EARLIER THIS WEEK, I got more than a little agitated over the fact that the British Establishment, such as it is, didn’t think it worth the effort to ensure that the sanctity of Armistice Day (November 11) wasn’t sullied by those who have managed to make anti-Semitism respectable once again. According to media reports, some 300,000 people marched through the streets of London on November 11 to demonstrate their support for an independent Palestine extending from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. For those who have brushed up on their geography, the “river to the sea” chant implies that the country we know as Israel will become history. There is a wilful silence over the question of the fate of the Jews at present living in Israel, but the glimpse of an answer can perhaps be found in the manner Hamas dealt with Jewish civilians when it broke through the border posts on October 7.
The weekly pro-Palestine marches through London since October 14 may tell us less about the state of play in West Asia than it does about the Londonistan that has gradually taken shape over the past decade. According to opinion polls, the British public is almost evenly divided in its sympathy for Israel and Palestine, with the pro-Palestine tilt being more pronounced among young Britons and sympathy for Israel being more marked among those above the age of 35. It would have been more interesting if there had been a parallel racial profiling of views, but those who have seen TV and social media images of the demonstrations may have arrived at their own conclusions.
That the opinions of the silent, non-demonstrative majority are being factored in by the decision-makers is reassuring. According to a rightwing podcast from Israel that I heard a fortnight ago, the Biden administration in the US has no love lost for the present dispensation in Israel. The Democrats have been miffed with Israel since the Obama presidency and the parallel rise of the Woke Left in the urban heartlands of the Blue states. But a reason why the administration has steadfastly supported Israel is due to the resounding public support for the Jewish state. Maybe the Jewish lobby is far more entrenched in the US than in the UK. But I also think that there is a greater awareness of radical Islam in the US than in Europe.
A reason why I have brought up the issue of how the Hamas-Israel war is being played out in different parts of the world has to do with a Bengali podcast that I heard after Diwali. A senior Bengali journalist was lamenting that West Bengal isn’t what it was like in the good old days.
I don’t know whether Bengal has witnessed anything resembling the good old days since the Left assumed charge after the General Election of 1967, in short, some 56 years ago. But according to one version of the history, the glorious days of Bengal coincided with the time angry youth came out into the streets to protest against the American bombing of Vietnam in the mid-1960s. He didn’t mention that a group of angry imbeciles also came out into the streets to proclaim, “China’s Chairman is our chairman” and murder class enemies—in most cases, traffic policemen and venerable vice chancellors. Also not mentioned was the fact that a big chunk of these radical Bongs now live in the US, and seem quite happy about it.
According to the podcast, Bengal has squandered its rich inheritance by passively overlooking the decimation of the citizens of Gaza by the Israel Defense Forces. Not only has there been no monster demonstrations through College Street, no burning of buses, no stone throwing at the American consulate and no relay fasts below the statue of Lenin or Marx, but the intellectual support for Palestine has been quite muted. This is attributed to the fact that the Palestine issue has got entangled with the vagaries of communal politics in India. In short, what is unsaid is that since the advent of Narendra Modi in 2014, the Indian mind, and the Bengali mind, has become infected with a combination of capitalist aspirations and Hindu assertiveness.
I used to think that Bengali Hindus have defied this trend, but obviously something interesting is happening at the subterranean level to warrant the fulminations of the flag-bearers of Bengali exceptionalism. Maybe the indifference to the emerging folklore on Palestine has also something to do with becoming exasperated with lost causes.