The Veteran and the Youth

Lyndall Stein
30 December 2008

I was on my way to an exhibition and the sales yesterday - seeing the headlines on a poster about demonstrators at the Israeli Embassy, I changed my plans.  Only a small but furious crowd , no one I knew, no banner or posters identifying who anyone was, all united  by our righteous anger at the cruel and barbaric bombing of Gaza.

It is a strange and lonely place, to be of Jewish origin in such a situation, thinking of friends and family living in Israel, who also question the hubris and violence of their government. Difficult  also when one of the young men started shouting ‘Nazis!’, but he stopped when I quietly suggested that it was not a good slogan.
It is not difficult to understand his visceral rage and youthful urge to hurl the worst of all insults, and not difficult to understand why the boy wearing a combat jacket was clutching a home made catapult,  after the arrests and assaults the day before, it seemed best to just tell him to put  it away and warn him of possible trouble ahead from the police.

The media were out in force, they focussed on the young and angry , we the elderly and middle aged had gathered by now - alongside the miracle of London’s magical mixture ,veiled, unveiled old and young punky and respectable , Islamic men in long robes and an elderly Jewish man in a tweed hat who spoke with passion of the special responsibility that Jews carry - not to be merely spectators to barbarism and his urgent need to come and protest, he had a warm exchange with a young man by his side explaining why it was the Israeli State that must be condemned not the Israeli people.

It was bitterly cold but as I turned to leave I saw the amazing veteran Tony Benn, a retired British MP, who passionately opposed the dreadful war in Iraq, and has become a beacon of progressive thinking in the UK, at least 25 years older than me out at an edgy demonstration, in the freezing cold, an inspiring model for all of us -young and old.

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