A light piece in the Independent by associate editor Sean O’Grady (“Why our leaders should try not to play with their food”, Oct. 7), making fun of British politicians who’ve taken policy positions on food, mentioned 2014 comments by a Conservative MP:
There are other instances of ministers biting off more than they can chew. Liz Truss seems to have a thing about cheese for example. Back in 2014 she raged in a conference speech as environment secretary about the “disgrace” of so much of our cheese being imported, her cold fury at the discovery like that better reserved for the plight of the Palestinians or the Uighur people.
More than one million Uighur Muslims (about one tenth of their total population) have been interned by Chinese authorities in “re-education camps”in Xinjang since 2017, where they have endured torture, political indoctrination, and forced sterilization. The regime has also systematically destroyed Uighur cultural sites, mosques and graveyards – and other steps, such as banning certain Islamic practices, to erase their cultural and religious identity, arguably a form of genocide.
As should be painfully obvious to even the most casual observer of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is nothing Palestinians are subjected to by Israeli authorities that in any way even resembles such grotesque oppression.
Indeed, even narrowly thinking about suffering in the Middle East that’s on par with that of the Uighurs, O’Grady clearly didn’t consider Syria and Yemen – where hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed, and millions displaced.
To provide another comparison: The total death toll in the nine year Syria Civil War is believed to be over 400,000. In Yemen, six years of war have claimed over 230,000 lives. The number of Arabs (including Palestinians) killed in conflict over the last 100 years is around 91,000. (25,000 Jews were killed during that time period)
If you look at the past year, a total of 133 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces – a number (reported by the anti-Israel NGO B’tselem) which includes Palestinians slain whilst carrying out terror attacks, or in some way involved in hostilities (nearly half of the total number).
Using another metric of suffering, governments’ violations of their citizens’ human rights, the human rights organisation Freedom House lists, as the countries with the worst overall scores for political rights and civil liberties: Syria, Eritria, South Sudan, Turkmenistan, North Korea, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Somalia and Tajikistan.
By contrast, Freedom House ranks Israel as the best country in the Middle East on political and civil rights.
For the Indy journalist to assert that the collective suffering of the Palestinians is even in the same moral universe as that of the Uighurs suggests either profound malice or, more likely, a staggering level of ignorance.