October 12, 2005


Anti-semitism: If you challenge liberal orthodoxy, your argument cannot be debated on its merits. You have to be in the pay of global media moguls. You have to be a Jew. (Nick Cohen, October 7th, 2005, New Statesman)

On the Saturday of the great anti-war demonstration of 2003, I watched one million people march through London, then sat down to write for the Observer. I pointed out that the march organisers represented a merger of far left and far right: Islamic fundamentalists shoulder to shoulder with George Galloway, the Socialist Workers Party and every other creepy admirer of totalitarianism this side of North Korea. Be careful, I said. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq has spewed out predatory armies and corpses for decades. If you’re going to advocate a policy that would keep a fascist dictator in power, you should at least talk to his victims, whose number included socialists, communists and liberals - good people, rather like you.

Next day I looked at my e-mails. There were rather a lot of them. The first was a fan letter from Ann Leslie, the Daily Mail’s chief foreign correspondent, who had seen the barbarism of Ba’athism close up. Her cheery note ended with a warning: “You’re not going to believe the anti-Semitism that is about to hit you.” “Don’t be silly, Ann,” I replied. “There’s no racism on the left.” I worked my way through the rest of the e-mails. I couldn’t believe the anti-Semitism that hit me.

I learned it was one thing being called “Cohen” if you went along with liberal orthodoxy, quite another when you pointed out liberal betrayals. Your argument could not be debated on its merits. There had to be a malign motive. You had to support Ariel Sharon. You had to be in the pay of “international” media moguls or neoconservatives. You had to have bad blood. You had to be a Jew. [...]

I experienced what many blacks and Asians had told me: you can never tell. Where people stand on the political spectrum says nothing about their visceral beliefs. I found the far left wasn’t confined to the chilling Socialist Workers Party but contained many scrupulous people it was a pleasure to meet and an education to debate. Meanwhile, the centre was nowhere near as moderate as it liked to think. One minute I would be talking to a BBC reporter or liberal academic and think him a civilised man; the next, he would be screaming about the Jews.

Politicians I’d admired astonished me: Tam Dalyell explained British foreign policy as a Jewish conspiracy; Ken Livingstone embraced a Muslim cleric who favoured the blowing up of Israeli women and children, along with wife-beating and the murder of homosexuals and apostates.

I could go on. The moment when bewilderment settled into a steady scorn, however, was when the Guardian ran a web debate entitled: “David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen are enough to make a good man anti-Semitic”.

At the point where you're admitting having admired such people, you're the one who ought to be doing the soul-searching.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 12, 2005 4:43 PM

Theres no racism on the left. Naif.

Posted by: Luciferous at October 12, 2005 4:56 PM

This poor silly fool Nick Cohen seems to be groping around in the dark for the answer, but in fact his eyes are closed. He just can't seem to grasp the nettle that the left and the Islamists are variants of the same thing, the drive to control others and to rule society and the menials beneath you, the Orwellian boot stamping on a human face forever. Cohen keeps trying to say that socialists and communists are good, because he just can't let go of his love affair with the left. (Witness how he uses "far right" as shorthand for anti-Semitism, and wonders how it showed up on the virtuous left.) Some people just can't bear to face the obvious thing right in front of them.

Posted by: Lisa at October 12, 2005 5:35 PM

Some people just can't bear to face the obvious thing right in front of them.

Change "some" to "most", and that explains most of human history.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 12, 2005 6:07 PM

"(Witness how he uses "far right" as shorthand for anti-Semitism, and wonders how it showed up on the virtuous left.)"

Well, in the UK, ranting about Jews was a regular BNP\National Front talking point.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 12, 2005 6:18 PM

"Witness how he uses 'far right' as shorthand for anti-Semitism, and wonders how it showed up on the virtuous left."

Should we give Nick a copy of John Lukacs' The Hitler of History, which explains that Hitler was a product of the left, or David Ramsay Steele's "The Mystery of Fascism", which discusses the Marxist roots of fascism, and watch his head implode in response?

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at October 12, 2005 6:19 PM

Sept. 11 and it'simmediate aftermath caused many American liberals to wake up, take a look around at some of the assumptions they had made about the world out there ... and then after the memory had faded a little, to immediately go back to sleep, because the conclusions they found after the WTC was destroyed conflicted with the fastest path to their sought-after domestic goals.

Cohen's now in a similar situation -- the reaction to his original story has woken him up to the realities of the far left when it comes to who they will align themselves with and where their priorities are. We'll see if this revelation takes hold with him, or if in the future he just tries to ignore the facts because it's too painful to change his long-held world views.

Posted by: John at October 12, 2005 7:16 PM

They're after Jews now; we know they'll be coming for us at the end.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 12, 2005 11:10 PM

What a tortured polemic that was.

Posted by: Paul Cella at October 13, 2005 10:35 AM

Well, Paul, it is kinda hard to write with all those knives in the back. Tends to tighten up the muscles in the shoulder.

Posted by: Mikey at October 13, 2005 1:32 PM