Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Britain's Little Anti-Semitism Problem

Britain's Little Anti-Semitism Problem

by Douglas Murray


How bad must things get before people notice that their country has an anti-Semitism problem?

How bad must things get before people notice that their country has an anti-Semitism problem?

Three striking stories from recent days go some way to demonstrating that though Britain may not admit it, we have a problem.

Earlier this month the Israeli writer Caroline Glick came to London to take part in one of the Intelligence Squared debates. Intelligence Squared is a smart, up-market debating forum which attracts world-class speakers and a somewhat upper-echelon audience. The motion put before the audience on this occasion was: "Israel is destroying itself with its settlement policy. If settlement expansion continues Israel will have no future."

There are good places and reasons to debate Israeli settlement policy. But it is, to say the least, questionable to make the one Israel debate in a debate series a discussion proposing that it is settlements that threaten Israel's future. Rather than (plucking them off the top of my head) the promise of nuclear-bomb-owning Mullahs or say (admittedly old story) the seven-decade long refusal of any leading Palestinian to recognise the Jewish State? There is something obscene about presenting a debate in such terms. But debates need to be punchy and provocative. They also need to involve open minds. What Glick and the other Israeli guest on her side – Danny Dayan – had to witness was very far from a demonstration of that.

Glick rightly saw that the case for Israel needed to be made. But against her and Dayan were two young darlings of the London anti-Israel establishment. The undeservedly arrogant J-Street founder Daniel Levy enjoys a following in such London circles because of his father (Lord Levy)'s money. Meanwhile, the other member proposing the anti-Israel motion, William Sieghart, is a member of a prominent London family who did poorly in the family brains distribution and so has ended up promoting Hamas. Both are the sort of rich, privileged figures who mistake their own ignorance and stupidity for profundity with daring. Their careers are spent providing respectability to those who would erase the Jewish people.

Unfortunately, and predictably, the smart London audience sided overwhelmingly with the local idiots, heckling and shouting down points made by the visiting team. The hostility – heckling, booing and more – shown towards Glick and Dayan was unique and appalling. At the end the vote was 5 to 1 in favour of Levy and Sieghart.

In a searing response to what she had seen, Glick penned the article 'Bye-bye London', writing:

I can say without hesitation that I hope never to return to Britain. I actually don't see any point. Jews are targeted by massive anti-Semitism of both the social and physical varieties. Why would anyone Jewish want to live there?

Of course this is the sort of thing that is reacted to angrily by most British Jewish spokespeople. They claim such sentiments are "over-the-top," "unhelpful" or some other pseudo Foreign Office phrase.

Such panjandrums also point to the "successes" they have. These routinely include, for instance, the numbers of prominent politicians and "faith leaders" who take part in Holocaust Memorial Day events. Thus events around this year's Holocaust Memorial Day have been particularly instructive. Take the scandal which enveloped one Liberal Democrat MP in the days before this year's commemoration.

Until last week absolutely nobody had heard of David Ward MP. He is one of those one-man walking demonstrations of the need to have fewer MPs. But last week he became a minor figure when the ballsy "Commentator" website picked up on the fact that Ward had had a "Jihad-Jenny" moment. These are moments named after the disgraced Liberal Democrat peer, and former MP, Baroness Jenny "Boom" Tonge, whose track-record of slurs and libels against Jews and Israel mounted so significantly over many years, that finally even the Liberal Democrat party ended up saying she had gone too far.

Anyhow, in his "Jihad Jenny" moment, Mr. Ward was recorded saying:

Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.

Now Mr. Ward had a number of ways of explaining himself when a backlash against his comments got underway. But among them he explained that he had gone to Holocaust Memorial Day events in the past. Some people saw this as the anti-Semite's version of the old "some of my best friends are black" defense, famously made by racists caught on the back foot. It may, however, signify something else. Mr Ward was careful to stress that he had indeed taken something away from such events. And there is a serious problem: You may get someone to jump the low bar of attending a "commemoration" of the Holocaust. But they may still take from it – as Mr Ward clearly did – a profoundly anti-Jewish message. In a society that increasingly equates Jews with Nazis, it does not matter how many Holocaust "commemorations" someone has been pushed into going to. The culture has gone rancid.

The Sunday Times cartoon by Gerald Scarfe.
This was further demonstrated by the fact that this year on Holocaust Memorial Day itself, the Sunday Times of London – bastion of the moderate center of British politics – ran as its principal cartoon a characteristically witless "satire" by Gerald Scarfe. With the caption "Will cementing peace continue," the cartoon depicted a thuggish-looking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall made of bricks, blood and Palestinians. Perhaps Mr Scarfe attended the Intelligence Squared debate?
What these three things have in common is now unmistakeable -- as are the conclusions we must draw from them.

Jews will continue to live in Britain, and in the main, continue to live perfectly peaceful and pleasant lives. But there will be a price. And that price will be the volume of their support for Israel. For the "decent" mainstream has made a decision: Israelis are now what the Nazis were then. The Israelis are the easy target for needed outrage, the focal-center of pretended morality and the diversionary enemy in an era where the real problems seem too large to tackle.

Naturally there will be enough people to continue for a while to demand the odd complaint about this or that. They may manage to force a backtrack here and there. But these will be forced not because anybody has been persuaded of the complete wrong-headedness of what they have said – nor because they have realized the unbelievable wickedness and inaccuracy of their claims – but simply because the "timing" may have been inappropriate, or it should not have been said in this way, or on this or that day, or to these or those people. What all these events have in common is that they demonstrate that the friends of truth are losing. Any wins on these terms are skirmish wins in a war which has turned against the Jewish people.