Sunday, September 10, 2006

ANTISEMITISM IN THE UK

Up to my ears in stuff to do and sadly writing Blogger posts comes somewhere towards the lower end of the list. Things are likely to be this way for a couple of weeks, so bear with me while I try to do my best to convince the Earth to rotate a little slower. I'll happily consider alternative approaches for squeezing more than 24 hours out of a day - to be honest I'm not having too much luck with my current tactic.

More for my own benefit than anyone else's, here's a round-up of the report from the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism in the UK (with several hat tips to Malachi).

For those without the time to spend perusing all 59 pages, the nice people at Engage have kindly summarised the whole thing over here.

(If you want the Full Monty, it's here, but it might take a little while for dial-uppers to download - you have been warned.)

In between all of last week's in-fighting, the PM's office issued the following statement on September 7th:
We condemn racism including anti-semitism in all its forms.

We believe the Government has a strong record in combating hate crime including anti-semitism and we will continue to work with the Jewish Community to address the issue.

We have co-operated in full with the cross party enquiry and we welcome publication of their report which we will give proper consideration before providing a more detailed response.
All very well and good. Let's see what that amounts to. Perhaps being a little harsher on Party members inviting extremists over for tea?

Norm has links to a fair bit of print coverage, so I'll point you in his direction rather than paste any more links than I have (not that I've ever mucked up my links, *ahem*).

For a short time you'll be able to hear a couple of debates on Radio 4's Today Programme that followed the report's publication: one between Steven Rose and Shalom Lappin, the other between Inayat Bunglawala and Iain Duncan Smith (RealPlayer required).

Norm has an interesting take on Steven Rose's stance in the first debate:
Rose agrees that it [antisemitism] is increasing. However, with only a few minutes to say his piece on the subject, how does he focus the responsibility for it? Not on those who attack Jews or hold prejudicial attitudes towards them. No, on the actions of the Israeli government; and then, when challenged by Humphrys with the observation that the government of Israel is not the same thing as Jewish people at large, on the 'Israel lobby' - who treat Judaism and Zionism, he says, Judaism and support for Israel, as identical, thereby making 'a rod for their own backs'.

Leave aside the elision there from the 'Israel lobby' to all those people on the receiving end of anti-Jewish hostility - like schoolchildren in Manchester. But if there's growing anti-Semitism it's due to a confusion perpetrated by Jews (those who don't agree with Steven Rose's views on Israel). On the resurgence of an age-old form of hatred, not one single word about any other source of it, and not one word of criticism or blame for anybody other than Jews. It's poisonous stuff.

How does an educated man come to be able to speak publicly like this? I can't pretend to know the answer, having no personal acquaintance with him. But here's a hypothesis. The clue could just lie in his reference to members of the aforesaid 'Israel lobby' attacking him as a 'self-hating Jew'. It's not a category I've ever been fond of or found useful, but that's by the by. What the remark suggests is that Rose might think the question concerning a rise in anti-Semitism is about him: about the arguments he's had and what's been said against him. It's a strikingly repellent kind of self-love, in fact, to go on radio to talk about a rather pressing problem, one that affects the lives and the sense of security of many people, and be unable to see that problem except through the lens of your own positioning in a nexus of argument and counter-argument.
David Hirsh also takes issue with Rose's comments:
Rose himself conflates "Israel Lobby" with "Jews" by arguing that "they" build a rod for thier own backs. The "Lobby" builds the rod but it is Jews in general ("their own backs") that get hit by it. So the "Lobby" has already become, in the way that Rose uses the term, a code-word for of Jews-in-general.

Rose does not think it important to discuss who is doing the hitting with this rod that "the lobby" has built for "their own backs". He is not interested in the responsibility of antisemites for antisemitism, or in the responsibility of Jews for opposing and confronting the antisemites.
Quite.

Of course, this kind of thinking wasn't restricted to one dodgy academic on the Today Programme: the usual places were full of similar arguments.

He writes:
What we did is what Parliament exists to do. We examined a problem. We heard witnesses. We read submissions. One MP, the West Midlands Labour MP, Bruce George told one witness : "You are describing a Britain that my constituents do not know exists."

Precisely. There is a tiny slice of Britain - less than a quarter of a per cent of the population - who feel the quality of their lives, their right to their religion, their sense of history, the causes they support is being denied to them because they were born Jews, not Catholics, or Anglicans, or Muslims or Hindus.

I understand all the anger that people may feel about what happens overseas. Many hate America. But we do not throw bricks through schools for Americans in London or seek to desecrate the graves of Americans in Britain. My constituents of Kashmiri origin feel passionately about the behaviour of India in Kashmir. But this does not lead them to attack British Indians, or jostle a British Indian citizen who wears the marks of faith or community.
And yet, despite his plea:
I know what the comments below this short blog will be before they are posted. Can I just respectfully ask Cif readers to hold back a while and read our report.
it took less than an hour before someone with their finger on the pulse managed to completely misinterpret the report, remarking:
Looks to me worryingly like part of a campaign to make any criticism of Zionism or Israel a crime.
Regular commenter Berchmans wrote the following classic:
The present outbreak of anti semitism is a direct result of Israel slaughtering the Lebanese and the frustration caused by the refusal of the Jewish community to be at the forefront of condemnation of this.
This kind of thinking has become all too common, as the report points out.

Firstly, it should be noted that the same commenter has in the past (rightly) taken the position that British Muslims should not be held accountable for actions perpetrated by extremists in the name of their religion. Quite why the same should not hold for British Jews is not made clear. There are a couple of possible explanations for this kind of woolly thinking, neither of which are particular pleasant.

His qualifier later in the thread gives us a hint:
ISRAEL is the cause of the present wave of ANTISEMITISM.
If only he were in a minority of one on those boards. Kudos to those who have the time to spend addressing such prejudice on Cif on a regular basis - it must get rather tiring having to take on the same arguments day after day after day.

Internet polls tend not to be the most accurate devices known to man, so it's probably best not to read too much into the results of a poll from the BBC's Jeremy Vine show, but here they are anyway:
Do You Think Anti-Semitism Is On The Rise In Britain?
  • Yes 17%

  • No 83%
Total votes: 1455
Phew - that's all right then.

The final word goes to Hak:
The committee seems to have overlooked the 'fact' that it's Jews who 'cause' anti-Semitism. I heard an example of this form of 'analysis' from the lips of a journalist in the newsroom of a large public broadcaster:
You're asking for it really. If you didn't have security guards outside your schools and synagogues - like you think you're special or something - you wouldn't get attacked.
This admixture of 'classic' anti-Semitism with tall poppy syndrome - the idea that Jews have 'tickets on themselves' - may constitute an entirely Australian variant of the oldest hatred.
Presumably the aforementioned journalist is now out of a job. After all, we know who runs the media, right?

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