Did you like the film Groundhog Day? Well, even if you didn’t you will know what I mean by a “Groundhog Day” sequence of events.
Two years ago I wrote in my diary about my anguish and hurt over the behavior of my fellow journalists at an NUJ (National Union of Journalists) magazine branch meeting. You may ask, “What is a good conservative lass doing hanging out with a trade union crowd?” Okay, I admit: I am a union member in Britain because I do think we workers need protection. In fact, that is why I think the NUJ exists, but every time I go to a meeting the obsession is not jobs or wages but — you guessed it — evil Israel!
I have not been feeling well from time to time and had to miss my branch meeting — known as a “chapel” (apologies to all you Christian Zionists out there) — on May 11 but received this email the following morning regarding events in Bloomsbury and then in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, May 16:
Last night’s monthly meeting of the NUJ London Magazine Branch passed motions committing the branch to send delegations on two demonstrations. …
Branch members will be meeting beside the branch banner outside the University of London Union in Malet Street, WC1, at 11:30 a.m. to join the first:
Remember Gaza — End the siege now!; Free Palestine — end Israeli occupation. …
End the arms trade! … The demonstration is called by: Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, British Muslim Initiative, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and Palestinian Forum in Britain.
In 2007 I sat down and wrote about the abject hatred displayed towards me at an NUJ meeting; I should explain and chronicle the British boycott saga for an American PJM readership.
This is not a sudden phenomenon. Professor Steven Rose, with his wife Hilary, in response to Israeli military actions in the terrorist-occupied territories, advocated the initiation of a boycott of Israeli academics in a widely disseminated letter to the Guardian newspaper on April 6, 2002. This caused a national stir and soon the boycott gained momentum and widespread support in British academia and beyond. Throughout the past seven years since the Rose letter they have become “regulars” in the British media. In 2009 boycotting Israel is a national passion.
In the summer of 2007 a group of some 150 British doctors and consultants signed a letter published on various Muslim websites condemning Israeli policies towards the Palestinians and demanding an end to cooperation with Israeli medical associations. In addition, the Royal Institute of British Architects and associated groups are discussing rekindling their previous attempt to boycott relationships with Israel. (The idea that Jewish architects in Israel are somehow complicit in immoral activity is bizarre.)
However, the boycott of greatest impact was tabled at the 2007 conference of the largest trade union of all in Britain, UNISON. Its proposed divestment was designed to affect Israeli pension funds. (Frankly, with the Russian oligarchs and Warren Buffett investing there, I am not too worried about Zionist cherries being spurned by irate English housewives in Suffolk.)
Long ago the Left in Britain admired Israel for its cooperative farming and embrace of socialist ideals. The same Britons who are now marching to condemn the Jewish state would have spent a year or so on kibbutz as teenagers. In the early days of Israel’s existence in the 1940s and 1950s, British trade unionists encouraged investment in Israel. In the intervening decades Israel has become an “expansionist” military power and is supported by the “Great Satan” America, which the fulminating Left in Britain sees today as a murderous torture factory. Gaza 2009 was the nail in the coffin for any rational discussion of Israel’s protracted fight for survival.
So, back to Groundhog Day: in retrospect I am glad I was unable to attend the May 11 meeting of the magazine branch of the NUJ. I would have had apoplexy. In 2007 the loathing of Israel and America was brought home to me at a particularly rancorous meeting of the union, which had called a special gathering to discuss the Israel boycott motion that had been passed on April 15 at their national delegates’ meeting. The hatred of me, of Israel, of Zionists, and of Holocaust remembrance will last a lifetime. Am I overreacting? Here is what happened:
I went along armed with a book by Hillel Halkin, Letters to an American Jewish Friend: A Zionist’s Polemic, written after the Yom Kippur War and chronicling daily life as a long-suffering reservist in Israel. I never had a chance to read from the book because the meeting degenerated into a series of furious diatribes by NUJ members.
Each member who spoke made sure to tell us that they had “been boycotting absolutely anything and everything from Israel for years and years,” and the editor of the union’s Journalist magazine spat out the comment I hear almost every day in London about rich American Zionists funding and driving Israel’s disgraceful policies. I was refused the floor when I wanted to correct the calumnies being articulated. Later I escaped to a nearby pub but the angry members piled in to continue their assault. One said, “You need to get the Holocaust out of your system and get that chip off your shoulder because slavery was a much worse genocide,” whilst yet another said, “Israel is plain thievery — you nicked their land in ’48 and Zionism is out-and-out racism.” This barely contained venom was something that left me paralyzed with — yes — fear. What is the difference between a tattooed BNP (neo-Nazi) member screaming at a Jew and these so-called anti-war activists? In fact, the BNP is more even in its analysis of the issues than the NUJ!
As so many Israel boycotters shrilly proclaim, criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism. They use as their protective shield the fact that many prominent Anglo-Jews, including rabbis, actors, academics, and scientists, deplore Israel’s policies to defend her shores. The purple-faced British journalists who lambasted me could barely contain their hatred not just of Israel but of everything I am.
There will, no doubt, be a good turnout at the May 16, 2009, rally in Trafalgar Square. But as thousands die and are made homeless in Sudan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe, why do non-Jews in Britain obsess, boycott, and march only about Israel? This is Groundhog Day.
Is it anti-Semitism? Your views, please.