ROBERT HARDMAN: In Britain we might disagree on whether to wear a poppy. But we DON’T belittle the sacrifice others made – until now, it seems

Are they just very stupid? Or are they so blinkered and self-centred that they cannot see how fast they are losing the hearts and minds of the vast majority of this country?

Yesterday’s monstrous roughing up of a poppy-selling Army veteran at Edinburgh Waverley station in the face of yet another pro-Palestinian ‘occupation’ is not just pitiful, it is viscerally insulting to millions of people for whom this particular week of the year is, quite simply, different.

We can disagree about almost anything, including the Middle East; but there is one point on which there has never been any significant dissent in this country.

This, the second week of November, is when we remember all our compatriots who gave their lives for our country. We might disagree about what colour poppy we wear, or whether we should wear one at all, but we do not belittle the ultimate sacrifice which others have made in our name.

Until now, it seems. For the message emanating from some of our universities and from some of the loudest champions of multi-culturalism and diversity is that all this old war history stuff is, like, just not as important as fighting Zionist imperialism, right?

Jim Henderson, 78, who said he was kicked and punched at Edinburgh Waverley on Saturday

Jim Henderson, 78, who said he was kicked and punched at Edinburgh Waverley on Saturday

‘[The] monstrous roughing up of a poppy-selling Army veteran at Edinburgh Waverley station in the face of yet another pro-Palestinian ‘occupation’ is not just pitiful, it is viscerally insulting’

The ‘Glorious Dead’, whom the Cenotaph honours, were fighting for our basic freedoms. Like it or not, those include the freedom to sit on the floor of railway stations or block the streets chanting borderline anti-Semitic, not-quite-jihadi slogans.

I went to London’s Trafalgar Square for Saturday’s Day of Action for Palestine and the ‘occupation’ of Charing Cross Station (where another poppy stall had to give up).

I saw no violence whatsoever, I might add. There were some macabre sights, including a display of dolls in bloodstained shawls; and some unexpected ones, like the young man with the ‘Queers For Palestine’ banner (a sentiment not reciprocated in Gaza City).

But certain things were striking by their absence. For a start, I saw no one wearing a poppy. Nor, at any stage, did I hear any mention of the following: a) the massacring of Israeli civilians; b) Hostages; c) Hamas.

Perhaps the VIP speakers, including one Jeremy Corbyn, made full reference to all of the above, but the sound system was so awful I could barely hear a word (the only Corbyn pearls I managed to pick up were ‘Israel’s ethnic cleansing’). Most people in the crowd couldn’t hear much either so they just stood around chanting.

Perhaps those embattled Royal British Legion poppy sellers could lead the rest of us in an alternative chant: ‘From the beaches, to Berlin, They gave their lives so you can sing’ (File Photo)

And while there were plenty of calls for an Israeli ceasefire — which was supposed to be the point of the march — by far the loudest, most popular and most frequent chants were those invoking the end of Israel itself.

I even did a tally. These were the top two: ‘Two, four, six, eight, Israel is a terrorist state.’ Plus that old favourite: ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’

As everyone tries to tell you, it is just a plea for peaceful co-existence. As everyone knows full well, it is dog whistle code for ‘Kick the Jews out’. Or worse. No wonder Britain’s Jewish community says it has never felt more threatened and lonely.

This weekend, we are told, is going to see more of the same — on a larger, louder scale — with claims that ‘one million’ people will attend a Palestine ‘solidarity’ march through Central London.

Perhaps those embattled Royal British Legion poppy sellers could lead the rest of us in an alternative chant:

‘From the beaches, to Berlin,

They gave their lives so you can sing.’

Or some such.

I would expect the vast majority of the ‘solidarity’ marchers to treat sites like the Cenotaph and the Bomber Command Memorial with the respect they deserve.

But there will be some out to cause both offence and trouble, as they did in Edinburgh yesterday.

Of course, there should be no attempts to ban the big march, as some have suggested. National commemorations are not compulsory. Football matches and shopping will all be going on this weekend, too.

‘I would expect the vast majority of the ‘solidarity’ marchers to treat sites like the Cenotaph and the Bomber Command Memorial with the respect they deserve’

But millions of ordinary people who have been appalled both by the psychopathic savagery of Hamas and by the sight of tiny bodies being pulled from Gazan rubble will still regard the choice of date and location for this colossal parade as deeply disrespectful.

And so it is a matter of regret that a plea by Scotland Yard to postpone the march was dismissed out-of-hand by its organisers.

There is no need to hold this giant march on Armistice Day, a day that has been locked in the national calendar since November 1918. Why not any other weekend?

This is the time-honoured moment for proper perspective. Whatever our views on the situation in Israel and Gaza, or on what Rishi Sunak or Sir Keir Starmer should say on the subject, we Brits are a footling irrelevance.

However, what we are commemorating on Saturday, Armistice Day, and on Remembrance Sunday, touches us all. It should not be just another ’cause’ competing for attention. It should not have to be a rival attraction at all.

For it is not about wars long fought and heroes long gone. It is about the here and now.

If any ‘solidarity’ marchers do try to march down Whitehall on Saturday afternoon, singing their ‘peaceful’ chants and letting off their ‘peaceful’ flares, they will come against a properly formidable presence in the middle of the road.

Every year, on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday, members of the War Widows Association come to the Cenotaph for their annual lunchtime service. Astonishingly, it took the Association many years to be allowed to hold this event.

‘Every year, on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday, members of the War Widows Association come to the Cenotaph for their annual lunchtime service’ 

Even after World War II, they were not allowed to join the official Royal British Legion parade past the Cenotaph, or even to stage their own ceremony there. Grieving widows and their children would dodge the passing traffic to lay a wreath on behalf of the Dad who never came home.

Having finally won recognition in 1971, they now have the King as their patron, campaign tirelessly for pension rights and will not be deterred by anyone, thanks very much.

Escorted by the police, by the RAF Halton Voluntary Band and chaplains from the Armed Forces, around 150 of them (plus children and grandchildren) will march round from Whitehall Place and form up by the Cenotaph.

There they will sing their trusty hymns — O God Our Help in Ages Past, Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer and the National Anthem — and lay the association cross (of white chrsyanthemums).

They will also hear their chairman, Moira Kane, read the eternally moving Kohima Epitaph. ‘When you go home, tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow, we gave our today.’ Then they will adjourn for a lunch round the corner.

‘For us, remembrance is every day,’ says Moira. ‘But this is the weekend when the whole country remembers, too. It’s not for us to say who should march where, but it’s a pity they can’t do this one on another weekend.’

The police, she adds, have assured the association that their event will go ahead as usual. And so it must.

Don’t tell any of these women (plus one or two widowers) that this remembrance business is ‘over’. Moira lost her husband, Colonel John Kane, in 2008. The 1,500-strong membership spans young and old.

This gallant association is just one of hundreds which will be gathering this weekend, as they do each year. They don’t ask for much, except respect and recognition.

Yesterday, in Edinburgh, they received neither. Instead, they all got a slap in the face.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-12717751/ROBERT-HARDMAN-Britain-disagree-poppy-belittle-sacrifice.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 ROBERT HARDMAN: In Britain we might disagree on whether to wear a poppy. But we DON’T belittle the sacrifice others made – until now, it seems

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