Antisemitism in modern Britain is nothing new

By Richard Mather  

It has emerged that almost 5,850 people have been reported to the UK Labour Party’s executive, more than 3,000 of them for allegations of abuse, with the rest accused of antisemitism and of supporting other political parties, according to The Daily Telegraph.

This is hardly a surprise. Antisemitism has been rampant on the British Left for decades, although it has accelerated in the past year due to Jeremy Corbyn’s dismal leadership of the Labour Party. But Labour’s woes should not be seen in isolation. They are the inevitable outgrowth of hundreds of years of English and British Jew-hatred, augmented by the recent importation of Islamic anti-Semitism.

Antizionists in the UK would like you to believe there’s a qualitative difference between pre-Holocaust antisemitism and post-Shoah antizionism, but there isn’t. The assertion that antisemitism and antizionism are somehow different is a cynical ruse designed to both legitimise Jew-hatred in Britain and to delegitimise the State of Israel.

English antisemitism goes back to the first half of the twelfth century when King Stephen burned down the house of an Oxford Jewish man because he refused to pay a contribution to the king’s expenses. It was also around this time that the first-ever recorded blood libel/ritual murder charge against Jews was brought (in the case of William of Norwich).

Antizionism is, of course, a more recent phenomenon, but even this actually precedes the creation of Israel by several decades. An example: British journalists began a campaign accusing “Zionists” of fomenting the Turkish Revolution. This was in 1911/1912. Clearly, antizionism in 1912 wasn’t about Israel but was a paranoid reaction to a rumours of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.

It is worth recalling that Britain’s blockade of Palestine during WW2 prevented the rescue of hundreds of thousands of Jews. And Labour’s postwar hostility towards Jews almost scuppered the creation of the State of Israel. (UK foreign secretary Ernest Bevin not only made plans with Jordan for the annexation of Palestine into the Hashemite kingdom, but he embargoed arms shipments at a time when the new Jewish state was fighting for its life.)

Throughout the ages, Jew-hatred in Britain has taken on different forms at different times. At times it has been religious in nature; other times it has been motivated by race or economics. All of these variants have one thing in common: demonisation, which in colloquial usage refers to propaganda or moral panic directed against any individual or group; more literally it is the imputing of diabolical influences.

Most sane people in the UK no longer believe Jews are agents of the devil who conspired to kill Christ, although a British-Pakistani Muslim in Manchester did once accuse me of killing Jesus(!). Once upon a time a great many people subscribed to this view. Indeed, Catholics were still being taught this up until the 1960s.

Now, instead of deicide (killing God), Jews are charged with a new and outrageous libel – the genocide of Arab Palestinians. In twenty-first century Britain, many people cling to this absurd but deeply-held belief. The long tradition in the West of Adversus Judaeos (“Against the Jews/Judeans”) apparently continues in the guise of irrational antizionism.

It’s true that Jews in England are no longer forbidden from entering certain professions (I’m thinking of Edward I’s Statutum de Judaismo, 1275, for example);  but it is the case that a large number of Brits boycott Israeli products and call for Israel to be expelled from the family of nations. And if most people in Britain have rejected Christian anti-Semitism, they have instead embraced Islamic antisemitism, which is equally nasty and virulent.

Antizionism is the superstition par excellence of modern Britain. As with the antisemites of old, the contemporary antizionist is immune to reason. Facts and statistics mean nothing to your typical antizionist bigot.

As the English novelist and social commentator George Orwell once said, “If you dislike somebody, you dislike him and there is an end of it: your feelings are not made any better by a recital of his virtues.”

 

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‘3412 Kafka’: Out-of-this-world Jewish writing

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Kafka: Penguin Modern Classics book covers

By Richard Mather…

Earlier this month, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the manuscripts of Czech-Jewish novelist Franz Kafka are the property of the National Library of Israel. The manuscripts have been in the possession of the family of Esther Hoffe, the secretary of Kafka’s friend Max Brod. The family had argued that it rightfully owned the manuscripts after her death, but the Supreme Court disagreed. The Court has asked Israel’s National Library to make the manuscripts accessible to the general public.

Franz Kafka was born July 3 1883 into a German-speaking, middle-class, minimally-observant Jewish family in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now the Czech Republic). His Jewish upbringing was limited mostly to his bar mitzvah and going to the synagogue four times a year. Although professing to be an atheist in his teenage years, his interest in Judaism grew as he got older. While fascinated by the piety of the Hasidic Jews in eastern Europe, he felt alienated from his own Jewish tradition, once declaring that he had nothing in common with his fellow Jews.

