This is from before October 7th 2023.

“Above all things let us never forget that mankind constitutes one great brotherhood; all born to encounter suffering and sorrow, and therefore bound to sympathize with each other.” – Albert Pike

The Merchant of Venice

My relationship with Israel started sometime in the late 60s: 1968 or 1969. It happened unexpectedly.

We were reading the Merchant of Venice at school. In case you don’t know it, The Merchant of Venice is a deeply racist play. It is considered a “comedy” because it has a happy ending—that is, for everyone but the villain. The villain is Shylock, a Jew. The play exposes Shylock’s greed, his resentment, his inhumanity, his viciousness, and his barbarity, but in the end, right is restored, the good Christians get their just rewards and Shylock exits the stage utterly defeated, utterly destroyed, and utterly alone. Even his own daughter turns against him.

Nevertheless, despite the racist overtones, it is a measure of Shakespeare’s greatness that he cannot help but give the most moving lines to his villain.

Here they are:

Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.

Act 3, scene 1, The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.

The words are a call to recognise someone’s essential humanity, to see through their tribal alliances, and to identify with them, even in the midst of their crimes. Change the word “Jew” for “Palestinian” and the word “Christian” for “Israeli” and you have a good summation of what is happening in Israel and Palestine right now.

The words could be said by a member of Hamas. They could be said by an Israeli too.


After reading the play, the subject of anti-Semitism came up.

Our teacher, Mr. Frost, talked about the situation in Israel.

This was barely a year or two after the Six Day War.

He said that he understood why Palestinians would be upset at the loss of their homeland. He asked what our response would be here in the UK if other people had annexed Wales? He also talked of the holocaust and of the Jewish people’s need for a safe haven. He weighed one position against the other and gave no definitive answers. I remember Mr. Frost as a good, a fair, a diligent and an inspiring teacher.

I’m not sure now if he was referring to Israeli claims to the whole territory of Israel going back to 1948, or whether he was referring to the recent occupation of the Gaza strip and the West Bank, still fresh in everyone’s memory. I also can’t remember how the discussion in the classroom went. I was usually quite vociferous in debates and would certainly have played an active part.

Later that day, I repeated some of the discussion in front of my dad.

Dads and sons are often rivals. It is one of the laws of nature.

So I recounted the discussion in the classroom, and the next thing I knew, I was in a blazing row with my dad—a violent row in which I ended up with a black eye and a split lip.

Now I have to admit my part in all of this.

I was an annoying little know-it-all. I was 16 years old and full of my own opinions, which, on reflection, I realise to have been other people’s opinions dressed up as my own. I was an argumentative little sod, and probably quite boring.

Nevertheless, it was odd—not to say disturbing—to find myself at the receiving end of such a violent onslaught.

I’ve seen a number of times since that my usually passive father has some turbulent hidden emotions.

He grows very angry, very red-in-the-face, when challenged about any of his fixed ideas.

But the quality of the anger on this day was of a different order altogether. It was like I had touched something raw and hidden in his psyche—like I had accidentally ripped off a scab that had unleashed some secret pain.

Mr. Frost was my favourite teacher, and I was trying to repeat his position. My Dad called him all sorts of names that I barely recognised.

I think he called him a communist. He threw a variety of supposed facts at me which I was unable to deny. When I tried to explain that Mr Frost had given us both sides of the story, he became even more enraged. I think it might have been at this point that he lashed out and hit me across the face.

That was the day I learned that my father was Jewish. My mum explained it to me afterwards.

Actually, he is half Jewish and half Christian. He attended synagogue on a Saturday and church on a Sunday. It was a secret which, at my mum’s request, he had kept hidden from us all those years.

My mum didn’t like religion, and she didn’t like politics, and talk of either was banned from the house: this despite the fact that religion and politics were fundamental to an understanding of my dad. Thus he suppressed something that was deeply meaningful to him, which then re-emerged in this unexpected and violent way when he felt he was being challenged by his mouthy son about something that was dear to his heart.

So you might say that my relationship with Israel is tied up with my relationship with my father.


These last few weeks have been terrible. Horrific.

Ever since the story of the killing of the Israeli settler kids in June, it has been a relentless cascade of increasingly bad news coming out of Israel and the occupied territories.

