Ssomething strange happened. Some kind of glitch or malfunction. Liberal politicians who refuse to call for a cease-fire in Gaza or end support for attacking Israel make no more sense, and more like they are going through a crisis. Messy language and contradictory statements have become common among establishment figures. When Keir Starmer was asked if cutting off water and supplies were actions covered by international law, he said on live radio that Israel “has the right”. Then, his party admitted that he never said it. When Starmer said Labor would not recognize Palestine unilaterally, his own shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, told the Financial Times that Labor would consider it.
Nowhere are these contradictions clearer than when politicians express unquestioning support for Israel’s actions while also expressing concern for Gaza’s civilians. In a post on X, Lisa Nandy, the shadow international development secretary, showed support for the suspension of funds to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, because “allegations that are serious require a serious response “, while also “seeking assurance” from the prime minister’s help. can still be given. I had to read his statement several times to try to understand what he was getting at. On the other hand, David Cameron said that he is “concerned” that Israel may have violated international law, but this does not change the position of the UK on the export of weapons to Israel. Riddle me.
You can call it Schrödinger’s probability policy. The secretary of state of the US, Antony Blinken, said that 7 October cannot be obtained a license to “dehumanise” others, but his government has chosen twice to request the right to bypass Congress and grant additional weapon of Israel.
This dissonance is a product of trying to reconcile an irreconcilable position. The facts are too simple for anyone to face them while plausibly continuing to support Israel’s actions in Gaza. So politicians resort instead to contradictory and sometimes wild explanations to avoid calling these actions or demanding that anything should be done about them. The results border on chaos, like when Nancy Pelosi told CNN that while some protesters are “spontaneous and organic and sincere”, calling for a ceasefire means giving voice to “Mr Putin’s message”. And if that wasn’t enough, last year, he told pro-Palestinian protesters to go back to China, because that’s where “their headquarters” is.
The spokesmen are on the ropes. When asked what Joe Biden’s message is for Arab Americans who are concerned about Gaza, a A White House spokesman said the president is “heartbroken” and also believes that “Israel has the right to defend itself”. The saddened Biden appears to have completely stopped, cracking under the effort to pretend that his country’s Middle East policy is fruitful or even coherent. He admitted that the strikes against the Houthis did not work. “Are they stopping the Houthis? No. Are they going to continue? Yes,” he told reporters.
This is an honest summary at least, and it covers position shown by Israel’s allies towards Gaza. Does it work? No. But it will continue. And that’s it. Because war has no trials. It is not compatible with liberal principles, and is not even logical in terms of security. The Middle East is the most unstable it has been in decades, and the conflict has made political life more volatile at home, especially in the US and UK. Two parties of centrist “grownups” have positioned themselves as alternatives to chaotic and corrupt rightwing competitors in an important election year, and are now worried about losing support, and often need to prevent heckles from pro-Palestine protesters.
This astonishing inability to respond appropriately to Israeli aggression extends beyond Gaza. The events there exposed the flaws in the entire political model and the assumptions behind it. If liberalism does not provide a moral and constructive form of governance, then what does it? In the midst of such a historically bloody and disturbing conflict, if liberalism shows no ability or desire to protect civilian life, regional security and its own electoral prospects, then the claim that defines the mission in principle and ability collapsed.
If a less secure world becomes an acceptable price to pay for loyalty to allies, the west’s claim to authority as a political and military guardian of law and order looks much slower.
When that authority is lost, the system is shaken from within. The mainstream political consensus in Israel and Palestine has long believed that Israel’s actions should be strongly supported, and that the situation of the Palestinians can be complicated or – at worst – the fault of their own terrorists. That consensus is now being challenged, not only by faceless protesters, but from within the bastions of the liberal media. In recent weeks, CNN and the New York Times have reportedly been embroiled in internal strife after some employees felt their coverage was too reliable and sympathetic to Israel’s actions.
Gaza has become the expression of a crisis of legitimacy for an Anglo-American political class that presides over weak systems that provide less and less to their populations, and whose main offering is that the alternative is the worse. Things may look stable, but underneath lurk discontents about living costs, declining social mobility and the damage caused by left-wing governments’ y is given as the correct answer.
As the writer Richard Seymour once said: “When a crisis erupts in politics we can be sure that it is over-determination in the accumulation of contradictions in other parts of the structure. Individual crises can be managed, but the fatal is the way in which all contradictions repeat each other.”
The political response in Gaza may seem harsh and harsh, but what lies behind it is not strength, but weakness.