What really drives antisemitism in Britain
IN 2005-6, the Labour (and Catholic) MP for Rotherham, Denis MacShane, established and chaired an all-party commission of inquiry into antisemitism — the first of its kind in the UK. For MacShane, this investigation was a personal odyssey as well as a political imperative. The commission, composed entirely of non-Jewish MPs, went about its work with methodical deliberation, and produced a series of recommendations based upon its overarching conclusion that anti-Jewish prejudice (which Conor Cruise O’Brien once described as “a very light sleeper”) had, certainly in the UK, been aroused from its slumbering and was on the prowl once more.
MacShane’s commission offered a large number of conclusions and recommendations. Buried among these was the categorical statement that “a minority of Islamic extremists in this country do incite hatred towards Jews”. And it warned that “the undoubted prejudice and difficulties that British Muslims feel… cannot be used to justify antisemitic words and violence”.
Whether MacShane was satisfied with these somewhat muted phrases I do not know. But in the short, very readable book that he has now produced he has dispensed with whatever di pl omat i c c onstraints and discretions the members of his commission might have felt as they crafted their conclusions. A “neoantisemitism” now walks abroad, “a vicious and destructive ideology” that threatens liberal values and undermines efforts t o sustain peace in the world.
Themajordrivingforce that powers this ideology is not Christian antipathy towards “Christkillers”, or even the eugenicist racism of Nazi ideologues and their latter-day imitators. It is, rather, rooted, unmistakeably, in a particular interpretation that particular Muslims have placed upon the ills, imagined and real, that have befallen the Muslim world.
Globalising Hatred does not beat about the bush. Islamic peoples have discovered, and are busy recycling, the old myths, fashioning them into a new one. Thus, in Saudi Arabia, the antiJewish ravings of the puritanical Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb (executed by Nasser) have been resurrected so as to embrace and (thus) legitimise The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Al Qaeda has discovered the potency of Judeophobia as a recruiting tool.
While this prejudice is sometimes disguised as anti-Zionism so as not to offend western sensibilities, elsewhere there is no pretence. MacShane is right to denounce as “one of the most… Jew-hating political statements ever published” the charter of Hamas. A leading Hizbollah writer has boasted that his organisation’s “strong aversion to Judaism is unrelated to its abomination of Zionism and hence exists irrespective of the existence of Zionism”. Such are the organisations which British apologists for Islamic terrorism insist are partners for peace!
Two silly errors blemish the book. The “first-ever” Jewish Conservative MP (excluding converts to Christianity) was elected in 1874, not 1955. Nor is it true that “until the 1970 election there were only two Jewish Tory MPs”. One hopes that these mistakes can be corrected if and when the book makes its (deserved) paperback appearance. Geoffrey Alderman is a historian and JC columnist
Denis MacShane: no beating about the bush