50 minus 3: Israel, Gaza and anti-Semitism in the UK

Posted: 14 August 2014 in politics, world
Tags: ,

I’m pretty sure no-one reading this can be unaware of what’s been going on in Israel and Gaza the past few weeks, or – to be fair – the past few years.

And something I’ve noticed, even more so than ever before is the astonishing levels of mendacity and venom in discussions; the passionate fury and nastiness has leaped out and smacked everyone around the face and relatively few seem to notice.

I’ve said before that criticism of Israel isn’t inherently anti-Semitic. Of course it isn’t, any more than criticism of how the UK behaves is inherently anti-British.

Indeed, there’s a wonderful, simply wonderful, post that’s been doing the rounds recently entitled How to Criticise Israel Without Being Anti-Semitic.

Read the piece; it’s superb. I’m not going to repeat its contents here except to make one point that comes up regularly, usually – funnily enough – from anti-Semites. “But Arabs are Semites too!” Don’t deny it, but “Anti-Semitic” has exclusively meant ‘Jew hatred’ for well over a century now. Let’s stick to anti-Semitism, rather than anti-Semanticism, eh?

So, yeah, criticism of an individual Israeli government, an individual Israeli government policy, an individual military action, hell, even a specific Israeli minister, soldier, or person isn’t inherently anti-Semitic. But sometimes, some would argue often, such criticism is a cover for pure, naked, unfettered anti-Semitism. And those that allow the latter to go by without comment because it’s criticism of Israel have no right to complain when they’re viewed by Jewish people as enabling anti-Semitism. (As a friend of mine said, attacking something Israel does is fine, but when they talk about the abolition or destruction of Israel, he smells ovens warming up. I couldn’t agree more.)

A few cartoons did the rounds this week. Let’s see whether they’re anti-Israel or just possibly anti-Semitic.

OK, now I think they’re fair comment; hard but absolutely attacking Israel (and the US), and not in any way anti-Semitic.

What about these?

Anti-Israel? Anti-Netanyahu? Yes. Anti-Semitic? Yes, of course they are; they rely upon classic anti-Semitic tropes, and the Netanyahu one plays upon the blood libel. Oh, and by the way, sticking “zionism” on an anti-Semitic image – say, the octopus with tentacles covering the earth, or a puppet master wearing a Star of David – doesn’t stop it being an anti-Semitic image. At all.

Now all the above cartoons are from outside the UK. As is the following banner carried at a ‘pro-Palestinian’ march in Paris:

By the way, I don’t doubt that many people marching and protesting, the vast overwhelming majority in fact, are doing so out of a genuine heartfelt empathy and sickened well-meaning motive; they’re not anti-Semitic in the least. But don’t try and tell me that such marches and protests don’t contain some unrepentant anti-Semites. Just don’t. Because they do.

In the UK? I’ve got a Star of David necklace; it was a 21st birthday present from my late grandparents. Self-designed, it’s something I like a lot, and the following pic is a fairly common sight.

Well, I say “is”; it’s more accurate to say “was”, since for the past few weeks, I’ve been ensuring that it’s kept hidden under my shirt. Not because I’m scared per se, more that it’s to avoid a shout-out to idiots wanting to have a pop at someone who identifies themselves as Jewish.

I did wonder whether I was just being daft and over-careful… until earlier this week when it slipped into view and I had to deal with some… aforementioned idiots, an unpleasant experience to put it mildly.

In Brighton? Well, this was what happened to Brighton synagogue:

And when it was publicised, the following two tweets appeared:

Perhaps even more horrible was what appeared on the door at Kingston synagogue, half a dozen miles from where I live:

“CHILD MURDERERS”. Bloody hell. Shades of the blood libel, indeed, especially when you consider that on Arab television, the libel is alive and kicking, with audiences being told that Israeli forces have been instructed by rabbis to harvest childrens’ blood.

Moving to the BBC and the Jeremy Bowen conspiracy that doesn’t exist. After a long time as a Middle East correspondent, the accusation that either he or the BBC was pro-Israeli would surprise many Israelis and indeed many Jewish people. However, Bowen’s last tweet from Gaza (after he’d written a piece for the New Statesman casting doubt on the Hamas use Human Shields’ story) was 22nd July. When asked about how come he wasn’t tweeting from Gaza, Bowen himself replied “Because I am on holiday.”

Didn’t take long for the conspiracy nuts to start spreading the following graphic on social media:

Fairly quickly the BBC denied the allegation, as did Lyce Doucet, one of Bowen’s colleagues. Didn’t matter, the story spread and two weeks’ later, despite lots of places, including The Independent, and even The Hollywood Reporter debunking it, the story continues.

Lots of people believe it, lots of people defend it by saying “prove he wasn’t”, the classic ‘prove a negative’. I felt like replying “he’s been abducted by aliens” and then challenging those who rebutted it with “well, prove he hasn’t been!”

It struck me – I suspect it struck anyone with experience in this – quickly that this was the classic “Jews control the media”; so I stuck up the following:

I didn’t think that was a particularly difficult thing to understand. But apparently not, whether it was the responses from someone who refers to Jews as “puppet masters”, someone else who called me – as well as everyone Jewish or in political office – a “Rothschild Zionist” or the following messages:

The same “gentleman” went for another trope when Ed Miliband came up…

I linked to the following yesterday; I’m doing it again here.

The Guardian’s editorial: On Gaza and the rise of anti-semitism

Owen Jones’ superb piece: Anti-Jewish hatred is rising; we must see it for what it is

And – behind the Times Paywall – Hugo Rifkind’s masterly piece: Suddenly, it feels uncomfortable to be a Jew

So, when Jewish people you know say they’re feeling uncomfortable in the UK for the first time in their life, when they suspect that some attacks on Israel are anti-Semitic in motive, when people start calling anti-Semitism to a comment or an article or a response, maybe, just maybe, for once… they’re right.

  1. Elayne Riggs says:

    See, to me this is a very chicken-and-egg thing. Does Israel’s heinous and repeated massacres of its Palestinian population perpetuate the current anti-Semitism elsewhere, or has it (like xenophobia of all stripes) always been simmering and just waiting for an excuse to come to the fore? Whatever the case, Israel’s barbaric and extremely disproportionate violence ain’t helping.

    • I’ve said elsewhere how although I usually back Israel, I can’t on this occasion. I think their current action is ill-conceived, foolish and just flat out wrong.

      That said, the anti-Semitism revealed thus far has little, I believe, to do with Israel’s military action; that just provides the excuse.

  2. west2012 says:

    C’mon, next article let’s dump on Isis. Hello?

  3. Not so sure about your first not really anti-Semitic cartoon. Isn’t they guy sitting controlling what’s going on,classically anti-Semitic?

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