An elderly man, Daily Telegraph under his arm and in winter coat topped by silk scarf – not a keffiyeh …
… exits the store. With sardonic eye he takes in the gathering – we’re upwards of a hundred, I think – bearing placards and chanting the usual call-and-answers:
Free, free Palestine! … From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free! … What do we want? Ceasefire! … When do we want it? Now!
En route to his car he turns to face the bulk of the crowd, positioned across the drive-past from the main exit, and cups free hand to mouth:
Down with Hamas!
I’m standing alone a scant few yards distant, having stepped back to take a wide shot. Without thinking I shout at greater volume:
Up with Hamas!
I haven’t done that before – confining myself to a refusal to condemn it – so I’m surprised by my own reaction. Truth be told it’s more ego rising than thought out position.
All the same, and say what you like about Hamas, we would not be here – nor the apartheid terrorist state drawing the world’s contempt as never in its seventy-five years of existence – had its fighters not acted as they did on October 7, 2023.
No one can take that from them.
Minutes earlier the partner of a close friend had emerged from the self-same store, Waitrose on Ecclesall Road. I’d moved in for a close up by the door; we practically bumped into one another. I’m fond of her and my greeting was warm but hers struck me as guarded; face a little tense as she hurried away. Had I offended her somehow? It seemed unlikely, though political blogging’s an excellent way of pissing off pals without ever meaning to.
Then it struck me. This woman stands firmly with the good guys on this as on other issues. Was she embarrassed, walking out of Waitrose into our collective embrace? The thought made me smile. I’d got here a good half hour early, you see. I kid you not, I was heading myself into the store, with flat white in mind, before the irony and what spin doctors call “the optics” caught up with me.
Best not, I decided, and headed for the less convenient alternative of a coffee bar 400 metres away. Man, things get complicated – sometimes absurdly so – when political principles trickle down, through the filters of moral angst, to the warp and weft of daily existence.
Part of life’s rich tapestry I guess. But all the supermarkets are culpable. Guess where we went after making our point at Waitrose.
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