Am I Nuts or Is An Education a Jew-Bashing Polemic?

Do I live in a parallel universe or am I the only person to find the British BBC feature film An Education anti-Semitic?

I appreciate the story is based on the true-life experiences of Observer journalist Lynn Barber and that her bestselling book of the same title is regarded as a classic tale of coming of age in 1960s Britain, but is it not also a relentless polemic about the seven deadly sins all wrapped up in a tawdry Jewish package? A close friend and colleague described it to me as “Der Sturmer wrapped in a sweet teen pic.”

What is fascinating is that many reviewers ignore the Jewish element and describe the film as a delightful teen tale that reminds the writers of their respective youth. GQ calls it “a sly and sexy treat” while the Sun deems it “gymslip love.” Still another, the Daily Mail, calls it “big in heart,” and Sky Movies calls it “a gem.” New York touches on the Jewish angle. Without a doubt it is a well-made, entertaining, and at times gripping story of a teenager, Jenny, caught up in a romance with a man, David, old enough to be her father and her liberal parents’ acceptance of this unconventional affair.

The script makes us aware at the outset that David is a Jew and Jenny’s parents accept his presence in her life even if he is one; this I found heartwarming considering the anti-Semitism underlying many elements of British society in the 1960s. (Indeed, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has described present-day Britain and Europe as being in a “tsunami of anti-Semitism.”) What I found disturbing was the progression of the Jewcentric story, which shows David engaging in despicable act after despicable act. He and his cohort Daniel smart-talk old ladies and then leave their homes having stolen expensive artwork; Jenny screams at him that this is stealing but he has no scruples. David the Jew tenancy agent, in a scene shot from a long distance but depicting a large Jamaican family being moved into a house by him as a distraught-looking homeowner gesticulates in protest, installs black tenants into properties he wants to purchase and accordingly forces the price down. (He takes after a rogue landlord in Britain at that time named Rachman, but if David is the only example of Jewish property speculators, that is a pity.) David is a wide-boy and bounder (this is Britspeak for lowlife confidence-trickster and peasant-class social climber); as Jenny’s parents manifest increasing awe, he forges a C.S. Lewis signature to the girl on a Narnia volume and boasts of his cultivated Oxbridge (Oxford-Cambridge) background, evidently another lie.

Jewish David is an all-around scumbag with absolutely no redeeming features who then does the ultimate misdeed by coaxing virgin Jenny into his bed. In the 1960s this was a pretty awful sin. At this point in her young life her fuming headmistress, played by Emma Thompson, berates Jenny for associating with a Jew. She reminds the teenage sinner that the Holocaust was tragic but that it does not excuse the requisite shunning of the Jew by good Englishfolk; after all, she says, they killed our savior. What I found puzzling about this aspect of the film is that it could so easily have been constructed as a view of social norms of the time but with a parallel view of a decent Jewish member of her community or of a girl from a Jewish family of the highest integrity befriending Jenny. No such thing: The film in a way vindicates the ranting headmistress’ anti-Semitic tirade. There is no Jew in the film except for this despicable man; his Jewishness-equals-criminal nature is regularly registered with the audience.

In the end, Jenny and her parents are in his expensive car to attend an engagement party -- he has given her a ring -- and she opens the glove compartment. In it is some mail addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. David Goldman.” She is mortified. Okay, the film does not show her parents saying, “Well, what do you expect from a Jewboy?” But her hurt and shock will mark her for life. Indeed, some reviewers describe the film as the “near-destruction” of an innocent young English lass’ life. She goes to his marital address to look from afar with hatred at his Semitic-looking wife and offspring.

From David’s appalling and arrogant friends to the vulgar venues to which he drags wee Jenny, this Jew is a 100% undesirable who poisons this gentile female’s mind and eventually her emotional life, undoubtedly for years to come. It is a true story but I lament the fact that Lynn Barber, growing up in a country that had been entrenched in institutional and social anti-Semitism since the time of the York massacre and 1290 expulsion, has to tell the world about her horrible Jew in this worldwide-distributed film scripted by Nick Hornby.

I write at great length, as do Phyllis Chesler, Melanie Phillips, Nidra Poller, and Bat Ye’or, about the rise of anti-Jewish feeling across the world and we have been promulgating our views for many years now. Israel goes to war and Jews around the world are attacked. The year 2009 saw the biggest spike in anti-Jewish attacks in the British Community Security Trust’s history. A film like An Education, which depicts Jews as only thieving, lying, vulgar, teen-seducing, and adulterous forgers and confidence-tricksters, is a dangerous polemic that will only fuel the fires of Jew-hatred around the globe.

Am I being paranoid? It is likely African-Americans feel as offended by Precious as I do about the Jew depicted in An Education. I invite Pajamas readers to conjecture.