Friday, September 08, 2006

Antisemitism in Britain

The full text of the British parliamentary all-party commission of inquiry's report on antisemitism in Britain is available online here.

The report finds that many British citizens who happen to be born Jewish face unacceptable harassment, intimidation and assault. It also concludes that the problem of antisemitism is growing worse.

CiF has a post by one of the authors of the report, Denis MacShane. The discussion in the comments that follow the post is evidence of the nature of the problem in contemporary Britain.

Update: Melanie Phillips comments on the report:
Any serious study of today’s antisemitism must ask— although regrettably this report fails to do so — why Israel is singled out for treatment afforded to no other country on earth; why Israel is scapegoated for the crimes of others; why Israel is dwelt upon so obsessively for seeking to defend itself, while countries which deliberately inflict terrible things upon the innocent are scarcely reported; why Israel alone is demonised and delegitimised through systematic lies and libels; why Israel alone is not allowed to defend itself while other in other countries this is taken for granted; why the legitimacy of Israel’s existence alone is called into question while that of artificially created countries like Pakistan are not; why Israel alone is blamed for a refugee problem while everywhere else in the world displaced populations are routinely ignored; why unlike any other country in history Israel alone, as the victim of genocidal warfare of which it was the victor, is expected to defer to its aggressors — which continue to wage war against it — and give them everything they are demanding.

The report does not ask this. It says instead:

We do not believe that the vast majority of discussion surrounding the Israel-Palestinian conflict is inherently antisemitic; rather we are concerned that the currently popular discursive tools need to be deployed with greater responsibility and understanding of the historical resonances that they evoke. A legitimate opinion on the political decisions of the Israeli state may be expressed in an antisemitic manner, even if its author did not intend it to be, if it uses phrases and imagery which tap into antisemitic discourse.

Well no, actually; lies and libels and falsehoods and distortions about Israel are not a ‘legitimate opinion on the political decisions of the Israeli state’. It’s not the manner of expression that is wrong but the expression itself. The imagery is not down to a fit of absent-mindedness about historic resonances. It is used because it perfectly expresses the prejudice in the minds of the writers or speakers.

The Nazis’ infamous excuse was that they were ‘only obeying orders’. Today’s antisemites, it seems, are merely ‘forgetting historical resonances’. In other words, they don’t really know what they are doing, so they can’t be guilty of prejudice. After all, if they’re the ‘anti-racist’ left or the media, they don’t fit the image.

This report has sounded a welcome alarm; but it has put only a timid toe into the sewer.
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