2.1 The Israeli–Palestinian conflict in Britain
While in a considerable geographical distance from the United Kingdom, the events in what used to be the Palestine of the British Mandate and what is now the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel constantly make their presence felt in contemporary Britain. Events there lead to frequent and intense debates here: they have a remarkable impact on British public and political life, as evidenced by the row over Israel and antisemitism embroiling the Labour Party. (Just a quick aside here: this row, at the time of writing this course in 2018, pretty much appears to consume Britain’s Labour Party. But is that still the case at the time of your reading this material? You may find it worthwhile to reflect on this.)
For something that is of no apparent immediate concern for Britain, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict tends to generate unique intensity in debates. What we often have is a frantic ‘tennis match’ between charges of either anti-Israeli bias or even antisemitism, and accusations of the suffocation of free debate under the false pretences of fighting ‘antisemitism. The oft-quoted, if somewhat simplistic, adage of ‘someone’s freedom fighter is another one’s terrorist’ aptly captures when confrontation pertains not merely to facts or immediate events, but the very background or foundational narratives which confer meaning to those events.
In what follows, you will engage with a particular manifestation of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict in Britain: it will concern an event where the conflict literally disrupts British public life.