Recently I spoke at a British school conference on world terrorism in the suburb of Bushey. In the current climate of worldwide Israel-hatred and America-bashing, it registered as a rather frightening experience.
At the evening opening of the conference, I was in the audience. Outspoken Muslim activist Inayat Bunglawala, who once wrote to the Jewish Chronicle that the creation of Israel was one of the great mistakes of the past century, was one of the speakers. On this occasion he railed against the Jewish state and the U.S., as did pockets of audience members sitting near me. He made it appear that America had been attacking Muslim cities, hence the 9/11 al-Qaeda attack.
I was jumping out of my skin. He spoke a stream of inaccuracies in front of this large, mostly young audience; many of them were toddlers when 9/11 took place and have no historical perspective about the decades of radical Islamic terror that culminated in the attacks of September 11, 2001. I wagered that if I had said “Klinghoffer” to the crowd, they would have laughed.
There were several Israelis and Jewish students in the front row who got into a shouting match with the jihadists sitting near them, and the front rows engaged in a kind of verbal mini-pogrom. Every manner of invective was promulgated, including from one audience member the mantra that “a bunch of Ukrainian and Russian Jews converged on Palestine after the war who stole the land.” Two parents — with their progeny present — constantly chanted phrases about the “barbaric Israelis” and “American murderers.” I glared at them, but they just carried on.
At the end, three young Muslim men came over to me, one of whom I had challenged about a comment he had made from the floor about America and its “25% of oil consumption.” They shouted at me that Jews ran the U.S., were responsible for the lack of climate change legislation, manipulate the commodity market, and everything else.
The woman sitting next to me took me back to my hotel. She, a Hindu, and I agreed this was an eye-opener, as the 250 member audience — mostly children as young as 12 — was obviously filled with a near physical rage against Israel and the United States.
The next day, I gave my speech to a large audience of students from five local schools. From the platform I could see there were many youngsters wishing to express their identity with headscarves and keffiyeh-style neck scarves. I made the point that I was horrified that youngsters with sponge-like brains had been fed so many untruths the night before. As soon as the question-and-answer session got underway, a woman in a burka shouted at me from the back of the room: the world is in a perilous state because of the “stupidity, arrogance, and pigheadedness of the United States.”
The audience erupted. I thought they might storm the platform.