Owen Jones on having empathy for the devil.

In an article in Sunday’s Guardian, Jones writes about why he doesn’t think demonizing Israelis for supporting their governments current onslaught in Gaza is particularly useful.

He says:

‘For those who want peace – including an end to the occupation and the dismantling of every settlement – it is tempting to demonise Israeli supporters of this latest offensive. But it is futile and self-defeating. The occupation will not end until the rationales that sustain it are understood. As Palestinian children are killed, that may seem like a lot to stomach, but it is no less necessary’.


It’s not an unreasonable point, if you ask me. I don’t think there can ever be too much understanding in the world, as long as that understanding doesn’t tip over into outright apologia (and it obviously doesn’t for Jones here).

It’s an argument that is frequently made whenever the subject of ‘terrorism’ comes up, for example – there’s an acceptance, especially on the left, that we need to understand why people might feel the need to resort to such acts, and why others might support them. That obviously doesn’t equate to supporting the acts themselves.

What a contrast, though, to something Jones wrote in March 2011, when the newspapers were full of stories about Muamar Gadaffi’s crimes (real or imagined), and there were bloodcurdling cries from the professional punditocracy to bomb Libya, and bomb it now.

As the bombs were about to start falling, Jones wrote that:

‘Other than a few nutters, we all want Gaddafi overthrown, dead or alive’.


(There is no suggestion here that Jones was himself in any way supportive of bombing Libya, because he wasn’t)

He then followed that up by saying:

‘I will not caricature supporters of the bombing campaign as frothing-at-the-mouth neo-cons or born-again Paul Wolfowitzs. There are those who otherwise sing from the same hymn sheet as me on the other side of this debate’.

So, don’t demonize or caricature those Israelis who are currently supporting what is essentially a massacre of innocents in Gaza

And don’t demonize or caricature those people in the U.K. who wanted a couple of serially criminal and abusive states – namely, the U.S. and U.K. – to go and drop their humanitarian/freedom bombs on Libya.

But what about those who didn’t in fact want to see Muamar Gadaffi overthrown, ‘dead or alive’, for a variety of reasons?

They could be safely dismissed as ‘a few nutters’, their political opinions pathologised (‘nutter’, by the way, is a horribly ableist term, especially used in this context, and Jones should know better). 

No call for empathy, understanding or context here – just outright demonization of those ‘on the other side of the debate’ to him.

And I wonder if that’s because it’s more acceptable, from the point of view of upholding your reputation in a deeply corrupted corporate media system, to allow empathy and understanding for our Devils, than it is to allow empathy and understanding for Theirs.

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