The headline of your Leader – “Israel’s moral defeat in Gaza” (8 August) – reflects defeatism in other pieces you have chosen to print about the crisis. Israel, you write, “seems immune to world opinion” and “the UN is powerless to influence Israel”. Yet if you believe that a deal can be reached only by the hardliners on either side, there is an action you could call for, for the sake of those who live and die in Gaza.
While there is little we can do about the Egyptian and Israeli landward blockades, the sea blockade is different. Our government should be urged to form a coalition of those with naval and air power in the Mediterranean to organise convoys to bring into the port of Gaza supplies necessary to maintain life and rebuild shattered infrastructure. If it is not for such purposes that our government is building aircraft carriers, then for what? More effectively than a beefed-up embargo on the export of arms to Israel, the sight of such a convoy would be a vivid demonstration of that world opinion to which you say Israel is immune.
Speaking of Gaza
I am as puzzled as Jason Cowley at complaints that the media are anti-Israeli. They are certainly not pro-Hamas, which, though repellent, was democratically elected on 44 per cent of the vote and is therefore the legitimate government of Gaza – not merely a militant Islamist group, as it has been continuously designated by the BBC in the past two weeks.
Ed Smith’s points about leadership and the England cricket captain, Alastair Cook (Left Field, 8 August), are well made until he describes Cook’s opponents as the “mob”. This is the language of the Burkeian right; the word used on the left is “crowd” and crowd pressure seems to be going the captain’s way at the moment.
Ed Miliband has plated a number of good innings, particularly on the cost-of-living crisis, but these have been vastly outnumbered by the ones where he surrendered his wicket too easily. If Captain Miliband can’t deliver the goods in next year’s general election fixture he must play the game and walk.
How to remember
Laurie Penny addresses the question of remembrance in relation to the First World War (In the Red, 8 August) and warns against empty ceremony. In childhood, my generation saw many men missing limbs and knew they were casualties of our grandparents’ war, not our parents’. In the 1960s, we already knew the Great War was bloody, not glorious. And yet is there no place for communal reflection on the suffering and, yes, heroism of those of all classes caught up in it, especially if they were bribed, duped or shamed into joining up in the first place? Surely we can mentally airbrush out the royalty, expensive hats and all, honouring without falling into triumphalism or cant.
Laurie Penny’s analysis of censorship in the Great War gets it right. The imprisonment in 1915 of two directors of Gale & Polden, publishers of the Aldershot News, sums up the vicious response of the military establishment to reports accurately portraying how the country was pushed into unquestioning support for war. That two men in sympathy with the war could be treated in this manner illustrates the demonic power of the Defence of the Realm Act. Their paper promised stories of what was happening in camps after the war but the hand of censorship stopped it.
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
The house next to mine was occupied by “property guardians” (Observations, 8 August), recruited through a well-known management agency. The agency refused to pay the council to collect the rubbish. Because they were not legally “tenants”, the guardians had no redress over anything that went wrong. They were disadvantaged by their lack of rights. The council was unable to act and the people who eventually bought the building had to clear up the mess.
My seven-year-old daughter spotted the front cover of your 25 July issue and recognised the boating politicians: she identified Boris Johnson as David Cameron; Cameron as Simon Cowell; Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband as the kids’ TV stars Dick and Dom; and she totally ignored Nigel Farage.
Robert Colls (NS Essay, 8 August) wonders what George Orwell would have made of Scotland’s independence bid. In his early years Orwell somewhat disliked Scots. He associated them with the sons of wealthy grouse-moor families at his hated prep school. In Keep the Aspidistra Flying, the hero kicks a volume by Robert Louis Stevenson and sneers: “You’re cold meat, if ever a Scotchman was.”
Towards the end of his life he came to love the place. If he judged that Scotland was being ill-used by Westminster and the only remedy was independence, he’d have backed self-rule, as he backed it for India.
M G Sherlock
Surely it is time for the NS to take a more imaginative approach to current issues without wheeling out Orwell. How about what the fiercely patriotic J B Priestley would think of the break-up of Britain? Or Michael Foot, or Beatrice Webb? Bertrand Russell, Virginia Woolf, H G Wells? Or Rebecca West?
Guiseley, West Yorkshire