Never has a silence been more telling.
As Boris Johnson pointed out during last week’s emergency debate on Vladimir Putin’s destruction of the Syrian city of Aleppo, the sound of raised voices and angry chants outside the Russian Embassy in London is conspicuous by its absence.
It is not as if the Stop the War Coalition — which, given its name, might seem well placed to organise protests against a regime that Amnesty International accuses of “egregious” war crimes and deliberately targeting civilians and aid workers — is unaware of where to find Putin’s men in London. They are round the corner from the Israeli Embassy, a building which Stop the War has no difficulty in locating.
So why the reticence? Wheeled out to explain its apparent indifference to what Andrew Mitchell, the former International Development Secretary, rightly termed a modern-day Guernica, Chris Nineham, a founder member and vice-chair of the organisation, said Stop the War did not wish to contribute to the “hysteria” being whipped up against Russia by politicians and the media.
Anyway, he went on, such a protest “wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference as to what Putin does because we are in Britain”.
That was not Mr Nineham’s attitude two years ago when he led the protests against Operation Protective Edge, and at the very moment Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was proclaiming his Islamic State caliphate, denounced Israel as “the main problem in the Middle East”.
Ever-keen to defend his old comrades, Seumas Milne — Jeremy Corbyn’s communications chief — reportedly suggested that the focus on Russia diverted “attention from other atrocities that are taking place” and argued protests outside the US Embassy would be just as valid as those against Russia.
He was rather ignoring the fact the Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates it is the Syrian regime and Putin’s forces who, together, are responsible for 95 per cent of civilian deaths in a war which has claimed more than 400,000 lives.
But the hard-left does not just struggle to apportion blame against the likes of Putin, it also has an uncanny knack of finding a way to work alleged Israeli culpability into stories unrelated to the Jewish state.
Its main media mouthpiece, the Morning Star, which has adopted an indulgent attitude towards the Assad regime, found it impossible to condemn the Nice massacre without referencing “Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian land and regular massacres of men, women and children”.
When 49 gay men and women were gunned down in an Orlando nightclub in June, the paper cou ld not resist, arguing not only “Western, Saudi and Israeli state terrorism feeds Islamist terrorism”, but also “nothing demonstrates Western hypocrisy, double standards and callousness more than the utter failure to secure national rights for the Palestinian people, even after 70 years of oppression”.
Behind all its double-talk and obfuscation lies a simple truth: beneath the thin veneer of opposition to war, the hard-left is driven by a hatred of the west so deep that it will align itself with any regime — no matter how brutal — which proclaims its independence from, or opposition to, it.
Occasionally, the mask slips: in 2012, Kamal Majid, a patron of Stop the War, described the Assad family as rulers with “a long history of resisting imperialism” who must be supported “because their defeat will pave the way for a pro-Western and pro-US regime”.
More frequently, however, it does not. When Mr Corbyn, its former chairman, addressed Stop the War’s 15th anniversary celebrations two weeks ago, he delivered a string of disingenuous and sanctimonious paeans to peace, human rights and democracy.
But — you guessed it — the words Russia, Putin or Assad never once crossed his lips.