British MPs melt down over Gaza

Democratic procedures are being destroyed through anti-Israel mob intimidation.

A debate in the British House of Commons. Credit: U.K. Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Stephen Pike/Wikimedia Commons.
A debate in the British House of Commons. Credit: U.K. Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Stephen Pike/Wikimedia Commons.
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir, Guardian Angel, has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy, in 2018. To access her work, go to: melaniephillips.substack.com.

When Queen Elizabeth II died, people mourned not only the loss of a beloved and admirable monarch but what they believed was the passing of the beloved and admirable Britain that she had embodied.

The country now seems to be going out of its way to slide off the edge of the steadily crumbling civilizational cliff. And the Queen’s own grandson has joined the lemming-like throng.

Earlier this week, Prince William said he wanted to see an end to the fighting in Gaza as soon as possible because “too many have been killed.”

The death of civilians in war is always a tragedy. But the Prince of Wales didn’t say how many was “too many” in this most just of wars against genocide. Nor did he acknowledge the many Hamas terrorists among the number that he deemed excessive.

It’s an iron rule that the Royal Family never makes political or controversial interventions. Yet Prince William was playing politics, especially since he issued his statement on the eve of a deeply divisive debate on Gaza in the House of Commons.

The late Queen would never, ever have done this.

Wednesday’s scheduled debate was on a Scottish National Party motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. In the event, the debate was totally derailed by procedural and political chaos.

Without getting into the weeds of parliamentary procedure, the Speaker of the Commons broke the rules by allowing for debate amendments to the SNP motion tabled by both the government and the Labour Party.

The resulting fury led to a walkout by both Conservative and SNP members of Parliament—who didn’t get the chance to debate their own motion—while Labour’s amendment calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” passed by default.

The Speaker, who was formerly a Labour MP, was accused of buckling under pressure exerted by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who had been forced into a caveated call for an immediate “humanitarian” ceasefire to stave off a massive revolt by his own viscerally anti-Israel MPs who were threatening to vote for the SNP motion.

The truth behind this chaos, however, appears to have been far worse than political game-playing. The contrite and near-broken Speaker said he had thought he was “doing the right thing” by enabling all sides of the House to vote on their own wording because MPs had told him they were being intimidated.

 “I am very, very concerned about the security of all members,” he said. “I was very concerned, I am still concerned, and that is why the meetings I have had today were about the security of members, their families and the people involved.”

Who could doubt it? Social media has been ablaze with abuse and death threats against anyone deemed not to hate Israel enough. Outside parliament, while MPs descended into chaos, a baying mob of thousands waving Palestinian flags chanted: “There is only one solution, intifada and revolution.”

What all this tells us is that the demonization of Israel has now destabilized British politics sufficiently to destroy democratic procedures through the intimidation of MPs by an Islamist and Israel-hating mob.

While MPs turn on the hapless Speaker over preventing them from indulging in a pointlessly performative parliamentary gesture attacking Israel, they are spectacularly missing the big picture.

On the day that parliament melted down, Sir William Shawcross, the independent reviewer of the counter-extremism program Prevent, was warning that Islamist extremism is still not being effectively tackled by the government and is fueling the current tsunami of antisemitism.

One year ago, Shawcross issued a report warning that Prevent was perversely focused on tackling a rise in right-wing extremism, even though the rising threat from Islamist extremism was exponentially greater.

Yet even now, he said, the government has failed to implement some of his key recommendations. A year ago, he warned government ministers about the need to tackle the “pernicious” threat from the Hamas support network in the U.K. They have not done so.

Since Oct. 7, that threat has become far greater and is fueling the “horrific” increase in antisemitism and encouraging antisemitic abuse and banners at pro-Palestinian marches.

“I have Jewish friends whose children are at universities around the country who are frightened for the first time in their lives,” Shawcross said. “I never thought that we would see, on the streets of Britain, British citizens shouting ‘death to the Jews.’ It’s absolutely appalling.”

As if to illustrate his warning, The Jewish Chronicle reports that the Islamist group Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), which has defended terrorists and led prayers for a “Palestinian victory,” has been training the police, universities and National Health Service staff in how to deal with “Islamophobia.”

The Shawcross review found that MEND has “a well-established track record of working alongside extremists” and of “seeking to undermine the state’s considerable efforts to tackle all hate crime.” Yet MEND has taught courses to hundreds of public sector staff on “the harsh realities of Islamophobia” and “innovative solutions” to combat it.

The government’s former independent reviewer of counterterrorism legislation, Lord Carlile, said he was “astonished” that MEND was still being used by public sector bodies in this way.

The insanity in Britain over Israel has now metastasized. Lord Austin, a cross-bench peer who quit the Labour party over its former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism, was suspended from his post as chair of the Midland Heart housing association over a series of tweets attacking Hamas.

Three female anti-Israel demonstrators were found guilty under terrorism laws of showing support for Hamas only a few days after the Oct. 7 pogrom by sporting on their jackets the symbol of a paraglider, one of the devices Hamas employed to perpetrate the slaughter. 

Yet the women were handed only a conditional discharge, the judicial equivalent of a slap on the wrist. This was because the judge said the offenses had taken place at a time of “much passion and polarization” when “emotions ran very high on this issue”—thus appearing to excuse support for Hamas as an understandable emotional reaction.

In yet another disturbing incident, a baby’s birth certificate that had been sent for processing as part of a passport application by a London Jewish couple was returned ripped and with the father’s place of birth—“Israel”—defaced by a scribble.

The government is genuinely concerned by the explosion of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hatred. Yet it doesn’t seem able to connect the dots. Instead of shooting down the falsehoods with which Israel is being demonized, it’s reinforcing them.

Ever since the Oct. 7 pogrom, Britain and America have been playing a double game. They declare that Israel must defeat Hamas and to that end deployed aircraft carriers and supplied essential weaponry. Yet while preventing Israel from losing to Hamas, Britain and America have tried to prevent Israel from winning.

They forced Israel to allow aid into Gaza, most of which was stolen by Hamas. They forced Israel into protecting even more Gazan civilians than it was already doing, which has meant more needless losses of Israeli boys serving in the IDF. They are pressuring Israel not to advance into Rafah, thus handing Hamas a prospective final victory.

And they are threatening to impose a Palestine state without Israel’s consent, thus setting up a terrorist entity posing an infinitely greater danger to Israel than does Gaza.

What America and Britain fail to understand is that Israel’s fight is the West’s fight. Professor Gwythian Prins, a former member of the British Chief of the Defense Staff’s Strategy Advisory Panel, writes on Gatestone that the West needs to carefully escalate war against the Iranian regime because Israel’s cause is the cause of the free world. Instead, America and Britain have been escalating their sniping against Israel.

It has often been said that those who attempt to destroy the Jews invariably destroy themselves. We are watching it happen to the West in real time.

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