The bad news has mainly been for the Palestinians. At the time of writing, the death toll in Gaza is in excess of 1,800,300 of those children. By the time you read this, it will no doubt be worse. 9,000 people have been injured, with a large part of the population being driven from their homes. 10,000 houses have been destroyed. It has been a tale of devastation and murder, of the destruction of a people and a way of life; of houses, factories, mosques, schools, power plants, and offices turned to rubble; of an endless succession of images—of traumatised children of traumatised parents, of blood-spattered faces, of blood-soaked clothing, of people’s features contorted with grief and horror, of piles of corpses , eerily frozen, like discarded shop-window dummies. And these are only the images we are allowed to see. Behind these, we know, there are even worse images, which we make a point of not trying to find: of torn flesh and torn limbs, of people with their insides hanging out, or their faces blown off, of rotting corpses and mangled torsos, and worse.

How can we face such horror and live?

I’ve been obsessing about it. I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve been unable to work or to do almost anything else. I get up in the morning, go on Facebook, and read all of the latest reports. I read every one, one after the other. Those that I find relevant, I share. Some of the ones from the Israeli side I read and raged at. You can tell the Israeli ones at a glance. They usually blame Hamas, attempting to dehumanise them by accusing them of using their neighbours as human shields: as if the Palestinian people would put up with that.

The stories that are coming out of Israel are, if anything, more horrific than the ones coming out of Gaza. In Gaza, we only have the bloodshed to contend with. In Israel we have the cold-blooded justification for it, the racism, the vile chants, the horrible spectre of a new Nazism on the rise.

An Israeli shell in Gaza.

“The Israeli desire to live in peace is a desire to maintain its supremacy – a Jewish state founded on the basis of expelling its previous inhabitants – unchallenged by Palestinian violence. It is a desire for Palestinians simply to accept an eternity as stateless refugees, as an occupied people or as non-Jews in a Jewish state that sees their very existence as a ‘demographic threat’. To paraphrase Netanyahu, what other people but the Palestinians would be expected to endure that?”…

Nazi state

You are not supposed to say that. You are not supposed to compare Israel to the Nazis. That is considered inflammatory and anti-Semitic. And it’s true that the Palestinians are not being led off to the death camps yet. They are, however, being bombed in their homes, bombed in the streets, bombed in the market places, and in the work places, bombed, even, when taking shelter in schools and hospitals under the protection of the United Nations or Medecin sans Frontiere.

Gaza is like the Warsaw ghetto. It is a prison camp. There is nowhere to run. Anyone who dares call this a “war” is either self-deluded or a fanatic. A war is between two armies of at least comparable power. There is only one army in Gaza: the Israeli army. All the rest are victims, whether those victims are defenceless victims without weapons, or desperate victims attempting to fight with the most rudimentary of weapons: home made rockets, booby-trapped tunnels and suicide vests.

You cannot compare Israel’s massive, 21st century army – one of the most advanced armies in the world – with its high-tech weaponry, its powerful ordnance, its laser guided missiles, its command and control structures, its drones and its satellites, with the crude, inaccurate, glorified fireworks which constitute almost the entire strength of the other side.

People talk of Israel’s right to defend itself. What about the Palestinians right to defend themselves? And if Hamas’s use of indiscriminate rocket fire constitutes a war crime, given that those rockets are incapable of guidance, then how much more of a war crime is it to use such massively powerful weaponry as the Israelis have at their disposal, weapons designed for use in the battlefield, in what is effectively a residential space?

The spectre of a 21st century nation, supposedly a democracy, using extreme violence on a captive population, killing women, children and old people as well as young men and Hamas fighters, is horrifying to watch; but the spectre of a nation apparently cheering the slaughter on, sitting on the hillsides overlooking Gaza on deckchairs and settees dragged there for the occasion, drinking wine and cheering as the bombs explode like fireworks in the population centres below (these are the people supposedly most in fear of those deadly Hamas rockets), or running riot through the streets of Tel Aviv shouting “Death to Arabs” and “Death to Leftists” (the “leftists” being the minority of people willing to come out in opposition to the war) or chanting, football style, “There’s no school in Gaza, there are no more kids left!”: all of this cannot help but remind us of Germany in the 30s, when the same violence towards a minority, the same bullying, the same isolationism, the same collective brutality, gripped a nation, egged on by the racist fearmongering of the Nazi elite.

So, yes, I will say it. Israel is becoming like a Nazi state.

As to how it got there: that’s another question.

Are Israeli attacks a response to rockets from Hamas?

If anything, the opposite is more plausible: that Hamas is responding to Israeli provocations and attacks by launching rockets.

