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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