A few days ago, a THM reader asked why no one here had written about Gaza*. I'd been thinking about it, but I was utterly discouraged by the insignificance - really, the uselessness - of my blogging efforts in the face of a horror which continues to unfold.
Last week, I spoke to some Muslim women, gathered with other protesters on Lambton Quay in a vigil to support Palestinians. They had set up a table of articles and information on Palestine; these featured pictures of young Palestinian men lined up against a wall by Israeli soldiers, as if to be executed. I asked the women, have you had much support? 'No', one of the women answered simply. I went away trying my darndest to suck back the tears that threatened to embarrass me in public.
The last time I felt so politically hopeless was in the weeks building up to the Iraq invasion. I marched, protested and signed petitions, as did millions around the world, in full knowledge that the decision had already been made - by a Texan nutter thrown into an important job by a malfunction of history.
In another odd moment of recent history (my personal history, not the world's), my family and I happened to meet Stephen Fry on New Year's Day. He was on Somes Island making a documentary about interesting endangered species, and the DOC worker accompanying him - my partner's nephew - introduced us. My partner and Mr Fry had a brief and friendly chat, to my partner's huge excitement.**
By coincidence, my partner had been reading about Stephen Fry a couple of days beforehand. He was researching Harold Pinter, the British playwright who died some weeks ago, and found that Pinter and Stephen Fry were both members of Independent Jewish Voices, a group of preeminent British Jews who oppose Israeli aggression in Palestine. The group formed in opposition to Jewish groups which indiscriminately support Israel's actions, no matter how belligerent or brutal. Pinter and Fry both won my respect for this - their stance was courageous, and I've no doubt it drew criticism and strained friendships.
My family's brief celebrity encounter has temporarily enhanced our street cred within our social circle. Yesterday, I had coffee with a friend who plied me for details. He then told me about a TV programme he'd seen while living in the UK, about Stephen Fry's lineage. Fry's mother was an immigrant to Britain and a Slovakian Jew - one of a small number in her family to survive World War Two. The others were killed in Auschwitz.
If there is anyone in the world from whom you could understand, if not condone, support for Israeli aggression, it is the relative of those who perished in the Holocaust. Terrible human suffering is no abstract thing for the family of Mr Fry - and in the face of it he has chosen to be not belligerent, but humane.
It gives you pause for thought, and even a little moment of hope.
* Julie has written since.
** The topic of the chat was that Lower Hutt is really quite a pleasant place to live. I've got a feeling Mr Fry will not remember it with the same excitement as we do.
NB John Minto is right - what we're seeing is Apartheid, and it's time the world got serious about it and put sanctions in place. Naomi Klein makes a good case for it here.