Sunday, 27 May 2018

Save the Children


I keep coming back to the moment I heard a British Jewish acquaintance saying – with a wistful expression and a throaty voice:
“A lot of people here don’t like Jews”
What better definition for ‘modern’ antisemitism?  It is this ‘dislike’ for Jews as Jews that is the root of the problem.  It’s subliminal but visceral; rarely manifest but often present.

* * *

My father was a teenager in pre-World War II Romania.  One of his school teachers was a known member of the local fascist organisation – and a known antisemite.  Not unusual in that time and place, yet my father must have been terrified.  One day, in front of the entire class, the teacher asked my dad to stand up.  “Joseph,” he thundered, “you are a Jew, aren’t you?”  My dad nodded in meek admission of the crime.  “I don’t like Jews,” said the teacher.  “But that does not mean I don’t like you.  You’re a good kid”.

I keep remembering this story, because it is characteristic of the mindset of many antisemites.  It is why the statement “Some of my best friends are Jews” has become not just a cliché, but almost a litmus test for antisemites.  Most antisemites do not hate (or even ‘dislike’) every individual Jew.  What they hate, dislike and fear is ‘the Jews’ – that vague but (in the antisemitic mind) omnipresent collective.  It is that collective – and not the individual Jew – that is the ultimate, the quintessential ‘Other’.  That’s why the ‘modern’ antisemites dislike, hate and fear the State of Israel: with its Jewish majority and character, Israel is the tangible, physical embodiment of that ‘Jewish collective’.  That’s why antisemites argue that ‘anti-Zionism is not antisemitism’: because they feel they can tolerate individual Jews – though not ‘the Jewish collective’.

* * *

What most antisemites ‘don’t like’ is – paradoxically – not Jews as such, but Jewishness.  It is the Jewish identity – religious, cultural and (in ‘modern’ antisemitism) especially national, that is the red cloth to the antisemitic bull.  And that identity is especially obvious when Jews ‘get together’ (or indeed ‘stick together’); when they become not Jews but Jewry.

And that’s why antisemitism is tolerated – some would say embraced – by the (declaredly ‘anti-racist’) far-left.  Universalism, which has become a defining value on the far-left (I prefer to call far-leftists ‘extreme universalists’ or ‘uniformists’) provides an ideological justification for disliking the nation while proclaiming tolerance for the individuals.  Extreme universalism provides base racism with a noble mantle.  Is it a surprise, then, that Jeremy Corbyn can’t even order an inquiry into antisemitism without adding “Islamophobia and other forms of racism”?  To do otherwise would, to an ideologically-intoxicated mind, be in itself a deviation from the ‘value’ of universalism taken to extremes.

Extreme universalists ‘don’t like Jews’; because in their eyes Jews – with their obstinate wish to retain their specific culture and character – are the very embodiment of particularism.  As I mentioned in another recent article, extreme left ideologues want to change ‘the Jew’, to ‘better’ him; in other words, to make ‘him’ disappear in the amorphous ‘masses’ of a humanity robbed of identity.

* * *

Here’s a stereotype: one is more likely to meet other Jews around a table laden with food, then anywhere else.  It was around a table laden with food that, a couple of months ago, I was having a discussion with some Jewish friends and acquaintances; among them a charming couple in their early 30s – let’s call them Miriam and John.

My partner and I had just registered for ‘March of the Living’ – the annual gesture of Holocaust remembrance and defiance which consists of travelling to Poland to visit ghettos and concentration camps; and which culminates with a march from Auschwitz to Birkenau.  I guess both my partner and I were struggling in our hearts with a mixture of excitement and anxiety – and mentioned the trip in our dinner-table conversation.  “Oh, that is very interesting,” said Miriam.  And my partner went into sales mode: “Why don’t you come, too?” she asked.  But Miriam seemed to recoil a bit: “Oh, I don’t know… I’d like to do it at some point… but I don’t feel like doing it with a group of hundreds of other Jews”.  She must have seen the shock in my eyes, because she felt like explaining it: “No, seriously, I don’t like being in large groups of Jews… I think it brings the worst in us.”  Her husband agreed: “Yes, it would be good to visit those sites.  Maybe we will do it once on our own.  Certainly doing it with hundreds of other Jews would be a real nightmare…”.  “But we’re only saying this among ourselves, of course,” he added with a forced laugh.

Seldom in my life have I been so distraught.  Here’s a couple of ‘nice Jewish kids’ who… don’t like Jews.  At least, not Jews as a ‘large group’ – they obviously don’t mind breaking bread and chatting with certain individual Jews.

* * *

How did we get there?  It’s certainly not something they would have heard at home – they both grew up in warm Jewish families that treasured ‘Yiddishkeit’.  But then they went to study at British universities…

I once heard a talk given by a former Chair of UJS, the Union of Jewish Students.  Among other things, she told the audience:
“If you want to understand the political landscape anywhere on campus, imagine a world in which there are no Tories.  There are Anarchists, Marxists, Trotskyites…  The Labour Party Blairites are – like – the extreme-extreme right”.
My son – who also attended university in the UK – agrees, albeit with a proviso:
“There may have been some Tories – but they’d never dare admit it.  They’d be like… they’d be like hated and boycotted…”

* * *

And it’s not just universities, either.  It starts with schools in which teaching ‘British values’ (or indeed Jewish values) is frowned upon with distaste; in which extreme universalism is promoted as an article of faith – indeed as the only tolerated faith – and manifesting any trace of ‘particularist’ identity is discouraged as heresy.  And if you think that that’s not happening in Jewish schools – think again!  Increasingly, extreme universalism is taught there, too – even while security people stand guard outside, to prevent harm being visited upon a very particular group of children…

Some of you may be sending your children to Jewish youth movements and organisations –hoping they’d pick up a bit of Yiddishkeit.  But beware: some of those organisations have been infiltrated.  The ‘Yiddishkeit’ they teach is speckled with Jewish terms and concepts, yes – but those terms and concepts are robbed of their most important, overriding meaning: that of preserving the Jewish people as a particular, distinct ethnic, religious and cultural entity.  They’ll speak, for instance, about ‘Tikkun Olam’ – that beautiful aspiration of ‘repairing the world’.  But they’ll stand that concept on its head: rather than using it to cure the world of antisemitism, they’ll employ it to bash other Jews – for being too Jewish.

Even the position of rabbi has been corrupted: these days, the title may refer to far-left political activists endowed with a smattering of learning and a kwikfit diploma.  They have little interest in shepherding Jewish communities – unsurprisingly, since they don’t really like those communities.  But they love working with naïve youngsters and turning them into more far-left activists.  These ‘rabbis’ harbour an intolerance to Jewry – but they don’t mind specific, ‘liberal’ Jews.

* * *

Recently, the British Jewish community was shocked to discover that, in the midst of a tsunami of unfair, deceitful and discriminatory ‘criticism’ directed at the Jewish state, a group of Jewish youngsters assembled (or, rather, ‘were assembled’) in London’s Parliament Square to… recite Kaddish for Palestinian ‘protesters’ killed by Israel’s Defence Forces.

I know, I know: Kaddish is such an emotional prayer; it comes laden with the painful memory of dead relatives; of people we loved and lost.  And no, those Palestinian ‘protesters’ were neither dead relatives, not genuine protesters; in fact, as the ‘mourners’ knew very well, they were members of terrorist organisations that want to kill our relatives.

Jewish youngsters in London's Parliament Square, reciting the mourners' prayer
(Kaddish) for members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad
I know all that; I understand the shock.  But should we really be surprised?  Just look at who the leaders of that gathering were: a student ‘rabbi’ and a few activists with Jewish youth organisations (i.e., people to whom we entrust our children, our youngsters; who are supposed to ‘school’ them in what ‘being Jewish’ means; who guide them on birthright tours to Israel…)


* * *

Make no mistake: our children are under attack.  It’s an insidious assault – and just paying for school security won't help.  The aggressors don’t aim to injure tender bodies, but to mutilate raw, naïve souls.  If we allow this to continue, our children, our youngsters will not be Jews; but they also won’t be ‘just good people’, no.  Because the fanatics don’t just want to take away their Jewish identity and feeling; they want to replace it with a twisted, grotesque, revolting caricature of Jewishness.  Our kids are being brainwashed into political activists masquerading as Jews; into ‘Jews’ that don’t like Jews.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Gaza, Daniel and The Hatchet Job

According to Hamas officials, on Monday 14 May 2018 Israel Defence Forces have killed 62 Palestinians – all of them during peaceful protests at the border with Gaza Strip.

Most Western media outlets attributed the flare-up (either expressly or implicitly) to that pair of right-wing extremists: Trump and Netanyahu.  Who, we are led to believe, had engineered that dastardly act of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  For instance, under the inspired title ‘What happened in Gaza on Tuesday [sic!’], the BBC writes:
“Monday also marked the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, a move that has incensed Palestinians.”
It is not clear to me whether the distinguished BBC journalists are affected by superficiality, by amnesia or by sheer stupidity. Leaving aside the fact that ‘The Great March of Return’ has been going on for weeks, those of us who are not BBC journalists may wonder why is it that the Palestinians in Gaza were so much more “incensed” than those in the West Bank?  And – if we are to impute the 62 fatalities to Trump’s arsonism, then are we also to blame the circa 2,000 Palestinian deaths of the 2014 conflagration to… Obama’s pacifism?

It wasn’t just the media; Israel’s brave Western European allies queued up to deliver kicks in the Jewish state’s shin.  The severity of those “diplomatic” rebukes varied – but in my view the record of silliness was broken by Theresa May: the British Prime Minister chose to chastise Israel while standing alongside President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.  The Turkish dictator has a less-than-brilliant record of dealing with popular protests: during the 2013 demonstrations in Istanbul, 22 unarmed Turks were killed under his enlightened leadership.  More recently (January-March 2018), Erdoğan has ordered the Turkish army to ‘exercise legitimate defence of the country’s borders by… first bombing and ultimately conquering the Afrin province in Syria; at the cost, one should add, of between 290 and 500 Syrian civilians (since they were mostly Syrian Kurds, rather than Palestinians, people didn’t seem to count so precisely).

Breaking the world record of chutzpah
Meanwhile, a Hamas official has admitted (it is, after all, a matter of pride and Iranian subsidies for them) that 50 out of the 62 ‘peaceful protesters’ were members of his ‘illustrious’ organisation; we are still waiting for Islamic Jihad and the other, smaller ‘factions’ in Gaza to claim their own share of ‘martyrs’.

Naïves may argue that quite a few journalists, diplomats and politicians owe Israel some very humble apologies; but I’m not holding my breath…

What annoyed me more was the reaction of some Diaspora Jews.  And I’m not talking about the usual suspects like J-Street, New Israel Fund and Yachad UK; I’ve long written them off, along with their ‘pro-Israel’ pretences.  No, I am talking about the likes of Daniel Sugarman, a staff reporter with Jewish Chronicle. Daniel unequivocally declares himself a Zionist – and I believe him. (I also thank the Almighty that not all Zionists are as timid as good ol’ Dan; otherwise the State of Israel would probably encompass three tables in Golders Green’s Delisserie Restaurant. The ones closest to the toilets, I think).

On Tuesday morning, the IDF troops perched on the berm facing Gaza were grabbing their rifles; Mr. Sugarman also reached for the tool of his trade: no, not the pen – the hatchet!