In the recent series of events, Hamas launched its very first rockets on July 7, in retaliation to overnight airstrikes that killed several Hamas militants, calling it a “grave escalation.” Those were the first rockets Hamas claimed responsibility for since the 2012 cease-fire. The events prior to July 7 suggest that Israel acted to provoke a response from Hamas that could serve as a pretext for launching a military operation in Gaza. The violent raids and mass arrests of politicians and activists in the West Bank provoked some rocket attacks, but none were from Hamas. Israeli officials had to wait until the day Hamas launched rockets to announce “Operation Protective Edge.”

If that does not convince you, consider this: In the first three months following the November 2012 cease-fire, not a single rocket came out of the Palestinian territories. Israel, however,carried out numerous unprovoked attacks and incursions, killing innocent civilians and violating the cease-fire.

These examples are the pattern rather than the exceptions. Perhaps the most telling case was the cease-fire in June 2008. Israel did not honour the cease-fire terms, kept the harsh blockade on Gaza and continued attacking Gazans even just hours after the cease-fire began. Despite this, not a single rocket was fired by Hamas, and there were zero Israeli casualties resulting from violence from Gaza. Hamas even went as far as imprisoning members of other militant groups that were firing rockets during that period. After several months of relative calm, Israel broke the truce with unprovoked airstrikes in November, killing several Hamas members. Hamas responded with rockets. The situation escalated and eventually led to Operation Cast Lead, a 22-day assault on Gaza that killed roughly 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians.


Something very strange is going on in the Israeli psyche. It is a nation extreme in its defensiveness. Read Israeli propaganda, and it’s mainly about this small, plucky little state surrounded by enemies, defending itself against massed Arab aggression: this despite the fact that there hasn’t been a major war which Israel hasn’t started for over 40 years.

To quote Benjamin Netanyahu: “The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.”

He said this with reference to Hezbollah, after Israel had invaded Lebanon, and Hezbollah had defended itself.

It is this same rhetoric which is being applied to Hamas, as if this little tin-pot organisation represents the concerted aggression of the whole Arab world.

Take a look at the timeline of recent events on any mainstream media site, and it will start with the deaths of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank on June 12th.

The murder of two Palestinian boys by Israeli sniper fire a month before is conveniently ignored. That is so routine it doesn’t even count as news. The deaths were caught on camera. The Israeli’s response to this? They got rid of the camera.

After the last upsurge in violence in 2012, I took note of Israeli breaches of the ceasefire. They began within hours of the signing of the peace agreement.

But even assuming that the first move was the kidnapping of the Israeli teenagers, one thing is conveniently forgotten in this narrative: the teenagers were the children of settlers in the West Bank, that is they were there illegally under international law. The viability of a future Palestinian state is being mugged on a daily basis by the non stop building of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. This is not to speak of the brutal siege of Gaza, now in its seventh year, the checkpoints, the separation wall, the regular incursions by the Israeli military, the bulldozing of homes, the control of water supplies, the destruction of farmland, the separation of families, the daily humiliation of life under occupation.


Add to this the fact that the Israeli government lied, concealing the teenager’s deaths from the media, blaming Hamas when it was actually a rogue cell, and using it as an excuse to rampage through the West Bank arresting Hamas supporters, dismantling its infrastructure and killing 6 people in the process, and you can perhaps begin to see that the Israeli narrative is a convenient fiction, and that something else is going on behind the rhetoric.

The whole episode was used to stoke up Israeli racism, falsely claiming the teenagers were alive when it was known they were already dead in order to ramp up the emotion, thus setting the scene for the violence that has followed.

Where we can blame Hamas, perhaps, is in stepping into this narrative and playing its inevitable part by firing those rockets; just as the Israeli government hoped they would.

So what’s the point of this story? I know that in writing it I won’t have changed any minds. In the first few weeks of the crisis I attempted to engage a pro-Israeli supporter in debate. You can read the whole of that correspondence in the comments, here.

As you will see, I was wasting my time. No matter how much evidence I piled up to support my side, the response was just a noisy and irrational “no!”

No evidence was needed to counteract my argument. It was enough to simply insult my sources as irrelevant and to assert the opposite case without reference to any actual data.

So maybe this is just a continuation of that argument I had with my dad all those years ago.

Maybe there’s nothing rational in it at all.

I touched something raw in him that day and he lashed out. I know from talking to him since that to him the State of Israel is a bastion against the cruelty which had been inflicted upon the Jewish people by the holocaust.

I continue to disagree with him. Israel has become the very thing it set out to defend against. My view is that the only proper way to remember the holocaust is by ensuring that it never happens again: not to any people, of any race or religion.

Chris Stone

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