On February 21, 130 delegates from 40 countries took part in a British government-backed conference of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA). On February 22 this coalition, also known as the London Conference on Combating Antisemitism, convened by a group whose majority was non-Jewish, issued a statement acknowledging that the scourge was at its highest level in recent memory.
Amongst the provisions of the declaration issued by the conference are the following:
We note the dramatic increase in recorded anti-Semitic hate crimes and attacks targeting Jewish persons and property, and Jewish religious, educational, and communal institutions.
We are alarmed at the resurrection of the old language of prejudice and its modern manifestations — in rhetoric and political action — against Jews, Jewish belief and practice, and the state of Israel.
Solutions offered are manifold, but those that stand out are these:
Governments should take appropriate and necessary action to prevent the broadcast of anti-Semitic programs on satellite television channels, and to apply pressure on the host broadcast nation to take action to prevent the transmission of anti-Semitic programs.
(It is believed this refers to Press TV, the London-based cable station sanctioned by the Iranian government and on whose programs I have appeared, locking horns with Lauren Booth, Peter Jay, and Ghayth Armanazi.)
Governments should train police, prosecutors, and judges comprehensively. The training is essential if perpetrators of anti-Semitic hate crime are to be successfully apprehended, prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced.
In this regard it is notable that the Community Security Trust of Great Britain reports that anti-Jewish incidents were at their highest levels in recent memory during the month of January 2009, and that anti-Muslim/Islamophobic incidents were fewer despite there being over two million Muslims and only 260,000 Jews in the United Kingdom.
In recent weeks my pork-eating, shellfish-fressing, Shabbas-violating self has begun to feel very, very angry about the obsession the world has developed about those nasty Jews occupying the land of the Palestinians. My fellow journalist Nick Cohen, of Anglo-Jewish ancestry but raised a Christian, says the vilification of Israel in the past few months has made him start to feel Jewish. Putting aside the horrible Bernie Madoff, the current level of Jew-hatred is getting out of proportion.
This much is fact: Israel’s military launched a formidable attack on Gaza that resulted in many fatalities. This was tragic and anyone who does not feel saddened by these events has a heart of stone. The BBC’s Panorama footage of English-language graffiti supposedly scrawled by Israeli soldiers on the walls of houses in Gaza made one wonder if the Beeb was trying to stir up unprecedented levels of anti-Israel sentiment in Britain, but the Operation Cast Lead campaign was no doubt a bloody one. But when Zimbabwe, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan have days of blood and gore, why is the world not calling for their censure? If the columnist Richard Ingrams thinks Israel is bound for extinction, what about the grotesque Robert Mugabe regime?
Here is my point: right now Britons and tourists from all around the world are flocking to West End shows in London and filling theaters presenting every imaginable work by Jew after Jew after Jew. Oliver, by the Jewish Lionel Bart, is packing them in at Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Chicago, by Kander and Ebb, continues to pack them in year after year. Jerry Herman, Harvey Fierstein … the list goes on and on. And so I will not soon forget the barely contained venom of the Scottish woman in the bar of the Royal Court Theatre on February 10 after the performance of Seven Jewish Children: she prayed that the United States would stop assisting Israel and therefore a rogue state would swiftly annihilate its six million Jewish inhabitants. Love Jews, love their musicals — but if six million fry in Israel, so be it.
Howard Jacobson in The Jewish Chronicle of February 20 makes a very interesting point; in fact, when some of us make such observations in our columns we are called “deranged,” “demented,” and “a liar” by a coterie of bloggers, so I feel vindicated reading the barely contained fury of Jacobson. He says that in his lifetime he has forever noted the contortions and rage that instantly well up when one is in polite company and “Israel” is mentioned. Like Jacobson, I would have to be blind and rather thick not to notice the anger that the word “Israel” invokes. If one articulates one’s views on the atrocities in Darfur or the starvation, murder, and cholera in Zimbabwe, a civilized discussion ensues. Not so with Israel — even before Gaza.
