The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
I am attaching a transcript of my remarks at the Symposium “Islam, British Society & the Terrorist Threat” which took place on January 2 2007 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The subject of my contribution was “Antisemitism and the Response of Anglo Jewish Leadership”.
I do not have transcripts of the important contributions by Melanie Phillips, author of Londonistan and Professor Robert Wistrich, head of the Hebrew University Vidal Sassoon International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism. However the video of entire symposium will posted on the website of the Vidal Sassoon Centre at http://sicsa.huji.ac.il in a few weeks.
Antisemitism and the Response of Anglo Jewish Leadership
I feel privileged to share this platform with Melanie Phillips and Professor Robert Wistrich. Melanie Phillips has emerged as a lone courageous voice warning that continued appeasement of Islamic Fundamentalism in the UK would culminate in a national disaster. Her brilliant book Londonistan is one of the most important political exposés of our time, documenting how the craven appeasement of Islamic extremists by all sections of British society led to London becoming the central hub of Islamic terror in Europe.
Professor Wistrich is the foremost global expert on anti Semitism. At a time when most analysts were understating its importance, he was one of the first to sound the tocsins regarding the dangers of Islamic anti-Semitism.
My contribution to this Symposium will primarily concentrate on anti Semitism and the role of Anglo Jewry.
First, a few introductory remarks about the dramatic resurgence of anti Semitism over the past decade.
In the 1980s – despite the UN resolution bracketing Zionism and racism which was regarded as an aberration – most analysts were describing anti Semites as an extinct species.
Yet today the world’s oldest hatred has not only emerged as the greatest international political growth industry – as Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks described it ‘an anti Semitic tsunami’ – but has actually succeeded in once again transforming British Jews into pariahs.
It is as though the mystique of Israel – “the people that dwelleth alone” – and anti Semitism, had simply been in a state of remission since the Holocaust.
Malignant Islamic Arab anti Semitism has been at the forefront of promoting the new brew of the world’s oldest disease. It defines Jews as descendants of apes and pigs, provides new versions of blood libels and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and of course generates blind hatred of any manifestation of Jewish sovereignty – not to mention ascribing the responsibility of Jews for all the disasters facing mankind, including 9/11. But we should be under no illusions. In Western countries, it was the indigenous people, the educated classes who were responsible for generating the hatred throughout the media and in cultural and social circles.
Today, most of the world is once again accusing Jews of poisoning the wells. The Jewish state is regarded as a collective manifestation of evil incarnate. Left and Right, Christian and Moslem, Sunni and Shiite and even a number of self hating Jews, have all united, to demonize Israel. Even human rights bodies have been hijacked by our enemies.
George Orwell would have been stunned to observe that to most nations of the world Israel is regarded as a far greater threat to world peace than rogue states like Iran and North Korea. And the sad reality is that even if Jihadist terrorist outrages rebound against Moslems, it would in all probability not detract in any manner from anti-Semitism.
It is of course somewhat obscene that beyond the Arab world, the principal centers of anti Semitism are now once again to be found in Europe whose soil only 60 years ago was drenched with Jewish blood.
But it is even more paradoxical that the UK, the cradle of Western democracy, tolerance and enlightenment, has now assumed the role of the European centre for Islamic Fundamentalism.
At all levels Israel and the Jews are under siege. But the brunt of the attack emanates not from Moslems, but from indigenous Britons. They are the principal demonizers of Israel in the media and in cultural and social circles. They are the ones who have made anti Semitic discourse respectable.
They shamelessly create Nazi-style caricatures as exemplified by the Independent cartoon depicting Sharon as an ogre devouring Palestinian children, which was awarded first prize as the best political cartoon of the year in England. That cartoon could also have been a prizewinner at the recent Iranian Holocaust cartoon competition.
It is indigenous British academics – not Moslem immigrants, who are the driving force for anti Israel boycotts and divestment campaigns at the universities.
Nor is the BBC, the primary global vehicle demonizing Israel, operated by Moslems.
Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, a reconstructed version of a contemporary Mosley – but infinitely more popular – is no Moslem. And the talkbacks he receives on Israel and Anglo Jewry testify to the popularity of anti Jewish hostility.
Whilst the assault on Jews in the UK is principally concentrated on demonizing Israel, the frenzied hatred being generated at all levels against the state of the Jews, obviously also impacts on Anglo Jews.
Today in Britain there is open chatter that the creation of Israel was a mistake and there are even increasing calls for an end to the Jewish “apartheid” state.
Not only have Jews reverted to their pre World War II role of being pariahs in their own country. In many respects, today the situation is even worse. In the 1930s, at least liberal or left wing groups defended the Jews against Nazi propaganda. In these days Liberals, Progressives, Arabs, Human Rights activists, the ultra Right, and others – are all willing to indulge in the anti Zionist frenzy and march under the banner of “we are all Hezbollah”.
Reinforced by the renewed influence of replacement theology and having succumbed to the prevailing climate of post modernism which fails to distinguish between good and evil, the Church of England has displayed crude and shameless bias and employed double standards against Israel.
One would have expected the devastating impact of home bred Islamic terrorism to have created some countervailing reactions. But alas, the main response has been that the UK had become a target for terror because British foreign policy had been too pro Israeli. There are now increasing calls on the government to be more critical of Israel in order to avoid future terrorist attacks.
In this environment, Anglo Jewry, like Jewish communities in other democracies, are now obliged to review the concept of multiculturalism. They should also think twice about their inclination to mindlessly repeat the ritual condemnations against what is described as “Islamophobia” – despite the behavior of the radical leadership of the Moslem community and their failure to condemn terrorism and extremism in their own ranks.
In Australia, multiculturalism was the framework of the Jewish community’s integration into Australian society. I clearly recall how John Howard, now Prime Minister and recognized as one of Israel’s greatest friends, once predicted to me that multiculturalism would disintegrate once groups seeking to undermine the open society, began to exploit it. Little did we dream that two decades later multi-culturalism would be serving as a Trojan horse for Jihadists to establish themselves in Western countries and that we would have enclaves of Moslems incubating indigenous home grown terrorists. Multi-culturalism becomes a prescription for disaster if, instead of accommodating a diversity of peaceful religious and cultural groups, it provides a platform for a minority like the Moslems, to anchor themselves in a society, with the objective of asserting their separatism rather than contributing to the welfare of society, and having the ultimate sectarian objective not only of maintaining their separation, but of seeking to control the state and impose their way of life on society.
In Londonistan Melanie Phillips elaborates on this, describing how the benign tolerance of British intelligence and the police combined with liberal immigration laws, enabled some of the most radical agents of international terrorist groups to find safe havens, create retreats, and achieve respectability within British society.
She also depicts the lack of moral fiber of the governing classes, bureaucracy, and Church of England who prostrated themselves at the feet of Islamic extremists, not to mention British politicians even becoming cheerleaders for suicide bombers in order to attract votes from their Moslem constituents.
The role of the Jewish community
I have worked with Anglo Jewish leaders over many years. By and large they are dedicated well intentioned Jews genuinely striving to serve their community. But the problem in England is that shtadlanut, the belief that reliance on discreet appeals to those in authority rather than public protest is the effective manner of pursuing Jewish objectives, appears to have become accepted dogma within the Jewish establishment.
Many Anglo Jewish leaders also tend to bury their heads in the sand, denying the extent of the anti-Semitism encompassing them. One Jewish journalist, questioning all the fuss about anti Semitism, actually wrote “there are no pogroms in the high street, no concentration camps in the parks, and no crematoria in these shores”.
There is to my mind considerable merit in the depiction of Anglo Jewish leaders as trembling Israelites, grateful for the protection accorded them and desperate not to rock the boat. This outlook is epitomized by Henry Grunwald, the current President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, a decent traditional Jew but a firm worshipper of shtadlanut, who even formally articulates the need to direct Jewish affairs on the basis of “softly softly” which he adamantly insists will achieve the best results. He summed up his approach by stating “why must one shout when a whisper can be heard?”.
