By Melanie Phillips
British Jews who care about this sort of thing have had the disturbing experience of observing not one but three examples of public, home-grown anti-Jewish bigotry over the past few days.
First off the block was the former labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who in an article in the Independent repeated not only his inexplicable belief that his idol, Iran’s President Rouhani, was ushering in a new world order of peace and harmony, but also that the benighted Israelis were buying up Washington in order to frustrate this nirvana (I paraphrase, but you get the general idea).
The idea that there is something sinister about Israel’s desperate attempt to prevent Iran from hoodwinking the west to achieve nuclear breakout is, of course, as perverse as it is offensive. But the suggestion that Israel pays American lawmakers to take their marching orders from Jerusalem repeats the ancient libel of covert and malign Jewish power, expressed by Straw even more clearly last year when he claimed that ‘unlimited Jewish funds’ were being used to ‘control and divert’ US policy in the Middle East.
Now look also at this cartoon in the current Economist, spotted by the Commentator,which represents Obama being prevented from reaching out to Iran by his shackles to a shield depicting the American eagle framed by Stars of David among the stars of the union. The Economist is thus repeating the malicious lie that the Jews control America.
And now look at what Labour MP Grahame Morris tweeted, apparently with reference to an Israeli flag visible at what looks like some kind of demonstration:
‘Nazis in my village do you see the flag they fly’
thus corresponding to the European Forum on Anti-Semitism’s Working Definitionwhich states that ‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’ is a form of antisemitism.
The real problem here is not the existence of Jew-haters and Israel-bashers. It is the silence of everyone in a prominent position in the face of such vileness. As far as I can see, no politician from any political party slapped Straw down when he first talked about Jewish control of Washington, nor over his Independent article. No figure of authority, no mainstream newspaper has condemned Morris or the Economist – or if they have, it has been so sotto voce as to be inaudible.
Such audible silence suggests an absence of those who think there is anything beyond the pale in claiming sinister Jewish power, or likening Israel to the Nazis. It suggests a terrifying cultural shift: that Jew-hatred and Israel-bashing have now become acceptable and unremarkable contributions to legitimate national debate. It makes a whole society complicit in perpetrating such evil. That is what is so devastating.
This evil is not just the perpetration of outright bigotry by a few grievously misled or prejudiced folk. Examples now seem to occur almost every week in Britain. It is a positively deranged, obsessive, semi-hysterical general discourse about Israel and the Jews which is utterly irrational, indeed impervious to reason and evidence. It is …read more