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Why is Owen Jones mansplaining the Middle East to a Jew?

The clash between Jones and Margaret Hodge revealed just how poisonous identity politics has become.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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Picture the scene. A thousand black people are murdered by a virulently racist movement. They’re tortured, stabbed, shot and lynched by an organisation set up with the express purpose of waging an apocalyptic ‘struggle against the blacks’. Then, a black British woman, deeply distressed by this unspeakable atrocity against her people, goes on TV to talk about it. And next to her is a surly, squirming middle-class white bloke who proceeds to mansplain to her in the patrician tones these twats hone at Oxford that ‘Ackshually, I think you’ll find it’s a complicated issue…’.

We’d all say ‘What a wanker’, right? Well, that’s exactly what I said to myself while watching a clip of woke bro Owen Jones clashing with Jewish Labour MP Margaret Hodge on Sky News last night. It was the precise moral equivalent of the scenario described above. Here was a Jewish lady in clear anguish over the racist slaughter of more than a thousand of her people, politely apologising to the host for having a lump in her throat, and the non-Jew Jonesy basically upbraided her. He essentially told her to pipe down at one point. Unseemly doesn’t cover it.

I can’t remember the last time I saw something like this on TV. In fact, has there ever been a televised spat in which a member of an ethnic group that has just suffered an unimaginable act of racist savagery is pitted against a non-member of that ethnic group who wants to change the subject? Yes, Jones lamented Hamas’s attack on Israeli citizens. ‘No cause on Earth’ justifies the slaughter of civilians, he said. But he clearly couldn’t wait to move on to his main topic – Israel’s military response to Hamas’s butchery.

His body language betrayed his impatience with Hodge and her insistence on gabbing about dead Israelis. Where she was open and expressive, keen to get across to viewers the distress Jewish people are feeling right now, Owen seemed agitated. He was hunched and tetchy. You could almost hear the voice in his head: ‘Must bring this back to Israeli barbarism, must bring this back to Israeli barbarism…’ Then he got his chance. He did that thing every member of the bourgeois clerisy must do at least once a month if they wish to retain access to the political scene: he slagged off the Jewish State.

What Israel is doing in Gaza is ‘collective punishment’, he said. He bemoaned the Israeli defence minister who said Israel is at war with ‘human animals’ (Jones implied the minister was referring to Palestinians, rather than Hamas). Palestinian lives are just as ‘sacred’ as Israeli lives, he said to Hodge, as if this 79-year-old political figure of many decades’ standing is some gibbering idiot in urgent need of moral improvement by TV’s favourite Guardianista millennial. Hodge looked stunned. Which wasn’t surprising. She was on to talk about the worst act of racist violence visited upon the Jewish people since the Holocaust and here was a jumped-up gentile with bed hair hectoring her.

She tried to bring it back to the issue of anti-Semitic barbarism. She was probably thrown by the fact that Jones cited that Israeli official who used the phrase ‘human animals’ while failing to mention that Hamas has said far, far worse about the Jews. ‘The Jews are the most despicable and contemptible nation to crawl upon the face of the Earth.’ ‘By God, we will not leave one Jew in Palestine.’ ‘We want you to cut off the heads of the Jews with knives.’ These are comments made by Hamas officials. By the movement that massacred more Jews in one day on Saturday than anyone else since the Nazis. Hodge had every right to feel perplexed by Jones’s speedy shift from talking about these disgusting anti-Semites to banging the boring drum of anti-Israel hostility.

When she tried to interject, the most revealing thing happened. ‘I’ve let you speak’, said Jones. He said it twice. Let you speak – excuse me? Does OJ think it is in his gift to decide when Jewish broads get to talk? His male, middle-class, Oxbridge entitlement was palpable. For a millennial non-Jew to say to a Jewish woman approaching her eighties ‘I’ve let you speak’, especially at a time like this, is remarkable.

It was goysplaining. A gentile huffed and puffed as a Jewish lady expressed her emotional worries about anti-Semitic slaughter. The goy lectured the Jew about the complexities of Israel / Palestine. There is not one other identity situation in which this would happen. A white man would never get away with bristling at a black woman worried about anti-black racism. A non-Muslim would be hauled over the coals if he dared to go on TV and interrupt a Muslim woman who was speaking in pained tones about a massacre of Muslims. Jews, though? Knock yourselves out, fellas. Go wild, gentiles. The rules of identity politics don’t apply to those people.

That’s the serious point here. Forget Owen Jones. The bigger question is why none of the protections of identity politics is afforded to Jews. Let minorities speak, listen to their lived experiences, don’t use your privilege to interrupt or undermine them – that is said about every ethnic group except Jews. We end up in a situation where more than a thousand Jews are slaughtered, mobs in Sydney are saying ‘Gas the Jews!’, mobs in London are laughing at the dead Jews of southern Israel, Jewish schoolkids in London are taking off their blazers lest anyone recognise them as Jews and attack them, Jewish establishments across Europe are posting armed guards, and at that precise moment Owen Jones, the self-styled conscience of the youthful middle-class left, gets into a massive public barnie with a Jew. It’s extraordinary.

The left is finished. It has no idea how finished it is.

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

Graham Linehan and Brendan O’Neill – live and in conversation

Graham Linehan and Brendan O’Neill – live and in conversation

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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