This morning’s news brought something that really counts as news – a Minister has resigned from the Government on a matter of principle – yes, news indeed. The Minister is the first Muslim woman to sit in a British Cabinet, Baroness Warsi. As a Minister of State at the Foreign Office with special responsibility for the UN and the Court of Human Rights, she felt that the policy and the language hed by the Government over the situation in Gaza was ‘morally indefensible’. The reaction has been interesting. Those who disliked her from the start, seeing her as a sop by Mr Cameron to political correctness, have been delighted. To this observer, not having supported her position on Gaza, there is something deeply disturbing and distasteful about some of the reactions to her action, with comments being made on her religion, her gender and her status as an unelected peer; it must come as a shock to some to realise that there is an unelected House and that members of it form the Government too, but it seems only to have become an issue with this Muslim woman. Some on Twitter (and I shall not link, you only need to go to #warsi) break that code and are explicit about the racist and sexist agenda it is designed to conceal; that is to their shame. In a democracy, if we lose mutual respect, we lose everything. Democracies survive because of compromise and mutual respect; if that is not there, then nothing stands between minorities and the tyranny of the majority. Seldom having held a popular opinion, I perhaps feel this more strongly than some. That a Minister should have resigned on a point of principle is a good thing for democracy, and should be welcomed, not with sarcasm and juvenile point-scoring (anyone who can find a point to score here needs to get out more), but with relief as a sign that not all Ministers wish to hang on to office regardless. Perhaps the fact that it should take a Muslim woman to demonstrate this makes some feel uncomfortable; if so, they might ponder on why.
On the issue of Gaza itself, opinion is totally polarised, which is why progress is impossible. It is easy (which is why it is done so much) to divide by instinctive or tribal loyalty: it is the fault of Hamas for attacking Israel, and for having their weapons in compounds where children are to be found; it is the fault of Israel for using overwhelming force against civilians; yes, I think it is – that is I think both views are correct. There are grave faults on both sides. It is easy to say Israel should negotiate, but when Hamas wants to destroy it, where is the compromise position? Just what is there to be negotiated? On the other hand, I doubt there is anyone who can view the pictures of the suffering in Gaza without feeling outraged; it is easier to blame Israel for the damage inflicted than Hamas for provoking it.
Israel is the creation of a particular time and mood. In the aftermath of the holocaust, Zionism seemed to have an answer which would both assuage the consciences of the West and deal with the problem of displaced Jewry – the creation of a State of Israel. At that point no one much worried about the Arabs. Their territories had been parcelled up and divided out at the Sevres peace conference, and in some senses, the creation of Israel was the final act of that Western-created drama. in 1948 the Arabs would not accept the UN decision, and Israel established itself regardless. One can do many things with a sword, but sitting on it is seldom a good long-term prospect. But no one should underestimate the problem facing Israel, and by proxy, those who have supported it. What all the wise men in think-tanks said would never happen – that is that Islam would become a factor of major importance – has happened. From Algeria in the west, through to Pakistan in the east, militant Islam is on the march; anyone who imagines that it will want to find a compromise which allows Israel to exist, is wilfully deluding themselves.
What is, perhaps, also worth remarking about Lady Warsi’s resignation is that, apparently, there is a Government policy over which to resign. For most of us, that policy appears to be equal parts vacillation, rhetorical nothings and the deliberate sticking of heads into sand. In the meantime, the Christians of Mosul are still in retreat, and the forces of ISIS have made strategic gains in Kurdistan. It would be too much to hope that someone would resign over this inaction, I suppose.