Saturday, 17 October 2015

Antisemitism redux


I think it's known as 'othering' - the process of making a group of people so different as to be unacceptable in society. It is, and always has been, something of a problem. Especially when that exclusion is on the basis of a characteristic a person can't do anything to change (ethnicity and gender are the two obvious examples here). In recent times, in part driven by events in Palestine, we have seen this 'othering' process applied to Jews. The return of anti-semitism.

For those who, like me, aren't Jewish, the problem seems small. The antics of a few idiots with unpleasant (often described as right wing views) wasn't the big deal since we could pretty much avoid these people. But then you find that it simply isn't like that. It's not a minority sport this anti-semitism, it is pretty much mainstream. Not among us right wing folk but in the polite conversation of the intelligent left.

And so my wife and I lose our moorings. We are of the Left, but are no longer welcome, unless we become “good Jews” who are not “bad, Zionist Jews”. We worry about our son. He will be confronted by Israeli Apartheid Week when he arrives on a University campus in a few years. If he is a Jew who believes that Israel has a right to be, he will be hated by many on the student Left. My son is an enthusiastic, articulate and kind boy. The realisation that he will be hated by those who will not see any of these attributes, but instead will see only one attribute – his Jewishness – chills me.

See that term 'good Jews' - those Jews who are 'anti-Israel' or 'anti-Zionist'. For a Jew to be acceptable in the salons of the left, he has to reject the idea that Jewish people have the right to self-determination, the right to a home. As the writer of that quotation observed, many of the promoters of anti-Jew violence are no longer sad worshippers of Adolf Hitler but radical and extremist Islamist organisations linked to the long conflict in Palestine. And the left wing folk who have long supported Palestinian rights now find themselves associating with people who are, without any question or doubt, anti-semitic.

'The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: 'O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.'

How can an organisation committed to the extermination of Jews be called friends? Yet this - and much else besides (including reference to the anti-semitic libel 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion') is in the founding charter of Hamas. Somehow we are supposed to push aside this advocacy of genocide, this violent anti-semitism, in the cause of Palestinian nationhood. Indeed, so long as so many of the Palestine's leaders reject any solution other than a 'one nation' solution - from the river to the sea, as it's put by those Palestinian advocates - it's hard to see it as anything other than anti-semitism.

The left's problem isn't that there are no grounds for criticising Israel and Israel's government but that this criticism has blinded them to the anti-semitism of Hamas and other representatives of Palestinian nationhood. Above all those on the left feel able to condemn Israel but unable to see the dark side of Palestinian liberation:

If calls from those on the Left in the UK for the obliteration of Israel and its replacement by an Islamic Palestinian state and the sheer violence and blood lust in some comments were not surreal and disturbing enough, my wife and I have noticed something else. Silence. From friends on Facebook when my wife posts anything that acknowledges the very existence of Israel or the random horror that is being enacted on its streets.

In the last year, the number of anti-semitic incidents in the UK reached record levels - 1,168 incidents against Britain’s Jewish population in 2014, more than double that of the previous year and the rate hasn't slackened off. Yet beyond the ritual mouthing of concern, the left fails to realise that it's indulgence of anti-semitic organisations and the language of anti-zionism has played a part in this increase. It shouldn't be like this and doesn't have to be like this:

The Bradford Council for Mosques recently began working together with the local authority to raise funds for the Bradford Synagogue, to ensure the building remains a sacred space for future generations, the Telegraph reported on March 5.

“When the chair of the Bradford synagogue approached the Muslim community for help and assistance towards the maintenance of this building, it was a challenge which didn’t take us long to decide on,” Zulfi Karim, secretary of Bradford Council for Mosques, said.

So my friends, give some hope to Saul Freeman and his wife. Call out anti-semitism just as you would other forms of hatred. And say to your friends in the Palestinian movement that the first step they need to take is to accept Israel's right to be there and to take a lesson from fellow muslims in Bradford on how to respect Jewish people and the Jewish faith.



Steve Manthorp said...

I agree Simon, but there's a vital quid pro quo: Israeli Jews must also recognise the rights of Palestinians to live, conduct business and thrive in their own land.

asquith said...

Except, Steve Manthorp, Arabs in Israel (Israeli and Palestinian alike) already have a far better life than that of any racial or religious minority in that region. They are being singled out and we're entitled to ask why.

I once confronted some white, middle-class foes of "Zionism" by pointing out that the boycott of Israel they wanted, not only would it not be complete (boycotting a shop is easier than boycotting all that scientific and medical research!) the inevitable consequences would be mass unemployment, a worsening of living standards for working-class people, mostly Arabs.

I asked these smugly middle-class people whether they even cared that Arabs would be the ones who suffered for their radical conscience. Unsurprisingly, they failed to convince me of it.

The answer to this, as in all cases, is less nationalism, less sectarianism and less religious controversy. You've got a situation where even basic historical facts are disputed and they won't get together to hammer it out because Jews and Muslims have got unquestionable sacred texts that disagree.

Nationalism, I have decided, is a baleful force on the earth. So many people who had been oppressed, after their "liberation", become even worse oppressors themselves. And the hilariously named "Free Palestine" would be just this.

I think the onus on all governments in that region is to promote multi-ethnic and multi-confessional activities, in cultural events and so forth, and even go as far as Singapore, where there's far less ethnic tension than you might have thought, where mixed marriages are common and the largest ethnic group is not permitted to lord it over less powerful groups. And simply doing things like eating and drinking together, in which I half-seriously commend you this: