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Melanie Phillips on Britain’s Alarming Anti-Semitism Problem

Melanie Phillips on Britain’s Alarming Anti-Semitism Problem

While the number of anti-Semites is small, the amount of anti-Semitism diffused throughout British society is high.

by

In 2002, on the BBC TV show Question Time, I was accused of dual loyalty in front of a jeering studio audience. My crime had been to defend Israel against demonization and double standards by both the audience and other members of the panel.

At that time I had visited Israel only twice in my life, two years previously. No matter. A British Jew defending Israel was – and is – immediately accused in some quarters of incipient treachery toward Britain, just as throughout history anti-Semites have accused Diaspora Jews of dual loyalty or treachery merely because they are Jews.

I thought of my own experience when I read the report on anti-Semitism in the UK published this week by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

There is currently much disquiet over the Labour Party’s conspicuous failure to address significant anti-Semitism within its ranks. But there has long been far wider concern among many British Jews about the anti-Semitic discourse, harassment and physical attacks which have become sickeningly commonplace in Britain over the past few years.

The report’s author, Daniel Staetsky, describes a situation which is complex.

Only around 5% of the population is out-and-out anti-Semites holding multiple anti-Jewish attitudes. Nevertheless, about 30% subscribe to some kind of anti-Semitic views.

The key is Staetsky’s distinction between anti-Semites and anti-Semitism. For while the number of anti-Semites is very small, the amount of anti-Semitism diffused throughout British society is much greater.

That’s because, while people may not feel personal hostility toward Jews, they may believe certain things which are in themselves anti-Semitic. As Staetsky says: “Anti-Semitic ideas are not as marginal in Great Britain as some measures of anti-Semitism suggest, and they can be held with and without open dislike of Jews.”

As a result, the probability for a British Jew of encountering “potentially offensive or, at the very least, uncomfortable” views is about one in three. That’s high.

Staetsky states, however, that 70% of British people hold a “favorable” attitude toward Jews. He reaches that optimistic figure, though, only by reducing respondents’ options to categorize their attitudes. When offered more options, the scenario for British Jews becomes less rosy: only around 39% have “somewhat” or “very” favorable opinions of Jews, more than 5% are classed as “somewhat” or “very” unfavorable and nearly 56% are classed as neither favorable nor unfavorable or as “didn’t know.”

Two groups are shown to be principally responsible for problematic attitudes: Muslims and the Left.

While “significant proportions of Muslims reject all such prejudice,” anti-Semitism and anti-Israel attitudes are two to four times higher among Muslims than in the general population.

And contrary to the claim by those on the Left that they can’t be anti-Semitic because they are opposed to racism and fascism, the report says levels of anti-Semitism on the Left are “indistinguishable” from in the rest of the population.

When it comes to Israel, however, the Left is worse. Even those who are “slightly left-of-center” or “fairly left-wing” are more anti-Israel than the general population, while the more left-wing people are the more they hate Israel.

Moreover, says Staetsky, while only 12% of the population are out-and-out Israel-bashers, close to a quarter of Britons believe, to some extent at least, that Israel is deliberately trying to wipe out the Palestinian population, and about one in five that Israel is an apartheid state.

These are huge numbers for such poisonous lies. And no fewer than 56% hold at least one anti-Israel attitude.

So as Staetsky says, the feeling among so many Jews that they encounter anti-Israel positions all the time becomes immediately comprehensible.

The true extent of anti-Semitism has been masked by claims that being anti-Israel is not the same as being anti-Jew. Staetsky, however, states: “The existence of an association between the anti-Semitic and the anti-Israel attitudes tested is unambiguous.”

Moreover, the stronger the hostility to Israel the more likely it is to be accompanied by anti-Semitic attitudes such as that “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes.” And that correlation puts left-wing Israel-bashers squarely in the anti-Semitism camp.

Staetsky makes the link solely through a statistical overlap between anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attitudes. I’d go further. Anti-Israel discourse has exactly the same unique characteristics as anti-Semitism.

Both are based entirely on lies, distortions and libels, double standards, obsessive hatred and the assumption of a covert conspiracy with an almost supernatural cosmic power to do the world harm. And that’s no coincidence.

People don’t understand that the demonization of Israel isn’t merely “criticism.” Nor do they understand that anti-Semitism isn’t just an expression of dislike or hatred. Both are instead a particular form of derangement – a repudiation of reason and the replacement of truth by paranoid and malevolent lies.

Many Israel-bashers have no idea that what they are saying is profoundly anti-Semitic, because they have no idea that it is a set of deranged lies.

That’s because they never hear the truth. And that’s above all due to the failure of Israel to make its own case in an intelligent and strategic manner.

The report makes clear that far-right adherents, although among the most anti-Semitic, are of negligible importance because there are so few of them. Of far greater concern is the Left which dominates British society. And that’s what’s making Britain so uncomfortable now for so many Jews.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.
Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times (UK).

September 16, 2017

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 3

(1) Anonymous, September 18, 2017 9:06 AM

If the Left "dominates British society" ...

... then why are the Tories in control of Parliament?

Alan, September 18, 2017 1:51 PM

Why are Tories in power if Britain is left wing?

The left wing dominates the media, education and the arts. Universities press left wing views while silencing "hate speech" (otherwise known as anything disagreeing with them). Fortunately there is a silent majority large enough to vote against the left. This is how the Tories got in, and how Trump got in. The left don't get it, because they believe their own propaganda and are stunned when things go wrong for them.

Anonymous, September 19, 2017 4:12 AM

Who dominates society? Noisemakers or vote getters?

If I get you right, (sorry about that, but just a little), Alan, you're saying the British Left makes more noise but the British Right gets more votes. From that I gather that you measure social domination by decibel level rather than by democratically cast ballots. How peculiar. What if the Left were quieter but just as anti-Semitic and won elections, while the Right was more noisily pro-Israel and demonstrably favorable to the Jewish people but lost control of Parliament? Would you then say the Right had gained dominance?

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