Israel, declared Daniel off the pages of the venerable Jewish newspaper, “should be ashamed today”.

True, he adds
“the protests have been violent. Non-violent protestors do not throw rocks and Molotov cocktails. They do not launch flaming kites aimed at Israel with swastikas painted on them. The Hamas Prime Minister, Yahya Sinwar, described the stated aim of the attempts to breach the border as follows: ‘We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.’”
But Daniel’s problem is not so much with Palestinian violence; or, indeed, with Palestinian violence masquerading as ‘peaceful protest’.  No, his problem is Israel’s counter-violence.  As he so poetically puts it:
“… the response from Israel has been death. Death and mutilation. A cloud of tear gas and a hail of bullets. Over fifty Palestinians were killed at the border yesterday, and well over a thousand wounded. Today, those numbers will likely be surpassed.”
Err… no, they were not.  In fact, Tuesday was a relatively calm day.  And so was Wednesday.

But while Daniel might not be very good at predicting the future, he seems to be knowledgeable about the past.  And understanding, too:
“I know that Hamas has orchestrated these attempts to breach the barrier. I know that Hamas has offered stipends to the families of those killed or wounded in these protests, in the same way that it gives stipends to the families of those who have died while carrying out terror attacks against Israelis. I understand why Israel cannot allow these protestors to cross the border.”
All those facts don’t matter much, though.  Because
“But every bullet Israel fires, every life Israel takes, makes this situation worse. There are ways to disperse crowds which do not include live fire. But the IDF has made an active choice to fire live rounds and kill scores of people.”
Now, I am rather familiar with “ways to disperse crowds”, from my days as an IDF soldier in the time of the intifada.  And if you don’t want to rely on my memory (admittedly, it isn’t that good anymore!), Wikipedia lists them as
“tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and electric tasers”.
On Monday, IDF has used copious amounts of tear gas, including in rather innovative ways – for instance sprayed from drones.

Thousands of non-lethal (but also not very effective) rubber bullets have been fired.

To the best of my knowledge, just the two other means (pepper spray and tasers) have not been used – and only because they only work at very short distance and are certainly not effective against large numbers of  'protesters'.

My understanding is that tear gas and rubber bullets were used, however – and used massively; and that live fire was employed because non-lethal means failed to stop attempts to breach the border.  But… “There are ways to disperse crowds which do not include live fire.” If Daniel Sugarman has discovered such “ways”, I urge him to call as soon as possible Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot, IDF’s Chief of Staff.  I’ll be happy to give you his mobile number, Daniel – he is very eager to learn those mysterious “ways”.  You might also want to offer your services as a consultant to all the police forces in the free world.  Trust me, they will pay top sterling for your “ways”.  But before all that, would you mind just updating that obsolete Wikipedia page – to avoid deceiving people like me?

In truth, it may seem that Daniel has achieved a humongous journalistic scoop.  After all, did he not reveal that
“IDF has made an active choice to fire live rounds and kill scores of people.” ?
I’d be so very grateful, however, if he could indicate the source of that riveting scoop.  (My friend Gadi Eizenkot knows nothing about such IDF decision – I checked).  I mean, I hope Daniel has a source – and a credible one at that.  Because otherwise, what he did was to libel a whole lot of people, by declaring them – off the pages of the Jewish Chronicle – war criminals.

Unfortunately, this does seem to be a case of libel.  Because, in his next sentence, Mr. Sugarman appears to call upon a rather unreliable witness: his own ‘logic’:
“You cannot tell me that Israel, a land of technological miracles which have to be seen to be truly believed, is incapable of coming up with a way of incapacitating protestors that does not include gunning dozens of them down.”
Oh, that sublime mixture of arrogance and ignorance – should we invent a new term for it?  How about ‘arrgnorance’??  Don’t you just looove it when a shallow schmuck says “you cannot tell me”?

