Put the bag back. Fight it

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT -

PUT THE SUIT­CASE back in the loft. Of course I un­der­stand why you got it out, if not phys­i­cally, at least men­tally. This week, I heard a guy in Sar­celles in France talk­ing on the ra­dio about the de­struc­tion of a Jewish funeral par­lour and the torch­ing of Jewish busi­nesses.

I hardly had time to think how fright­en­ing and dif­fer­ent things were in the land of Dieudonné, where new mi­nori­ties now hate the old ones, be­fore a Manch­ester rabbi comes on the BBC and tells lis­ten­ers that enough is hap­pen­ing around him — what with demon­stra­tions out­side shops sell­ing Is­raeli prod­ucts, that he be­lieves that there is no fu­ture for Jews in Bri­tain.

In Bri­tain! No one gets to read the two main vol­umes of the diaries of Vic­tor Klemperer, the Dres­den Jew who some­how sur­vived the Third Re­ich, with­out the same thought re­cur­ring again and again: Why did you stay? Why did you stay af­ter stormtroop­ers marched through the streets sing­ing their happy “When Jewish blood flows from the knife” Lied?

Why did you re­main af­ter Hitler came to power? What made you per­sist through the boy­cotts of Jewish shops and mud­dle through the grad­ual, one-by-one re­stric­tions on Jews hav­ing jobs, go­ing to school, mar­ry­ing and trad­ing?

Af­ter the pogrom of Kristall­nacht, how could you not have tried at least to get out? Many of your friends sold up, took the loss and moved. What on earth were you hop­ing for?

And then the door closed and the rest was hid­ing or dy­ing. And we know now what Klemperer didn’t be­lieve then. And, as a con­se­quence, we would never be caught like that, would we? Be­cause, if things got re­ally bad there’s al­ways Is­rael. Or Amer­ica. Or — my per­sonal favourite — Aus­tralia (and then last week drunken teens spot­ting Jewish kids on a bus in a Sydney sub­urb gave them the “kill the Jews”, “free Pales­tine” and “Heil Hitler” treat­ment).

So, when we be­gin to have the odd Hitler plac­ard at Gaza demos, when a sy­n­a­gogue is at­tacked with bricks, when a theatre man­ages not to have a Jewish film fes­ti­val, when a car slows down on an evening street and young men shout ob­scen­i­ties at Jews, when a for­mer head of the diplomatic ser­vice stands up in the Lords and blames

Get your kip­pah out and go to sit in

an­ti­semitism on Is­rael, when the dunces’ chorus of fash­ion­able out­rage man­ages to re­peat al­most ev­ery old “Jewish lobby” trope (but repack­aged for the mo­ment) — when we have all this, shouldn’t we go up­stairs and check the state of that old trunk?

No. First, never con­fuse a fashion with a ha­tred. There are peo­ple — some old Nazis, a few re­tired diplo­mats and bit­ter Ara­bists, and too large a sec­tion of Mus­lim opinion — who don’t care for Jews and think that we’re a bad lot.

But, most Bri­tons, as mea­sured by all polls, be­lieve Jews are OK. The younger gen­er­a­tion, a tol­er­ant lot, would sooner have their mo­bile phones con­fis­cated than beat some­one up be­cause of their race or re­li­gion.

Sec­ond, how­ever sen­si­tive one might be to the odd Tonge and Gal­loway, the po­lit­i­cal classes have set their faces against Jew-ha­tred. If and when that be­gins to change (and I don’t think it will) I’ll be the first at the lug­gage de­part­ment at John Lewis.

Third, Jews are go­ing to fight this one. They have been too quiet and too sep­a­rate up till now. They have gone around kvetch­ing to each other, and oth­er­wise hid­ing be­hind the guards at Jewish schools, shuls and com­mu­nity cen­tres.

Jewish lobby? Great idea, when does it start? When do Jews be­gin to get them­selves kip­pah-ed up and sit­ting in the au­di­ence at Ques­tion Time? I reckon now might be a good time, don’t you?


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