April 1, 2009

ENGLISH?:

Pox Britannica: English anti-Semitism on the march. (Howard Jacobson, 4/15/09, The New Republic)

Twenty years on, it is difficult to imagine Nathan Zuckerman lasting eight days in England, let alone eight weeks. There is something in the air here, something you can smell, but also, in a number of cases, something more immediately affronting to Jews. It is important not to exaggerate. Most English Jews walk safely through their streets, express themselves freely, enjoy the friendship of non-Jews, and feel no less confidently a part of English life than they ever have. Organizations monitoring anti-Jewish incidents in England have reported a dramatic increase after Gaza: the daubing of slogans such as "kill the jews" on walls and bus shelters in Jewish neighborhoods, abuse of Jewish children on school playgrounds, arson attacks on synagogues, physical assaults on Jews conspicuous by their yarmulkes or shtreimels. But, while these incidents ought not to be treated blithely, they are still exceptional occurrences.

And yet, in the tone of the debate, in the spirit of the national conversation about Israel, in the slow seepage of familiar anti-Semitic calumnies into the conversation--there, it seems to me, one can find growing reason for English Jews to be concerned. Mindless acts of vandalism come and go; but what takes root in the intellectual life of a nation is harder to identify and remove. Was it anti-Semitic of the Labour politician Tam Dalyell to talk of Jewish advisers excessively influencing Tony Blair's foreign policy? Was it anti-Semitic of the Liberal Democrat Baroness Tonge to refer to the "financial grips" that the pro-Israel lobby exerts on the world? Such allusions to a pro-Israel conspiracy of influence and wealth, usually accompanied by protestations of innocence in regard to Jews themselves--"I am sick of being accused of anti-Semitism," Baroness Tonge has said, "when what I am doing is criticizing Israel"--have become the commonplaces of anti-Israel discourse in the years since Philip Roth wrote The Counterlife. And, whatever their intention, their gradual effect has been to normalize, under cover of criticism of Israel, assumptions that 50 years ago would have been exclusively the property of overt Jew-haters. The peculiarly immoderate Israel-loathing that Roth remarked upon in 1987 is now a deranged revulsion, intemperate and unconcealed, which nothing Israel itself has done could justify or explain were it ten times the barbaric apartheid state it figures as in the English imagination.


Isn't such paranoia about Jewish influence exactly what Chas Freeman would have brought to the Obama Administration? And weren't his charges seconded by much of the Left and nativist Right press?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 1, 2009 12:21 PM
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