Well, I can and I shall tell him a thing or two.  True, for a tiny country with lots of things on its collective plate, Israel has achieved some very impressive technological successes.  But they were not achieved by snapping fingers – not even the fingers that Sugarman stuck at it.

Daniel may have watched too much StarTrek; the amazing crew of the ‘Starship Enterprise’ had, I seem to remember, phasers that could be set on ‘stun’.

But in the real world…  It took more than a decade to find a (great, though still not perfect) solution to the threat of rockets launched from Gaza; more than 3 years passed before Israeli scientists devised a way to detect terror tunnels.

Attempting to breach the border fence with thousands of ‘protesters’ is a new Hamas tactic; we can only hope that Israeli wunderkids will soon devise (no doubt at the behest of Daniel Sugarman and using his generous donations) “a way of incapacitating protestors that does not include gunning dozens of them down”.  Though that might have to wait until the knowledge contained in those 100,000 pages of Iranian nuclear experiments is read and absorbed.

“You cannot tell me”…  Oh, but I can!  When they occur, Daniel my boy, “technological miracles” are an achievement to be admired – but not a duty to be demanded.  In bashing Israel for not coming up with miracles-on-order, you have just joined a long and very ignoble queue of individuals and organisations who hold the Jewish state to a different standard from that applied to everybody else.

You have entitled your piece, Daniel
“I love Israel – that’s why I’m criticising it today”
This reminds me of an abuser who, when confronted by the police officer, declared – hand on his heart and sanctimonious look in his eyes: ‘I love my wife; I only beat her when she does not live up to my expectations – so she can improve’.

I can and shall tell you, Daniel, that love should not hurt.

As a Jew and an “ardent Zionist”, Daniel Sugarman, you have no doubt often felt pride at Israel’s unusual achievements.  But one Tuesday morning you woke up embarrassed: the world was once again kicking the Quintessential Jew in the shin and it seemed to you, Daniel, that Israel’s behaviour reflected poorly on your good self.  And for that reason, on that Tuesday morning, you performed a hatchet job on my country, on the army I served in; on our children in khaki drill.  You called us all murderers.  But hey – I’m sure you felt like a good, moral, superior human being once you wrote that article.  And that’s what’s important after all, ‘innit?

Well done, Daniel, you’re the man!  May you grow up and become a mensch.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

UPDATE

Good news!  The man has become a mensch.  I published the blog above on Wednesday evening, in response to Daniel Sugarman’s Tuesday article.  But – lo and behold – on Thursday Daniel wrote an apology – published on the Jewish Chronicle, the same newspaper that printed his initial article.  It is worth reading it in its entirety, but here are some salient parts:

“But the criticism I paid more attention to was from people who pointed out that it was absurd to deal in hypotheticals. I’d said that surely there must be a way the protestors could be stopped without shooting live ammunition at them – that Israel, with its incredible technological capabilities, must be capable of developing a way. That was a cry of anguish, but it was not an argument. If no such technology currently exists, then it was absurd of me to blame the IDF for not magically willing it into existence. The traditional crowd stopping technology would not have worked effectively. Rubber bullets are only short range. The same with water cannons. And with tens of thousands of people rushing the border, this would have been extremely unlikely to work effectively. The border would have been broken through. And then, without much of a doubt, a lot of people in Israel would have died.  That was, after all, Hamas’s stated aim.
But what really affected me the most was yesterday, when a Hamas operative went on television and claimed that, of the 62 people killed in the last two days, fifty were Hamas operatives. Islamic Jihad claimed three more, meaning that over 80 percent of the people who were killed while trying to breach the border were members of terrorist organisations whose direct aim is to bring death and suffering into Israel.
And I opened my eyes and saw what I had done.
[…]
I said that Israel should be ashamed of its actions. But today I am the one ashamed.”

We all make mistakes.  But we are not all equipped with hearts and balls big enough to admit those mistakes.

I forgive you, Daniel Sugarman.  And I respect you.  Shalom, brother!

