The elephant in the context
We all know about the importance of context in understanding and judging the actions of others. If the person who stole a loaf of bread was starving, and trying to feed her starving child, we judge the theft differently from the way we judge an equivalent theft carried out by some opportunistically looting hooligans. So what would you think of someone who told you about the horrifying details of a wife’s premeditated murder of her husband, but completely omitted to mention the fact that he’d been abusing her terribly, physically and mentally, for 20 years? What would you think of someone who told you of the appalling punishment of ‘necklacing’ carried out by some members of the ANC in the 1980s and early 1990s in South Africa, without ever mentioning the brutalising facts of apartheid in that country at that time? What would you think of someone who described black American criminality without ever so much as mentioning racism or slavery? You might, at the very least, raise an eyebrow and murmur the word ‘context’. Even though each of these cases involve wrongful, sometimes horribly wrongful, actions, you might think that the context is important in judging those who carried out the actions. (And of course context is just as important in judging rightful action too). You might also think that the people who so ignored the context in these cases had rather poor and blinkered moral and political judgment. And if you wanted to explain this lack of judgement, these blinkers, you might in some cases make reference to the persistence of longstanding prejudices against women or Africans or American people of colour.
Now considerthis article in openDemocracy, about ‘the Israel Lobby’. The article walks us through the development of Zionist sympathies among British Jews and others in the UK.