A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of anti-Semitism. With apology to the authors of The Communist Manifesto, this paraphrase describes the situation accurately.
All over the continent, synagogues are burnt down or covered with obscene graffiti, Jewish cemeteries are desecrated, Jews are attacked in the streets.
True enough, churches are also burnt or otherwise abused – recently I saw a fine collection of photographs depicting European churches tastefully decorated with graffiti, a pig’s head being the artistic device of choice. (That aesthetic preference also manifests itself on synagogue walls – manufacturers of spray paints must be doing brisk business.)
But this is a separate and less pressing subject – after all, since the 4th century not many Christians have been killed in Western Europe simply for their faith. The mass murder of Jews is rather more recent, which calls for even greater vigilance.
It’s hard not to notice that most outrages are being committed in countries with large Muslim populations, and indeed Christians and atheists aren’t known for expressing hatred via porcine images.
This ethnic slant creates problems for Western governments as it presents a case of clashing pieties. On the one hand, in keeping with their liberal PC image, if not necessarily out of deep inner conviction, they have to decry anti-Semitism. On the other hand, they can’t be overtly critical of Muslims – for the same reasons, and also because many parliamentary seats across Europe depend on the Muslim vote.
Yet the persecution of Jews, while growing, has not reached Krystallnacht proportions, nor is it likely to do so in the near future. The reason is simple: anti-Semitism isn’t institutionalised, as it was in Germany circa 1930s. For as long as it remains a matter of private initiative rather than government policy, Jews will only be abused in isolated incidents.
However, it’s particularly worrying when government figures make overtly anti-Semitic statements. This brings us to David Ward, LibDem MP for Bradford East, a predominantly Muslim area.
Over the last few weeks Ward has been voicing his dismay over the ‘Jewish atrocities’ in Palestine. For example, he informed the readers of his website that he was ‘saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps, be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians…and continue to do so.’ Well, at least he acknowledged that the Holocaust did happen.
Nick Clegg took exception to such outbursts and chastised Ward, threatening him, if rumours are to be believed, with withdrawing the party whip. Eventually Ward offered a feeble apology, but only after stating that he and his party had ‘a difference of opinion.’
Supporters of Israel are routinely accused of equating any criticism of that country with anti-Semitism. Some indeed may do so, but from this it doesn’t follow that no criticism of Israel is motivated by racial and religious hatred. Indeed anti-Zionism is often used as a mask, a rather flimsy one, for the sentiments associated with such publications as Der Stürmer.
In the Soviet Union, for example, where anti-Semitism was indeed institutionalised, the papers regularly featured cartoons of fat, ugly, hook-nosed Jews doing nasty things to Arabs. The offenders were drawn in the Der Stürmer style, and the readers were left in no doubt of what the real message was. Incidentally, it’s comforting to know that The Times lately has been borrowing this technique for its own cartoons, the difference being that the British are less attuned than the Russians to taking such hints.
Ward naturally claimed that neither he nor his remarks were anti-Semitic. What are they then? If they aren’t motivated by this time-honoured sentiment, then they must be based on a sober assessment of the situation in the Middle East. But this would presuppose a level of cretinism that even our MPs tend not to display.
For what the Israelis are showing is the acme of humanitarian self-restraint. The country has been on a war footing ever since the UN voted for the partition of Palestine in 1947. Arab states immediately attacked the newly formed Israel from every direction, and only by suicidal courage did the greatly outnumbered and outgunned Jewish settlers manage to defend their statehood (that’s what Ward describes as ‘Jewish atrocities’).
Since then rare has been a Muslim leader who hasn’t called for driving the Jews into the sea, which is another way of saying killing them all. From Nasser to Ahmadinejad, Muslim politicians have been screaming that no Holocaust ever took place – but it will.
And it hasn’t been just talk. In 1967 and 1973 Arab states launched full-blown aggression against Israel. Since then the country has been on the receiving end of incessant terrorist outrages. Even as we speak, hundreds of rocket are being fired into Israel, killing people and destroying the products of their loving labour.
Yet even though it’s faced with mortal danger, Israel responds with astounding moderation. Possessing the military means of wiping out all those Hamases and Hezbollahs in one felt swoop, it limits itself to isolated and limited raids whenever attacks on its people become intolerable.
Some of this moderation comes from the simple fact that Israel is the only civilised country in the region, and the methods of its enemies are alien to its very ethos. Part of it is imposed by the West, trying not to upset the owners of oil wells too much.
That is, incidentally, being penny-wise and pound-foolish. In their thirst for hydrocarbons Western governments choose to ignore that Islam is at present going through an impassioned phase. What we are witnessing isn’t just increased terrorist activities but a full-scale war against the West. Israel is our first line of defence, and yet dampeners are being put on its efforts to defend itself – especially now that the most powerful Western country has Barack Hussein Obama for president.
Be that as it may, one can’t imagine any Western country producing as measured a response to attacks on its territory. Yet here is David Ward, talking about Jewish (not Israeli, but Jewish) atrocities. Even he can’t be so stupid as not to see how feeble the face value of his ‘opinion’ is. The underlying emotion, on the other hand, is very strong indeed.
It is of course possible that Ward is at heart a philosemite, some of his best friends are Jewish, and his blatantly anti-Semitic remarks are an attempt to pander to his constituency. If so, this is a powerful argument against having democratic constituencies populated by those who are openly, hysterically hostile to every democratic principle.