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Iran: leapfrogging to The Bomb

Nuclear weapons for dummies

Development of nuclear weaponry involves putting together 3 basic components: know-how, explosive and vehicle.

Component A: know-how

This includes the basic science and the applied technology needed to design and build a nuclear bomb that can be transported and detonated at the desired place and time.

Since the very nature of this hyper-destructive weapon precludes a trial and error approach, a huge volume of research, calculations, modelling and indirect experimentation is required to achieve the required bomb architecture, a working triggering mechanism, etc.

Component B: explosive

The most common ‘nuclear explosive’ is an isotope called uranium 235.  It is found in nature, but only in very small concentrations.  Natural uranium (which is mined) contains circa 0.7% uranium-235, with the bulk being uranium-238 – which cannot be used as ‘nuclear explosive’.

To produce a workable bomb, uranium-235 needs to be separated from uranium-238 up to a purity of at least 80-90%.  Since the two isotopes are very similar – they only differ slightly in the weight of their nuclei – the separation process (dubbed ‘enrichment’) is extremely complex and laborious.  It necessitates the design, building and operation of a large number of very sophisticated centrifuges.  The process can take many years, but it can be shortened to just weeks or days by designing more efficient centrifuges and increasing their number.  In essence, it’s like filling a grain silo with a spoon.  It can be sped up by using more people and larger spoons.

Component C: vehicle

To be used as weapons, nuclear bombs need to be transported to the target.  This can be achieved by using a bomber aircraft – as was done in 1945 at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  But bomber planes are easy to detect and can be destroyed in the air, before the bomb is dropped.  The ‘modern’ delivery vehicle is the missile.  And its simplest embodiment is the ballistic missile.  A ballistic missile is very similar to the rockets used to launch satellites and other spacecraft, but it is fired at lower velocity, so that it returns to Earth, rather than escaping its gravitational field into the outer space.

Ballistic missiles are not simple projectiles; they need to carry a sensitive payload (a satellite or a nuclear bomb), which needs to be protected during flight, as well as deployed and triggered at precise moment in time.

Designing and building such missiles (especially long-range missiles that can accurately hit targets hundreds and thousands of miles away) involves huge research and development efforts, as well as lots of testing and experimentation.

If a country (or a rogue regime) wants to produce nuclear weapons, it needs to develop the 3 components above, in whatever order.  In the case of a rogue regime, it needs to achieve all that before being stopped by other countries.

This is difficult, because some of the processes involved cannot be hidden forever: installing large numbers of centrifuges involves building a suitable, large-scale facility; even if that facility is hidden underground, the logistics needed to build it can hardly escape the attention of intelligence agencies.  Similarly, testing missiles and nuclear devices is relatively easy to detect.

But hiding is not the only tactic at the disposal of a rogue regime intent on developing nuclear weapons; obfuscation is another.  Many of the activities necessary to obtain nuclear bombs are similar to the ones practiced in the pursue of civilian applications.  Up to a point, Component A activities can be disguised as benign academic research; enrichment can produce explosive material, but also fuel for nuclear energy production, as well as medical isotopes; missiles can be developed as ‘legitimate’ conventional weapons before being equipped with nuclear warheads.  This ‘dual purpose’ ambiguity can be exploited to mask the true purpose of a nuclear programme, especially given a media and a public eager to avoid tensions and war.  Debates related to the true nature of the North Korean nuclear programme were only really dispelled by that country’s first nuclear test, conducted in 2006.

Military tactics for dummies

One of the most basic military combat manoeuvres is ‘leapfrogging’.  In its simplest embodiment, the tactic can be employed by a small unit of – say – 3 soldiers.  Let’s call them A, B and C.  All 3 march forward from a set position.  Upon locating the enemy, the 3 take cover and fire.  Then Soldier A leaps forward 10 or 20 yards, while Soldiers B and C maintain their covered positions and fire on the enemy.  Once Soldier A has leaped and taken cover again in a more advanced position, Soldier B leaps forward, while A and C maintain their cover and fire…  And so on, until the unit closes down on the enemy and gets near enough to begin the final assault.

