The extremists threatening people’s safety are in Westminster

  • Post last modified:February 25, 2024
  • Reading time:12 mins read

If you follow the mainstream news, your main takeaway this week was almost certainly that people are very, very mad at MPs. You may be less certain about why these people are mad, beyond the vague impression that said people are ‘extremists’:

As such, you may be surprised to learn that the UK is supporting an invasion which is currently being investigated for the crime of genocide:

Why so serious?

Take this article from the BBC titled “SNP to push for fresh Gaza debate after Commons vote chaos”. It notes that:

The SNP says it will push for another Commons debate on Gaza following the chaotic vote on the conflict on Wednesday.

There was uproar in the Commons when Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle allowed MPs to vote on a Labour amendment to the SNP’s ceasefire motion.

The article talks about the vote in terms of politicking, noting:

it is unclear whether another debate will allow the SNP to force a vote that drives a wedge between other parties on the issue.

And that:

This could prove awkward for Labour, which has been plagued by division over its stance on the Israel-Hamas war.

It talks a lot about the procedural elements, and includes a lengthy section headed “Heightened scrutiny”, which comments:

Sir Lindsay argued that letting MPs vote on a wider range of positions would protect them from threats to their safety, amid heightened scrutiny of their stance on the conflict.

But it allowed Labour to sidestep a potentially damaging rebellion over whether it supported the wording of the SNP’s ceasefire call, which also criticised the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.

Labour’s own amendment supported a ceasefire but noted that Israel “cannot be expected to cease fighting if Hamas continues with violence”.

What it doesn’t do is give any real context of what’s going on in Gaza right now.

The situation in Gaza

The situation in Gaza is grave. Turkish site AA reported on 25 February:

Children, women death toll in Israel war on Gaza 6 times higher than Russia-Ukraine War
At least 12,660 children, 8,570 women killed by Israel in Gaza since Oct.7, compared to 2,992 women, 579 children killed in 2-year Russia-Ukraine War

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been ongoing for two years; the Israeli invasion of Gaza not even five months.

Of course, the overall death toll is far higher, as Time reported on 19 February:

(RAFAH, Gaza Strip) — Israel’s assault in Gaza has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians since Oct. 7, the territory’s Health Ministry said Monday, marking another grim milestone in one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history.

Oxfam International noted on 11 January:

Daily death rate in Gaza higher than any other major 21st Century conflict

Israeli military killing 250 Palestinians per day with many more lives at risk from hunger, disease and cold

Israel’s military is killing Palestinians at an average rate of 250 people a day which exceeds the daily death toll of any other major conflict of recent years, Oxfam said today, as the escalation of hostilities nears its 100th day.

In addition, over 1,200 people were killed in the horrific attacks by Hamas and other armed groups in Israel on 7 October and 330 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since then.

Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam’s Middle East Director, said: “The scale and atrocities that Israel is visiting upon Gaza are truly shocking. For 100 days the people of Gaza have endured a living hell. Nowhere is safe and the entire population is at risk of famine.

“It is unimaginable that the international community is watching the deadliest rate of conflict of the 21st century unfold, while continuously blocking calls for a ceasefire.”

And things could be about to get much, much worse, as Al Jazeera reported on Sunday 25 February:

The UN says some 2.3 million people in Gaza are now on the brink of famine.

Israel, which cut off all supplies of food, water and fuel into Gaza at the start of the war, opened one entry point for humanitarian aid in December. But aid agencies say stringent checks by Israeli forces and protests by far-right demonstrators at the Karem Abu Salem crossing, known by Israelis as Kerem Shalom, have hampered the entry of food trucks.

The mainstream British media is not providing sufficient context on how dire this situation is – a situation MPs have at times openly endorsed:

It’s an extreme situation which grows more extreme by the day. And the ‘threat’ MPs face should be understood in this context:

Instead of informing the public, however, the media and politicians are pointing at an alleged ‘extremist’ fringe and painting all those who object with the same brush.

The ‘storm’

On 21 February, Labour MP Paul Sweeney wrote the following:

Meanwhile, elements of the Tory Party are using the situation to further the cause of Islamophobia (although to be fair, they use every issue to do that):

Civility policing

Laura Kuenssberg’s latest blog is titled “Commons chaos was grisly reminder of threats MPs face“, because who among us hasn’t looked at the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and thought ‘I hope Jacob Rees-Mogg is okay‘?

Her article has many issues, but the core problem is this:

Protest is important. Many MPs themselves are veterans of noisy demonstrations. Politicians love a good argument – a vigorous debate. And of course there have been risks to politicians and Parliament before, whether from the IRA for many years, or terror threats in recent times.

But surrounding politicians and screaming abuse, or trying to block their path as they try to walk down the street, are different. Now, almost any MP will tell you, what can look like an ambush can happen at any time.

There’s an idea that the most inhumane acts can be perpetrated as long as the process of inflicting these evils is carried out with performative civility.

Hundreds of thousands can die because the government used austerity to transfer wealth to the rich, but if you ask an MP to name their donors you’re attacking them.

Millions can die in illegal wars, but if you throw an egg at Tony Blair you’ll do time.

Tonnes of sewage can get dumped in our rivers, but if you accuse the environment minister of having shit for brains, you’re the one toxifying the debate.

Kuenssberg also notes (emphasis added):

Many of the people we choose to represent us really believe their personal safety, and that of their families, is routinely at stake

This is another shared delusion of our political classes. As the Electoral Reform Society wrote in 2020:

22.6 million. That’s the number of votes that didn’t count towards the result in December’s General Election

As bad as that sounds, the group also notes that for “the first time since 2005 a party gained a dominant majority” – i.e. we didn’t hand “100% of power on a minority of the vote”.

The undemocratic nature of our ‘first-past-the-post’ voting system is another matter which our political class continuously fails to mention.

You voted for these people, apparently – how dare you get mad at them now?

Who are the extremists?

The argument that our country has been overrun by extremists isn’t incorrect.

These extremists aren’t ordinary people on the street demanding an end to the fighting, however; they’re men and women in suits who vote for atrocities, and then clamp down on protest when they get called out.

Featured image via the Telegraph

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