister. He doesn't remember Neil Kinnock taking on Militant. He doesn't remember the miners' strike. He doesn't remember the Poll Tax riots. He doesn't remember the campaign against apartheid. He doesn't remember a time when Eastern Europe was under communist rule. I do (sadly) just about remember all of those things, so I now feel qualified to pat Stephen on the head and tell him that he just doesn't get it. The poor boy has clearly been brainwashed by the experience of seeing New Labour come to power at the ultimate impressionable age of...er, 11.