One of the difficulties was Kafka’s relationship with his domineering father. Kafka felt that his father – and his family more generally – clung to their Jewish heritage in a superficial way. Kafka was in fact dismissive of western Jews who tried to integrate and assimilate into gentile society. Indeed, the sporadic outbreaks of anti-Semitic violence exposed the failure of assimilation and helps to explain why so many of Kafka’s friends were interested in Zionism.

Kafka himself was ambivalent about the Zionist project, which was still in its infancy. Although Kafka considered moving to British Palestine (he even studied Hebrew while living in Berlin), he never did visit the land of Israel.

However, we know from his diaries and letters that from the age of twenty-eight, Kafka was becoming increasingly interested in Jewish (especially Yiddish) history, folklore,  literature and theatre. He was so impressed by a travelling Yiddish theatre company from Poland, that he delved into the history of Yiddish literature and wrote extensively in his diary about Yiddish theatre productions.

Kafka does not make overt references to Judaism in his fiction, but some critics detect Jewish themes in his work. According to Lothar Kahn, “the presence of Jewishness in Kafka’s oeuvre is no longer subject to doubt.” And in the words of Harold Bloom, “despite all his denials and beautiful evasions, Kafka’s writing quite simply is Jewish writing.”

Some scholars speculate that some of Kafka’s works are allegories for larger Jewish issues. Karl Erich Grözinger believes there is a connection between Kafka’s writing and the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. “Whenever Kafka speaks in them of judgment, sin, atonement and justification,” says Grözinger, “he is working from the direct context of a Jewish theology.”

Kafka’s novella Metamorphosis may be a bitterly ironic midrash on the Akedah, also known as the “binding of Isaac.” Whereas in the Genesis story Isaac is substituted by a ram caught in the thicket, the anti-hero of Metamorphosis is turned into a ungeheueren Ungeziefer or “monstrous vermin” – an unclean animal that is not suited for sacrifice. And if Isaac is disqualified for sacrifice because he is more precious in G-d’s eyes than the ram, Kafka’s ant-hero (called Gregor) is wholly unfit for sacrifice because he is vermin, an insect.

Darwinism, which in its fascist guise was to have catastrophic consequences for Europe’s Jews, plays a part in the thematic thread running through Metamorphosis. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, human differences were often described in racial or biological terms. Jews in particular were depicted as inferior, as other. And what could be more inferior or other than vermin or an insect?

Gregor’s transformation into “monstrous vermin” mirrors the anti-Semitic tendency to reduce Jews to some kind of specimen that can be killed off. Gregor is the embodiment of this perceived racial inferiority, and his death is a pointless and meaningless event, not at all sacrificial.

Similarly, there was nothing sacrificial about the imminent genocide of European Jewry. The word “holocaust” is inappropriate because the word comes from the Greek word holókauston, referring to an animal sacrifice offered to a god in which the whole (olos) animal is completely burnt (kaustos). This is why Jews tend to use the term Shoah, which means “Catastrophe.”

Kafka didn’t live long enough to see the murderous destruction wrought by the Nazis. He died in 1924, aged forty, of starvation brought on by laryngeal tuberculosis, which affected his ability to swallow. His remains are buried alongside his parent’s under an obelisk in Prague’s New Jewish Cemetery.

His fellow Jews in Prague were even more unlucky. They died in their thousands in the gas chambers and concentration camps of Europe, thereby bringing an end to ten centuries of Jewish life in Prague. The historical sources are confused, but it seems that Kafka’s three sisters were also killed by the Nazis – in the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto in 1944 or the Nazi concentration camps, possibly Auschwitz.

Few of Kafka’s works were published during his lifetime. The story collection Meditation was published in 1912 and A Country Doctor in 1917. A few individual stories (most notably Metamorphosis) were published in literary magazines. Kafka finished none of his full-length novels. In fact, his unfinished works, including his novels The Trail, The Castle and Amerika, were ordered by Kafka to be destroyed by his friend Max Brod. Fortunately, Brod ignored his friend’s request and published them after Kafka’s death.

In 1999, a committee of 99 authors, scholars, and literary critics ranked Kafka’s unfinished The Trial and The Castle the second and ninth most significant German-language novels of the 20th century. Harry Steinhauer, a professor of German and Jewish literature, says that Kafka “has made a more powerful impact on literate society than any other writer of the twentieth century.”

Curiously, an asteroid/minor planet from the inner regions of the asteroid belt (discovered by astronomers in January 1983) is named after Kafka. It is called ‘3412 Kafka.’

