No Space for a Jewish Narrative

Much has been written about contemporary anti-Semitism in Britain, often fuelled by apocalyptic comment from outside the British Isles. Internet bloggers recall the 1930s while emailers plead with British Jews to save themselves before it is too late. Yet there are no pogroms on the high street, no concentration camps in the parks, no crematoria in the shires.Is there a new anti-Semitism? The new reality for British Jews is still evolving – and it is very different from the one depicted by the searchers after anti-Semites.

The second intifada has led the far Left and the Islamists to hitch the Israel-Palestine conflict to their political bandwagon. They have capitalized on widespread resentment over Britain going to war in Iraq. Their greatest success has been gaining access to the mainstream media and occupying the place of the rational Left.

If the broad Left accepts a two-state solution, the far Left believes in a “no-state” solution. Its rewriting of history is not simply an academic reinterpretation of the past but a calculated attempt to delegitimize Israel. And what begins with the delegitimization of the state ends with the delegitimization of the people.

According to recent research a majority of British Jews perceive Zionism as part of their identity. It has little to do with emigration to Israel, it is more an identification with the state. When criticism moves beyond legitimate boundaries Jews perceive this to be an attack upon themselves.

The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, is a master of outlandish insensitivity which many Jews believe is deliberately designed to provoke and antagonize. On one level he preaches tolerance and communal harmony for all. On another level, he violates this.

Livingstone’s forte is to speak in the superficial language of the cliche and the sound-bite. Such populism transmits well to the London electorate and to the far Left. He attempted to do the same in a recent letter about 1948 to the Jewish press. Yet for anyone with knowledge his comments were hopelessly inaccurate and superficial. He even quoted from the books of Benny Morris, hoping to bolster his position – until Morris denounced him for misrepresenting his views with selective sentences.

The recent bombings by home-grown jihadists have seen a determined effort by the far Left to pinpoint British involvement in Iraq as the sole and primary cause of the atrocities. As if Britain would not have been deemed part of the “Zionist Crusader” axis had it remained neutral in the Iraq imbroglio.

Once more, it’s blaming the victims. If this can take place after an event on the scale of the London bombings – and many people are prepared to listen to the “blame the victim” refrain – why cannot British “Zionists” be blamed for the intractability of the Israel-Palestine conflict further along the road?

The Guardian has been leading the charge for the “we had it coming” adherents. One senior editor commented: “The first piece of disinformation long peddled by champions of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is that al-Qaida and its supporters have no demands that could possibly be met or negotiated over; that they are really motivated by a hatred of Western freedoms and way of life; and that their Islamist ideology aims at global domination.”

Such twisted analyses offend the rational Left, yet this is another example of how far Left views are paraded as fair comment in the British media.

Many Jews who think seriously about the Israel- Palestine conflict have been similarly disturbed by the deterioration of the Guardian’s op-ed coverage. It is no coincidence that there has, simultaneously, been a proliferation of left-wing bloggers critical of The Guardian. Many cannot understand the alliance between groups such as the Socialist Workers’ Party and the Islamists in Britain. After all, the latter do not argue from the basis of class struggle and the overthrow of capitalism.

Part of the answer is blanket support for anti- imperialist struggles and national liberation movements, no matter how reactionary. This is why the London bombers earned criticism from the British far Left for their incorrect approach, while the actions of Hamas should be “understood” as part of “the mass resistance of the people.” Livingstone and his Islamist allies accept this “London bad, Tel Aviv understandable” stand.

A Guardian cub reporter was recently given the opportunity to air his views on Britain’s “responsibility” for the bombing of its own capital. Defining himself as “a Yorkshire lad, born and bred,” it transpired that he had been a member of Hizb Ut Tahrir, known for its rabid anti- Semitism and all-round extremism. Before joining The Guardian he had written: “We will have to run an Islamic state which must lead the world, economically, militarily and politically,” and “the establishment of Khilafah [an Islamic state] is our only solution, to fight fire with fire, the state of Israel versus the Khilafah State.”

An unusually reticent Guardian declared that the organization is legal in Britain (so apparently is the Ku Klux Klan) and that it is keeping the matter under review. The Guardian will probably prefer to weather the storm and keep the reporter rather than risk earning opprobrium for his dismissal, or disciplining the senior editor who commissioned the piece.

Such a distortion of values does not bode well for a shrinking Jewish community. Neither will it enhance Muslim- Jewish relations. The pattern is not classical anti- Semitism, more that there is no space for a Jewish narrative. It is a step towards the marginalization of British Jews. It looks uncomfortably as if the Jews are being involuntarily returned to their historic position in European society, in other words – to the Jews as individuals, everything; to the Jews as a nation, nothing.

No doubt there will be Jews, wishing to transcend their Jewishness, who will help the process along. If the far Left-Islamist alliance prospers, this is how history could repeat itself: Not state persecution, but confinement to the political shtetl.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Jerusalem Post 24 July 2005

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