Anti-Semitism in the wake of Gaza

Neil Berry | [email protected]
Publication Date: 
Thu, 2009-02-12 03:00

This is for Gaza”, a British Jew was informed as thugs punched him to the ground on a north London street. The incident was one of many attacks on Jews reported to have taken place in Britain in the wake of Israel’s Gaza offensive.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland asks why Britain’s liberal left has not spoken out against the upsurge of hostility toward Jews. After all, Britons were not slow to stand by the Muslim community following the 7/7 London bombings, insisting that British Muslims could hardly be blamed for the monstrous deeds of a handful of extremists. So why the failure to stress that it is wrong to hold Jews responsible for the mayhem Israel created in Gaza?

Ever vigilant for fresh evidence of anti-Semitism, the “Daily Mail” columnist Melanie Phillips shrieks that Britain is witnessing a jihad against Jews. In her eyes, it is proof of resurgent anti-Semitism that those who protest against Israel’s conduct have not also demonstrated against the humanitarian crisis precipitated by the government of Sri Lanka’s “war on terror”. But one of the reasons for the special outrage evoked by Israel’s vindictive brutality toward the Palestinian people is that it is being meted out by a state which purports to stand for the highest Western values — and that, far from deploring it, Jews like Melanie Phillips revile fellow-Britons for not recognizing its legitimacy.

The truth is that a point has been reached where the willfully disproportionate nature of Israel’s actions, their sheer wanton savagery, has inevitably provoked a correspondingly ungovernable sense of moral revulsion. What many fair-minded observers would like to hear is prominent members of the British Jewish community condemning Israel’s assault on Gaza as a crime against humanity. The veteran Labour MP Gerald Kaufman has done so, but far more apparent has been the extent to which Britain’s Jewish establishment has pledged support for Israel, with the chief rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, addressing a pro-Gaza war rally in London and, for all his talk about how Jews seek only peace, effectively sanctioning the shedding of innocent Palestinian blood.

At the same time, Israel’s critics have been confronted by the spectacle of the British government managing scarcely more than a token call for a cease-fire. They have also witnessed the BBC declining to run a charity appeal for Gaza on the grounds that to do so would expose it to the charge of taking sides — a posture that itself looked blatantly one-sided, positive endorsement of the Israeli claim that the erratic, makeshift rockets that Hamas fighters direct at the towns of Sderot and Ashkelon pose an existential threat to Israel and that it is justified in countering it with devastating firepower.

The result is that those outraged by Israel’s behavior feel as if they are being portrayed as single-issue cranks. Small wonder if there is much toxic emotion circulating around the British body politic and if Jews who remain silent are judged by some to be condoning atrocity. In the wake of the 7/7 London bombings, British Muslims came under intense pressure from government and media to repudiate violence and extremism; Jews by contrast are experiencing no such pressure, and it is not just Muslims who feel that the British establishment is operating double standards.

What further fuels anti-Jewish feeling is the perception that the British government and media have meekly acquiesced in Israel’s efforts to conceal its villainies. Jon Snow was practically alone among British broadcasters in taking issue with the media blackout that Israel imposed over its psychotic rampage in Gaza. Britain’s 2 million-strong Muslim community feels the British media are colluding with Zionist propaganda in favor of an increasingly militant Jewish state. And to British Muslims it seems it is they who are always stigmatized as extremists. In Britain, as in the United States, the idea that Jews are capable of extremism is simply not part of public discourse. Journalists who seek to draw attention to the menacing character of Zionism face something akin to censorship.

30 years ago, in their prophetic book, “Publish it Not”, Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew indicted the Western media for failing to report the truth about Zionism, warning of the consequences of systematic Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, its potential to poison East-West relations and exacerbate global tension. Their book was widely ignored.

Today, they have a counterpart in the intrepid Nazareth-based British writer, Jonathan Cook. Despite having emerged as one of Israel’s sharpest analysts, Cook, too, is shunned by the mainstream media in Britain — though in contrast to Adams and Mayhew he enjoys the advantage of being able to disseminate his opinions via the Internet.

Cook’s new book, “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair”, calls into question Israel’s good faith, arguing that its abiding objective is to preserve its exclusive Jewishness, at whatever cost to the Palestinians. It is for this reason, he insists, that Israel will never agree to an authentic “two-state”, let alone “one-state”, solution of the Arab-Israel conflict. The threat a one-state solution would pose to a quintessentially Jewish Israel is plain, but a genuine two-state solution, Cook contends, is equally repugnant to Zionists — not least because it would mean the equitable sharing of West Bank water resources which Israel is determined to monopolize as the basis for its survival.

Cook’s message is that Israel is bent on the “Gazafication” of Palestine, the ongoing merciless persecution of the whole Palestinian people, with an ultimate view to expelling them altogether from their historic homeland — or else subjecting them to a sort of creeping genocide.

The official Western consensus may continue to honor the Jewish state’s basic goodwill, but Israel’s own actions are ensuring that much of the world increasingly shares Cook’s suspicion that justice for the Palestinians is simply not on the Zionist agenda.

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