 

 

 

Planet Palestine: Why does the world revolve around the Palestinians?

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Red vs Blue/Fire and Ice. Image courtesy of Pininterest

Planet earth appears to turn on a Palestinian axis. The amount of time and money lavished on the creation of a State of Palestine has produced zero results, except the spilling of a great deal of Jewish blood.

By Richard Mather…

Planet earth appears to turn on a Palestinian axis. It is remarkable that the Palestinian Arabs, who have no historical, cultural or legal rights to Eretz Israel, are endowed with so much international and economic patronage by the EU, the UK, the USA and the UN, as well as charitable organisations such as Oxfam and Christian Aid. How did the Palestinian Arabs and their international backers achieve such a feat? Why does the world revolve around the Palestinians?

There are two answers to this. One is the Palestinian Arabs’ calculus of terror. They have learnt that violence is rewarded by the West. Acts of terror against Jews only strengthen the West’s belief that a Palestinian Arab state built on Jewish territory is the answer. Hence the two-state solution based on the so-called pre-1967 borders. But the West is being fooled. Palestinian Arabs do not want a political solution – not when terrorism and bloodshed reap dividends. This is why Yasser Arafat instigated the second intifada. He did it to mask his rejection of the Camp David deal in the year 2000. And what happened? The world blamed Israel for the “occupation,” which garnered further sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs.

Hamas and PA president Mahmoud Abbas know that terrorism focuses worldwide attention on Israel. Should the Palestinian Arabs ever have their own state, Western leaders and newspapers would lose interest and turn to other matters, such as Kurdish autonomy and Saudi human rights abuses. This is not what the Palestinian Arabs want. They want the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to continue because it exerts unbearable pressure on the Jewish state.

The second reason why the Palestinian Arabs enjoy so much international privilege and patronage is because they appeal to Western sympathy for the underdog (although this sympathy rarely extended to Jews during the 1930s and 1940s). They have achieved this by doing something rather remarkable. And that is to appropriate another people’s history and suffering.

First of all they stole the name. The word “Palestinian” was a designation given to Jews in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For example, the Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant, who lived in the latter half of the eighteenth century, referred to European Jews as “Palestinians.” It acquired its modern connotation in the 1960s when Arafat began talking of “the Palestinian people.”

Arafat and his Soviet backers then appropriated and inverted the Holocaust so that the Arabs of Palestine could project themselves as the “new Jews” and the Israelis as the “new Nazis.” Then they appropriated places of importance to Jews. The biblical name of Judea-Samaria became “The West Bank” or “Occupied Territory.” And Judaism’s holiest city, Jerusalem, is called Al-Quds. To add insult to Jewish injury, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb are now considered integral to a future State of Palestine. And there are attempts by the Palestinian Authority and Unesco to appropriate the Kotel as an Islamic holy site.

Appropriation on its own would not be enough, however. The Palestinian Arabs had to invent an entire backstory in order to fool the world. Claims that the Palestinians are descendants of the Jebusites, Philistines or Canaanites are risible. In truth, most of the people who now call themselves Palestinians descend from migrants who left Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Balkans (among other places) in the eighteenth century onwards. Even the UN has acknowledged that many of these so-called Palestinians had only lived in Palestine for two years prior to Jewish independence in 1948. By contrast, there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the land for thousands of years.

So the Palestinians have managed to convince the world that they are an indigenous people who are now in exile because of Zionism. Some of the credit for this elaborate hoax should go to the Kremlin. In the 1960s, Soviet authorities and their Arab allies dreamt up the fiction of a Palestinian human rights struggle in order to destabilise Israel and its American ally. According to Major General Ion Mihai Pacepa (the highest ranking Soviet bloc defector), the Kremlin’s vision was to create an international anti-Zionist movement that would “instil a Nazi-style hatred for the Jews.” In other words, the Palestinian cause was a Cold War strategy to win the Middle East for Moscow.

This “Nazi-style hatred for the Jews” has a name. It is called Palestinianism. The ideology draws strength from a number of anti-Semitic canards, archetypes and sources, including the religious (“Jews are forsaken by God”), the conspiratorial (“the Israeli government is infecting Palestinians with Aids”), and the economic (“Zionists control international finance,” “Boycott Israeli products”). The interchangeability of “Zionist” and “Jew” in Palestinianist political discourse is, of course, indicative of its anti-Semitic nature.

