Stuck in a cy­cle of ha­tred

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT & ANALYSIS - David Aaronovitch

Afrum-char­iot that once it was) than of cy­clists. They’re the killers. I stopped cy­cling be­cause of them. But, over the years, I have be­come good at lis­ten­ing out for, and spot­ting the dan­ger. I can’t hear cy­clists and, if they’re not obey­ing red lights at cross­ings (and in Lon­don this hap­pens of­ten) they can eas­ily take me by sur­prise. At the very least, there is a case to be made for re­mind­ing cy­clists that pedes­tri­ans, many of whom are el­derly or with chil­dren, feel vul­ner­a­ble, too. That was not the re­ac­tion of cy­clists re­spond­ing to my friend’s piece. She was guilty of a range of sins. First, she had not prop­erly enu­mer­ated the death toll of cy­clists at the wheels of mo­torists. Sec­ond, she had not pro­vided full sta­tis­tics for her claims con­cern­ing cy­clists jump­ing lights. Con­se­quently, her ar­ti­cle could only be seen as a “hit-piece” on Bri­tain’s leg-pow­ered two-wheel­ers, and one that would give com­fort to the mur­der­ous mo­torists’ lobby. Some ac­cused her of in­cit­ing at­tacks on cy­clists as though mad­dened driv­ers would mow down any­thing in ly­cra while shout­ing “THIS IS FOR LINDA!!!” One man com­pared what she had done to the hate-ar­ti­cles which ac­com­pa­nied gay-bash­ing in his na­tive Ire­land back in the old days.

But even the “more in sor­row than in anger” crit­ics of her piece could not ad­mit, even for a sec­ond, that she might have a point. To do so would sim­ply be to con­cede too much to the other side, to the enemy, to the four­wheeled cy­clo­phobes and their al­lies. A line had been drawn: all virtue on this side, all sin on the other. To blur the line was to be­tray the cause.

It re­minded me of some­thing that hap­pened dur­ing the Jewish Film Fes­ti­val re­cently when I chaired a dis­cus­sion fol­low­ing a doc­u­men­tary called The Zion­ist Idea. The film had seemed to me to be bal­anced and not un­in­ter­est­ing. When we be­gan the dis­cus­sion, one of the panel was mildly crit­i­cal of the film’s at­ti­tude, suggest­ing that it had been too crit­i­cal of Zion­ism. By the time we fin­ished, half-an-hour later, this same pan­el­list was be­ing vig­or­ously ap­plauded by around a quar­ter of the au­di­ence for suggest­ing, in ef­fect, that the movie might as well have been made by the Si­don chap­ter of the of­fi­cial Hamas Fan Club.

I couldn’t work out how we had got there, ex­cept to note a kind of self-po­lar­i­sa­tion go­ing on. The more we talked (as chair I re­strained my­self), and in the ab­sence of any great ar­gu­ment, the more bi­nary the propo­si­tion be­came. If we’d car­ried on till morn­ing we’d have bombed Gaza our­selves. I’m ex­ag­ger­at­ing of course. But not by much.

It was as if all virtue was on one side, and all sin on the other

David Aaronovitch is a colum­nist on ‘The Times’

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