Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The new polite antisemitism David Aaronovitch


Sophie helpfully added a link to her website, where her recommended reading list turns out to include the Protocols and Mein Kampf.

...I attended a dinner at the Commons held to discuss “antisemitic discourse”, and comprising of a number of MPs, a gaggle of journalists — including two from the BBC — a writer or two and several folk from the community. The event was governed by a convention known as Chatham House Rules, whereby I can tell you what was said, but not who said it.

...The opening contribution... told us that, in his view, the memory of the Holocaust and “exterminatory” antisemitism acted to obscure the modern re-emergence of a different kind of anti-Jewish prejudice. This he described as “English”, a polite amalgam of imputing certain characteristics to Jews and denying the existence of Jew-hatred in others. Jewish traits typically include an unprecedented capacity to wield influence in their own interests, as suggested by Walt and Mearsheimer’s book (first published as an essay in the London Review of Books), the holding of dual loyalties, and the ability to take leading positions in society out of proportion to actual numbers.

Antisemitism denial consists of downplaying the outright prejudice against Jews shown by others. Examples might include suggesting that the Hamas Charter is somehow void, that the leader of Hizbollah didn’t quite mean the things about Jews that he is supposed to have said, and that President Ahmadinejad didn’t argue that Israel should be wiped off the map — despite the fact that this is the translation used by Iranian news agencies themselves.

Mr X pointed out that whilst old-fashioned antisemitism was once the province of the right, the new antisemitism tended to be a characteristic of the left.

...Then we got enmired in definitional stuff. Was one particular Guardian columnist ... invoking blood-libel imagery in a description of the IDF in Gaza? Heads were shaken, positions occupied. In fact, I was as sure he’d have said it about any army he didn’t like — Israeli, American or British — as that he wouldn’t have said it about the Russians, the Al Aqsa Brigades or the People’s Liberation Army.

...Mr X had crystallised what my own experience was telling me was happening. Not that the Jewish people were in any great danger of finding themselves in a British version of Belsen, or any physical peril beyond the occasional and sporadic. But that there is hard argumentative work to be done in pointing out that a soft antisemitism is waxing. In doing that work, however, there needs to be real mental discipline, or else the discussion will degenerate and Edward will escape.

All here


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