The ideological similarity to other Jew-hating phenomena such as Lutheranism, medieval Catholicism and Nazism should not surprise us. Palestinianism is just the latest manifestation of an age-hold hatred. Christians and the Nazis were just as convinced as the Palestinianists of the righteousness of their causes. Indeed, each generation believes it has the answer to the so-called Jewish problem. Palestinianism is just the Final Solution by another name.

Because that’s what Palestinianism is about: genocide. When Palestinian Arabs and their supporters chant “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea,” they are calling for the genocide and/or mass expulsion of millions of Israelis. This is what Western leaders fail to realise. Or they overlook it in the hope that boycotting Israeli goods will bring the Jewish state to the negotiating table. But this is not how Abbas and his acolytes view the boycotts. Abbas et al see the boycotts as economic warfare against the Jews, with the ultimate aim of bringing down Israel.

But there is another reason why Western leaders need to wise up. The Palestinian issue has resulted in decades of terrorism and a new wave of anti-Jewish prejudice.

Westerners suffer from cognitive dissonance. Most are horrified by images of the Holocaust but are unable to support a country that is run by Jews for Jews. If Israel was any other country – that is to say if it wasn’t a Jewish state – most people would gladly support a young, innovative, multicultural and thriving democracy. The only explanation as to why liberals, Christians and leftists are apologists for far-right Islamist terror groups like Hamas is that they harbour (perhaps unconsciously) unsavoury attitudes about Jews.

The rise in anti-Semitism in contemporary Europe has received little attention or sympathy because much of the abuse is carried out by Muslims and left-wing fanatics, who do not conform to the image of the anti-Semite as National Front skinhead. But the new anti-Semitism is more dangerous and more nuanced than the neo-Nazi thuggery of the 1970s. In addition to the hijackings, suicide bombings, shootings and knife attacks, Jews face a barrage of anti-Semitic propaganda emanating from pressure groups, universities, political institutions, charities, churches and media outlets.

The rise in anti-Semitism has started to attract some (belated) attention. David Cameron, when he was British prime minister, condemned Islamist Jew-hatred. But the issue of Jew-hatred is not a priority for most policy-makers, party leaders, international bodies or newspapers. In fact, some politicians and opinion-makers are complicit in the murder of Jews because they tell lies about Israel and/or turn a blind eye to Palestinian incitement and/or whitewash the issue.

The situation cannot continue. Not when Jews living in Jerusalem and Paris are being abused, attacked and butchered. So much for “never again.” Even before the Gaza conflict of July/August 2014 when anti-Semitism was at its highest since World War Two, around half of all Jews living in France, Belgium and Hungary were considering emigrating because they no longer felt safe.

So perhaps influential people in the West should be asking themselves one simple question: Is Palestinianism really worth so much Jewish suffering?

Let’s look at the facts: There have been over half a dozen opportunities since 1937 for the Palestinian Arabs to create their own state. Since the start of the 21st century, the Palestinian leadership has had three major opportunities to establish an independent state. In 2008, for example, the Israelis put forward a proposal in which the Palestinian Arabs would receive Gaza, the majority of the so-called West Bank, parts of east Jerusalem, safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza, and the dismantling of settlements in the Jordan Valley and eastern Samaria. Abbas did not give a final response on the matter and negotiations ended.

Another fact: Palestinian Arab figureheads and organisations – from the Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini to Hamas – have been murdering Jews under the banner of Islam since the 1920s. So is the creation of a predominantly Sunni Muslim state between Israel and Jordan really a good idea, especially in our age of ultra-violent Islamic extremism?

And how likely is it that a State of Palestine will make peace with Israel?

And will homosexuals and lesbians in a Palestinian state be given equal rights or thrown off tall buildings? Will women have equal rights? Will there be a free press or will journalists be imprisoned and silenced?

In short, will a State of Palestine be a blessing or a curse?

Since it is clear that Jewish blood is flowing; since it is clear that the Palestinian Arabs are not interested in peaceful co-existence; since it is clear that the decay of Arab nations in the Middle East looks set to continue; and since it is highly likely that a Palestinian state will be a human rights basketcase, wouldn’t it be better for the international community to put aside childish notions of a Palestinian Arab state and lavish their time and resources on more important matters?

The liberation of the Kurds in Iraq from Islamist imperialism may be a good place to start. Or what about putting an end to the Syrian crisis? An end to sex slavery or bonded labour? There are so many pressing issues that require our immediate and full attention, that it seems absurd to pursue the creation of a State of Palestine when it is obvious that the Palestinian Arabs themselves don’t want a state.

It is time to tell the Palestinian Arabs and their fellow travellers that enough is enough. The world should not revolve around them any longer.