Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Left-Wing Anti-Semitism

The suppressed EU Report on anti-semitism is now available online, and it contains a couple of fascinating asides in the section devoted to the UK. Apparently "assaults on Jews since October 2000 “have often been sustained beating leading to hospitalisation, compared with the `roughing up` by neo-Nazis that more typically occurred before. The data of the CST show that an increasing number of incidents are “caused by Muslims or Palestinian sympathisers, whether or not they are Muslims”"

I certainly hadn't heard before about the Edinburgh Church with the mural depicting Roman and Israeli soldiers around the dead Christ. They killed Jesus ! Along with the Independent cartoon featuring a baby-eating Sharon, it looks as if the arguments against Jewry which were so convincing to our 12th-century forebears are back.

"Many British Jews are of the opinion that the press reporting on Israeli policy is spiced with a tone of animosity, “as to smell of anti-Semitism” as The Economist put it. In their opinion this is above all the case with the two quality papers, the Guardian and the Independent. "

"The Economist spoke of a “steady shift of sympathy away from Israel, especially on the left”."

Why, Oh Why ? I'm old enough to remember when a few months on a kibbutz was almost compulsory for a young leftie. And during the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars the jokes in England were, fairly or not, all at the expense of the Arabs ('five reverse gears and one forward in case of attack from behind'). What's happened ?

Now what follows is painted with a pretty broad brush, and takes no account of the many valid criticisms that can be made of the State of Israel. I'm looking not so much at the rights and wrongs as at motivations - and motivations differ. Once, some wanted to build strong unions and help their comrades - others - on the same political side - wanted to despoil plutocrats. Some wanted to build socialism - some wanted to kick fascists. Some love animals - others hate fox-hunters. Some support the rights of the Afghans and Iraqis to sovereignty, be that sovereignty manifested in a theocracy or dictatorship - others (a lot more) simply hate George Bush.

Those who hate the existing order will find allies where they can, and if those who personify the existing order dislike your new allies, so much more do you have in common.

Way back in homogenous 20s and 30s England, when the exotic (but relatively tiny) immigrant quarters of London, with their Jews, Russians, Letts and seafaring communities provided colour for a generation of crime and adventure writers, from Dorothy L Sayers to Dornford Yates, the Jews were about the most exotic 'other' that existed. And there was a fair amount of anti-semitism in the ruling class. It was natural for those opposed to the existing order to make common cause with them - and of course at that time Israel was only a dream. The Jews of Germany had literally nowhere to go - Baldwin's refugee appeal poster 'Get Them Out Before It Is Too Late' was tragically prophetic. Nigel Balchin's middlebrow novel 'The Fall Of the Sparrow' gives a picture of middle-class anti-Fascist action on the streets of 30s London.

A few things have happened since those days.

The Jews, for the first time in millennia, have a homeland.

White liberal guilt and self-loathing, belief in political Original Sin, has increased in inverse relation to belief in religious Original Sin. We are natural racists, polluters, misogynists, homophobes. We have sinned against our fellow man and our planet. And the greatest sinners are straight white males, subject to inspection and criticism of a sort which would be intolerable if applied to any other minority. The obverse of this is that members of other races are cut a good deal more slack than Whitey is. I chanted outside South Africa House with 25,000 others eighteen years ago. Where are the mobs waiting to sack the Zimbabwe Embassy ?

And now England has much more interesting 'others' - like the British Muslims. For those who hate 'stupid white men', use phrases like 'hideously white' to describe an organisation, or complain, as a recent Guardian piece did, that Poland is an unbelievably dull place due to its all-white population, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poses few dilemmas.

On one side, dark-skinned people with a strange religion, who blow things up and are very angry. On the other, white-skinned (they don't know what a Sephardic Jew is, never mind a Falasha), educated, Westernised people who read the Bible and have the only functioning democracy in the Middle East. No argument, really, is it ?

For what passes for the Left in the post-Soviet world, the Jews have outlived their usefulness.