I attended a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Margate, Kent, on Saturday, along with a number of friends from Whitstable and Canterbury. I guess about 800 people were there. My friend Diane held up a sign to the passing traffic saying, “Ceasefire Now!” Many of the cars were honking their horns as they passed by.
I caught the bus home. Standing in the queue at the bus station a young woman smiled at me. I smiled back. “I like your hat,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said, and showed her how the peak stops the hood of my coat from falling over my eyes. Her face went blank. That’s when I realized what she was referring to. “And it has a Palestinian flag on it,” I said.
“Yes!” she said, emphatically.
Sometimes I’m a little wary of showing my affiliation to the Palestinian cause as I know that people get angry, but this time I was pleased to be noticed. The propaganda is all one way. As Jonathan Cook, one of the best commentators on Israel/Palestine, puts it:
“For weeks, the media made sure Gaza's astounding suffering—daily bombing of children and families, mass ethnic cleansing, genocide—shared the billing with (or more often got second billing after) the story of the shockwaves for Israel from Hamas' October 7 attack. As the toll of Palestinian casualties in Gaza started to eclipse the Oct 7 attack by orders of magnitude, the media still made sure to 'balance' its coverage with a prominent Israel story. That often involved running a piece referencing weeks-old events ahead of coverage of the horrors unfolding that day in Gaza. Now six weeks in, as almost every Palestinian family is ethnically cleansed and their homes destroyed, hospitals don't function and the encaged population lacks food and water, and there are no places to hide from the bombs, the media is treating the story of Gaza as stale. Coverage is perfunctory. Gaza barely makes the front pages any longer. It's all a far cry from the Ukraine war, which dominated the news agenda for more than a year. It's almost as if the media thinks Palestinians don't count—just as Palestinians haven't really counted for the West for the past 75 years of their oppression by Israel.”
The young, on the other hand, have alternative sources of information and are reaching different conclusions. Take this video, on TikTok, as an example. It involves a young American man talking about the relative merits of traditional media and TikTok. “Dude, I’m fucking tired of this narrative that TikTok is not an accurate source of information. In school we all remember being taught the difference between primary sources, secondary sources and tertiary sources.” He goes on to talk about his family citing the story of the beheading of 40 babies by Hamas. “Where the fuck did you get that information from?” he asks. “Now is it important to get all your news information from TikTok? Of course not. But when you are seeing first person videos of people in hospitals, apartment buildings, schools, getting fucking bombed, innocent people, I don’t care what news source you present your findings to me, I will never, never equate that to what we are watching on our own fucking phones.”
I recommend seeing the whole video to get a sense of the anger and frustration of young people being talked down to by the old and fixated. It’s like Vietnam all over again. And just as Vietnam radicalized a generation to reject the social norms of the 1960s and 70s, so, now, a new generation is arising, with a new agenda, new politics, and a new set of attitudes that we need to pay attention to.
The disparaging term that’s often used to refer to the young generation is “woke,” as if the opposite, being asleep, is preferable. This burgeoning awareness is particularly noticeable among young Jews. Try this TikTok video, from a young Jewish woman.
“My fellow Jews,” she begins. “We need to talk.”
What follows is a carefully-worded analysis of the relationship between Judaism and Zionism. How old is she? She looks to be in her early-20s, and yet her words are so much more mature than many of the pundits from my own generation whose minds are closed, and who can only scream abuse when you try to put an alternative point of view.
“I’m aware that many self-identifying Zionists believe that Jewishness and Zionism are one and the same,” she says, “and I agree with you to the extent that this is the common perception. I’m also aware that many self-identifying Zionists define Zionism as self-determination for a Jewish homeland, and often the definition stops there. For me, this definition necessarily expands to ‘at the expense of Palestinian citizens’. And this is where I draw a very hard line, because to accept the former without the latter requires a large amount of dissonance.”
Again I recommend watching the whole video to get a sense of the growing distance that young Jews feel towards the State of Israel, whose actions are performed, supposedly, in their name and the name of their religion. The last time I looked at the Mosaic Ten Commandments they contained proscriptions against stealing, coveting, and killing. These laws were meant to apply without exception. They do not say, “Thou shalt not kill, except Palestinians. Thou shalt not steal, except Palestinian homes. Thou shalt not covet, except Palestinian land.”
One of the problems with coming out as pro-Palestinian on the internet is that it doesn’t take long before you get called an anti-Semite. It’s one of the reasons I generally refrain from responding to comments by outsiders on my Splice Today feed. Here’s an example, from Twitter. I saw a post from an Israel supporter calling him (or her) self Never Again. The motto on this person’s feed reads: “When Jewish people say 'never again', we mean it.” I made a comment, quoting from a Jewish friend of mine: “Never Again means never again for anyone, regardless of ethnicity or religion.”
This struck a nerve. The first reply was sarcastic: “Very profound; you should put that in your book to show people how deep and clever you are.” After that came a sharper response: “Do you 'all lives matter' other minorities when you see them referencing their own historical oppression, or is it just Jews?” My reply: “No, only Israel apologists who are attempting to defend a genocide.” Never Again came back: “Ha! It never takes long for antisemitic trash like you to reveal yourselves. You couldn't care less about Palestinians—if you did, you'd be raging about their slaughter in Syria. You're just a grubby racist who hates Israel, ie, the 'Jew' on the map.”
After this there was a pile-on. A series of messages from Never Again and their supporters, calling me names and accusing me of a variety of things: being “virulently antisemitic,” being a “Hamas-ISIS supporter” and committing “blood-libel,” among others.
You’ll notice the care I took in making my reply. The term I used, very deliberately, was “Israel apologists.” Not Jews, not Israelis, not Zionists: “Israel apologists,” meaning anyone, Jew or Gentile, who makes excuses for the slaughter now taking place in Gaza. In these terms, Rishi Sunak is an Israel apologist, as are Joe Biden and Keir Starmer. Most politicians, and most of the media—most of the pundits on our screens these days—are Israel apologists.
It’s not a racist term, but the response was aggressively racialized. Maybe it was a mistake to have said anything. I should’ve known better. I long ago stopped debating with Zionists. Not only do you inevitably get called an anti-Semite, but the counter arguments will quickly take on racist tones. Generalizations about Muslims and Palestinians abound, the conflation of “Palestinian” with “Hamas” one example, as if this was the only type of Palestinian ideology available. And someone really did say this to me once: “Palestinians don’t care about their own children, they deliberately allow them to get killed in order to make Israel look bad.” A host of racial stereotypes, about the cruelty of Arabs, the greed of Arabs, the mendacity of Arabs. If you reversed the things that Zionists say about Palestinians, and applied it to Jews, you’d be rightly labelled an anti-Semite. But somehow, when said about Palestinians by Israelis, it’s considered acceptable.
Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews. It’s important to say that, since the State of Israel and its supporters like to conflate the two. There’s a very healthy pro-Palestinian Jewish movement. One of the most prominent anti-Zionist Jewish groups in the United States is Jewish Voice for Peace. I recommend subscribing to their feed. In Britain there’s Jewish Voice for Labour, comprised mainly of Jews who were kicked out of the Labour Party for not following Keir Starmer’s Zionist line. In Israel there’s B’Tselem which recently came out with a report declaring Israel an apartheid state. The name “B’Tselem” means “in the image of” in Hebrew. It’s a reference to Genesis 1:27: “And God created humankind in His image. In the image of God did He create them.” As it says on their website: “The name expresses the universal and Jewish moral edict to respect and uphold the human rights of all people.” By contrast, many non-Jewish Christian Zionists are rabidly anti-Semitic, as this piece from Jacobin magazine makes clear.
The polarisation of thought that Zionism creates is part of its methodology. The world’s seen in binary terms: good versus evil, Jew versus Muslim, civilization versus barbarism. We know all the names and all the faces of the hostages who were taken on October 7th, but none of the Palestinian prisoners who’ve languished in Israeli jails, often without trial, for years. We’re repeatedly reminded of the crimes of Hamas, which serve as justification for the slaughter of innocents in Gaza, even when, as becomes clearer by the day, at least some of the deaths were caused by Israeli cross-fire. Meanwhile Israel is allowed to act with impunity under the general rule that Israel has a right to defend itself. Yes it does, against foreign incursion, but not against a region it occupies. In fact, it has a duty of care to those who suffer under its rule. That’s the law.
Here’s an example of Zionist thought in action. A Jewish woman stands on the side of the road holding a sign calling for a ceasefire. A bunch of Zionists, wrapped in Israeli flags, surround her.
“Let’s cut open your stomach, take out your fetus and then smell it, while they torture you and cut off your body parts and rape you. Make you naked and drag you through the street,” says one.
“I wish they would rape you alive,” says another. “They are filming you and if your mother be alive they will send the video for your mother to see how you burn.”
“You know what a bomb does?” answers the woman, quietly. “It burns.”
If you don’t believe me that at least some of the deaths were caused by Israeli fire, watch this video. It’s Mark Regev, Australian-born Ambassador for Israel in the United Kingdom, talking to Mehdi Hasan on MSNBC. Among other things, including the denial of the numbers of children killed in Gaza, he says this about the casualties on October 7th: “We had the number at 1400 casualties and now we’ve revised that down to 1200 because we understood that we had overestimated. We made a mistake. They’re actually bodies that were so badly burnt we thought they were ours. In the end, apparently, they were Hamas terrorists.”
So ask yourself: how did the bodies come to be so badly burnt they were unrecognizable? Did they do that to themselves? Obviously not. And the question that follows: how were they mistaken for Israeli bodies? Presumably because they were in the same buildings. In other words, as eye-witnesses have reported, Israeli tanks and aircraft fired on buildings with both Hamas fighters and hostages in them, burning both so badly they were indistinguishable from each other, after which they were put on display as examples of Hamas' brutality.
I’ll end with a poem by the Gazan poet, Khaled Juma, which was read out at our gatherings, both in Margate and Canterbury:
Oh Rascal Children Of Gaza
Oh rascal children of Gaza,
You who constantly disturbed me with your screams under my window,
You who filled every morning with rush and chaos,
You who broke my vase and stole the lonely flower on my balcony,
Come back –
And scream as you want,
And break all the vases,
Steal all the flowers,
Just come back…
—Follow Chris Stone on X: @ChrisJamesStone