The unbearable sanctimony of the ‘pro-Palestine’ set

Palestine activism has become a way for the graduate elites to lord their moral supremacy over the rest of us.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Culture Identity Politics World

Want to read spiked ad-free? Become a spiked supporter.

Britain’s ‘queer’ activists aren’t happy. In fact the poor dears are fuming. They haven’t been this pissed off since the last time some middle-aged woman politely requested the right to shower at the gym without seeing a tumescent knob in the neighbouring cubicle. For one of their cultural icons has done something unconscionable. He’s broken the cardinal moral code of right-on society. He’s deviated from the holy law of the upper-middle class. Brace yourselves: he has agreed to share a space with – my God – someone from Israel.

This is the story of Olly Alexander – a singer, I hear – who has caused much weeping and gnashing of teeth among people with purple hair. All because he has refused to pull out of the Eurovision Song Contest in protest at Israel’s inclusion. Even following receipt of a hectoring missive from Queers for Palestine – the movement that single-handedly killed satire – Mr Alexander said he will perform his track ‘Dizzy’ at the famously camp competition in Sweden in May. For a ‘queer’ to defy Queers for Palestine is tantamount to a Muslim flouting the hadiths. It’s the social wilderness for Olly now.

‘There can be no party with a state committing apartheid and genocide’, said the humourless goons of Queers for Palestine. Perhaps these luvvies would rather party in Gaza. I’m sure homophobic Hamas would enjoy a good dance on their graves. Israel’s inclusion in Eurovision will help to whitewash its ‘crimes against humanity’, they insisted, and thus everyone of good, woke conscience should refuse to take part. Mr Alexander demurred, saying he’d rather use the Eurovision ‘platform’ to bring folk ‘together’ and issue a ‘call for peace’. Oh God, he’s going to writhe around with a Palestine flag, isn’t he?

The moral hubris of these people is mind-blowing. Imagine how drunk on your own righteousness you would have to be, how in love with your own virtuous reflection, to imagine that your decision to boogie or not to boogie could reshape events in the Middle East. The idea that Olly Alexander withdrawing from Eurovision might help save Gaza is only outdone in dumbness by the idea that his remaining in Eurovision to yelp ‘Peace now!’ might help save Gaza. I hate to break it to you, fellas, but no one in Gaza, Israel, Iran, Qatar, America or anywhere else outside of the hip eateries of Dalston gives a solitary shit whether ‘Dizzy’ happens or not.

This bourgeois catfight over whose virtue-signal will be most effective reveals so much about the fashion for boycotting Israel. It’s increasingly clear that the fad for forswearing Israeli music and culture and food is less about liberating Palestine than about liberating one’s own ego. It’s about making a spectacle of one’s own moral rectitude. Being Israel-free has become a shortcut to the righteous highground, a means for movers and shakers to say: ‘See how pure I am?’ The clash between Queers for Palestine and Olly Alexander isn’t over the most effective way to assist Gaza – it’s a virtue-off, a tussle between tossers over who’s the most morally worthy.

This explains why such an obviously crazy group as Queers for Palestine can exist. This suicidally oxymoronic movement is proof that ‘pro-Palestine’ activism is less about getting to grips with what’s going on over there than about providing a cheap moral rush to bored radicals over here. We all know that if these tattooed trustafarians who think men can breastfeed went anywhere near Gaza their pronouns would be was / were quicker than you could say ‘Free Palestine!’. But that just doesn’t register with the ‘queers’ themselves, partly because they are so consumed by imperious pity for Palestine that they refuse to believe anyone there is capable of wrongdoing (yes, this is racist), but mainly because they have reduced ‘Palestine’ to a platform for virtuous preening and in the process have denuded it of its reality and complexity.

‘Palestine’ isn’t a place to these people – it’s a buzzword, an entirely abstracted thing. Noisily declaring oneself to be ‘For Palestine’ is little more than a proclamation of one’s decency, one’s fitness for membership of the cultural in-group. Wearing a Palestine pin, or better yet a keffiyeh, and absolutely refusing to buy Israeli oranges are not political positions in the old-fashioned sense – they’re signals sent to other members of polite society. ‘I’m one of you’, they say. The boycotting of Israel must be the first boycott in history where the aim is less to effect change in the concrete world than to massage egos in the emotional one.

The weaving together of Israel / Gaza with the self-image of our own woke elites explains why ‘pro-Palestine’ activism has become so unbelievably annoying. It’s because what masquerades as a solidarity movement is in truth a haughty performance of moral superiority. The more that being ‘Israel-free’ and ‘For Palestine’ become signifiers of woke rectitude, the more the whole movement will become a demonstration of such rectitude – a lording of the heightened sensitivities of the socially aware elites over the apathy of the masses. What do you mean you don’t hate Israel with every fibre of your being? What’s wrong with you?

Witness the storming of St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City during the Easter service by climate and Palestine activists. One yelled ‘Free Palestine!’. This wasn’t a protest against Israel – it was a protest against the lower orders, the plebs in the pews, by professional activists who clearly think being ‘pro-Palestine’ makes them better than everyone else. Or witness the blocking of the British Museum, again by climate and Palestine activists. Such grating stunts do less than nothing for Gazans, but they do allow our higher-ups to remind us riff-raff of how much more ‘aware’ they are than us. Marches for Palestine play a similar role, allowing graduate elites to traipse into city centres to tyrannise low-born shoppers with their correct opinions.

Behold the unbearable sanctimony of the ‘pro-Palestine’ set. Palestine activism has become a relief valve for the political and media classes’ pent-up feelings of social superiority that they otherwise struggle to express in these PC times. Finally they’ve found the perfect cover for giving voice to their cultural supremacy. We end up with the rank spectacle of upper-class ‘queer’ kids from a country that has caused vastly more deaths in the Middle East than Israel has looking down their pierced noses at Israel and everyone who supports it or who fails to manically hate it. They are more like their imperial forebears than they will ever know.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Culture Identity Politics World


Want to join the conversation?

Only spiked supporters and patrons, who donate regularly to us, can comment on our articles.

Join today