In recent years, these negative trends have been accentuated by increasingly shrill condemnations of Israel by people proclaiming their Jewish origin. They are hailed in the general media as courageous battlers against Zionist colonialism.
There is an almost standard list of Anglo Jewish anti Israeli Jewish activists, including academics, writers, actors, musicians and others including even a number of progressive Rabbis whose signatures regularly appear in petitions and advertisements hostile to Israel.
This trend is exemplified by Anthony Lerman, Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, a body funded by Jewish philanthropists and purporting to be the premier “think tank” of Anglo Jewry.
Lerman publicly stated in his address to the “Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights” on 21 March 2005 that in view of the fact that the State of Israel and Zionism have been “failures” and that Israel “perpetrates human rights abuses”, the Jewish state should be transformed into a bi-national state which would “repeal Israel’s law of return” and enable “the right of return of Arab refugees”. Such views are increasingly being expressed by left wing Jewish fringe groups who ally themselves with Arabs and those seeking to dismantle the Jewish state. But to have such views expressed by the head of the leading Anglo Jewish think tank, funded and patronized by Jewish establishment personalities is obscene. It is symptomatic of the impotence of a communal leadership when they lack the backbone to act against a chief executive officer of a publicly funded Jewish think tank who endorses the destruction of Israel. The negative impact of this anti Israeli hostility from fringe Jews is vastly underestimated.
It should be noted that the obsession of Anglo Jewry to rely exclusively on silent diplomacy is not shared by many rank and file Jews. For example, at the outset of the Intifada, the Anglo Jewish leadership refused to accede to calls to hold public protest meetings, insisting it would be counterproductive because few Jews would participate. It was pressure from the Jewish street which forced them to change their approach. The subsequent level of participation demonstrated that the mass of British Jews were frequently willing to be more upfront than their leaders.
The flow of supportive letters I receive from English Jews whenever I write on this theme, also confirms that many of them, especially the younger generation, are keen to adopt more assertive public postures.
The serious negative repercussions when those demonizing Israel and attacking Jews are not confronted are two-fold. Clearly the case for Israel is lost by default in the absence of vigorous repudiation of those demonizing Israel. But it has even worse repercussions on the Jewish community itself. In a climate which is saturated with anti Israeli venom, the absence of debate accelerates the marginalization of Jews from their roots. The cowardly behavior of parents in the presence of their children invariably undermines the self confidence of the younger generation who become less inclined to take up the cudgels on behalf of Israel after observing their parents running for cover. It will doubtlessly encourage many of them to opt out entirely. If anti Semitic and anti Israeli libels remain unanswered, we will simply lose the younger generation by default!
My experience as a leader of the Australian Jewish community has convinced me that a twin track approach of tough lobbying by a courageous community combined with parallel silent diplomacy can transform the role of a Jewish community from one of inferiority and subservience to one of pride and dignity. This should especially be so in a nation which prides itself on freedom of expression and the right to public protest.
One final observation which applies to anti Semitism generally. There is a close relationship between the level of anti Semitism and a strong and weak Israel. During the Six Day War public support for Israel, then the darling of the Western world reached its zenith. In contrast since the Oslo Accords when Israel began making territorial concessions without reciprocity culminating with the unilateral Gaza withdrawal, the climate of hostility became harsher and harsher. In fact, whenever Israel was perceived as becoming weaker, especially during the recent war against Hezbollah, the anti Israeli forces became more and strident.
Today the principal disaster in England, as in many other countries, is that with Jews having failed to convey the Jewish narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict to the public and frequently their own children, there is an almost universal acceptance of the distorted versions disseminated by the Arabs and their allies. They have succeeded in positioning Israel as a rogue state, born in sin, illegally occupying Arab territory and denying the Palestinians their basic human rights.
It is still not too late for us to galvanize ourselves in the war of ideas. But we must do so with no less determination than the countermeasures we adopt against terrorism.