I visited a British prison in 2007 during a conference on faith and leadership. I had given one of the keynote speeches and was invited to a high-security facility to see how a Sunday was spent. My fellow lecturers and I met the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist clergy. The prison population was 998. One of the guests asked our host why we were not meeting the rabbi. He said, “There is no call for one — Jews do not commit violent crime.”
Well, if you see the movie Ushpizin you will discover that in Israel there are indeed prisons for violent Jewish men and women, but the Anglo-Jewish population seems to be exemplary. This applies to European, South African, South American, Australian, Canadian, and United States Jewry, too. The violence and brutality so constantly shown on British television committed by Israel, most recently in Gaza, with anguished and often emotional commentary by BBC, Sky, Channel Four, and ITN reporters (Julian Mannion’s trembling voice makes it all seem even more horrific), ignores the fact that the rest of the world’s Jews — like the peaceful and industrious six million led to extermination across Europe from 1937 to 1945 — are non-violent.
Elderly Jews who grew up in London’s East End, some of whom I interviewed for a film about wartime evacuees, will say that shouts of “Christ-killers!” were commonplace as they ran the gauntlet of hate just trying to get to school. My elderly South African friends tell me that in the 1920s and 30s, “Kill the Jew!” was the chant from the stands on the rare occasion a rugby player was a member of the tribe.
It is therefore fascinating to see what Howard Jacobson describes as the barely contained rage in the faces of otherwise sensible people when Israel comes into the equation. “You people invented terrorism” is one of the most common epithets heard in Hampstead chattering-class company when discussing the Jewish state, along with “You people drove the Arabs out, committed genocide, and are now committing apartheid.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Europeans, Britons, and, for that matter, Americans who rant about Israeli racism and military might should look to their own history. In Britain’s case it is particularly intriguing: I have heard sermons in churches since the 2000 al-Aqsa Intifada in which clergy have compared the death of Jesus to the death of Palestinians. “Jews killed Christ = Jews are killing his descendants” was the message from one curate on New Year’s Day 2001, in the same week in which Faisal Bodi wrote in the Guardian: “Israel simply has no right to exist.”
So, let’s get to the tachlis (Yiddish for guts) of this discourse: Jews feel they have made enough of a positive contribution to the world to be left in peace after a segment of the Christian world, led by Adolf Eichmann, tried to exterminate them from the earth. What is so interesting about those plans was that there was no Israel to blame for the “misbehavior” of Jews: up to the time of the Holocaust they were “Christ-killers, moneylenders, and lascivious, long-nosed crooks.” In reality 99.9% of Jews in the world of 1938 were law-abiding musicians, lawyers, teachers, doctors, architects, accountants, sculptors, painters, chefs, rabbis, and every other profession known to civilized man and womankind. In 2009 Jews, including the souls who are the lucky progeny of those who survived the Holocaust, are still musicians, lawyers, teachers, doctors, architects, accountants, scientists, sculptors, painters, chefs, rabbis, and every other profession known to civilized man and womankind. The difference is that this small, hugely Nobel Prize-winning creed now has a wee country in which there are Jewish soldiers, pilots, police, firefighters, sailors, and burly bouncers who occasionally get tough because they are constantly being attacked by the millions of people in the gigantic, somewhat backward surrounding countries.
It is commendable that the London Conference on Combating Antisemitism devoted many days to formulating a major manifesto. Whether it will be put into practice remains to be seen. All one has to do is look at the popular website of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPACUK) to realize that page after page of venom against “Zionists” — this includes non-Jewish Britons who happen to support Israel’s aspirations to live in peace and not be threatened with bombs and rockets — only encourages impressionable young people to go out and hate Jews wherever they may find them.
Jewish students in Britain are finding life increasingly intolerable. I attended a lecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies on February 23 and the Jewish professor said he had laid on two extra sessions in order to stand up to the forces that had been attempting to quash his entire lecture series altogether. One does not hold out much hope for Anglo-Jewry, outnumbered ten to one by an increasingly hostile Muslim population and, according to the conference, an increasingly vocal white population.
Think Howard Jacobson and I are deranged? Go to : http://www.mpacuk.org.