This is a basic offensive manoeuvre, meant to overwhelm the enemy while minimising the risk to one’s own forces.  Experience has taught that, when the force is relatively far away from its objective, this tactic is preferable to the alternative: the 3 soldiers running towards the enemy at the same time.  In the latter alternative, after a few seconds the enemy is able to anticipate the route of each of the soldiers and to take aim.  In leapfrogging, provided the leaps are short enough, the enemy has too little time to take effective aim; however, their attention becomes focused on Soldier A (the leaping soldier), so they are surprised by the next leap (Soldier B); and so on.  The tactic works because the successive movements distract the enemy’s attention, making it difficult for him to learn and react in a timely and effective manner.  By the time the enemy figures out the pattern and learns to react, it is usually too late: the attacking force is again achieving surprise by switching to the final assault.

The tactic remains effective, although it has been used countless times, at various command levels.  Just replace mentally the 3 soldiers with 3 platoons, companies, battalions or divisions.  Or indeed with 5, 7 or 10 divisions!

The same type of logic applies to non-military confrontations – think of business or politics.  The principle remains the same: distract attention; deny the enemy the time to read your intentions and prepare a suitable reaction.

How does one say ‘leapfrogging’ in Farsi?

So let’s now turn our inquisitive eye towards the Islamic Republic of Iran and its nuclear programme.  Thanks to the recent Israeli intelligence coup, we now know for sure that before 2003 Iran was working hard on Component A: know-how.

I say ‘we now know for sure’, because everybody but the terminally naïve was already harbouring very serious suspicions.

For instance, in a report dated 15 December 2015, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA, the international nuclear watchdog) stated:
“The Agency assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003. The Agency also assesses that these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities. The Agency has no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.”
In plain talk, Iran was learning how to design and trigger a nuclear bomb.  But sometime in 2003, that effort was scaled back or practically terminated. But why?  What’s so special about 2003?

Soldier A leaps

For a while before 2003, Iran’s Islamic regime could pursue its nuclear ambitions at very low risk.  Not that those ambitions were unknown – information about Iran’s nuclear programme was leaked to the Western intelligence agencies, including through Iranian defectors.  But those agencies had at the time – in the aftermath of 9/11 – other priorities.  The war in Afghanistan and the mounting tension with Iraq provided additional distraction.

But in March 2003 a multinational coalition led by USA invaded Iraq.  The attack was motivated by suspicions that Saddam Hussein’s regime was developing nuclear weapons.  The immediate outcome was that Iraq’s Ba’athist regime was toppled; Saddam Hussein was captured and executed.

Now put yourself in the shoes of regime bosses in Tehran – on the other side of a long border with Iraq.  Unlike Saddam, you have a relatively advanced nuclear weapons development programme – but are still years away from being able to actually build a bomb.  Would you want to continue that programme and provide the coalition with the motivation to deal with you in the same way it did with Saddam?  Or would you rather abruptly terminate the programme and hide all evidence that it had ever existed?

The leap is over, then.  Soldier A takes cover.

The files were hidden, therefore, but not destroyed.  Quite the opposite: they were carefully archived and stored, because they contained the precious Component A: know-how.  The files stolen by the Mossad will tell us now how good is the Iranian grasp of Component A; but in all probability, the research was very advanced, as it had been going on for years, with the full support of key regime figures and unimpeded by an ‘international community’ whose attention was focused elsewhere.

Soldier B leaps

But what was scaled down was further work on Component A; the march towards the bomb continued.  After 2003, the regime simply prioritised work on Component B: explosive.

In 2006, Iran had hundreds of centrifuges working on enriching uranium; by 2012, it had 10,000.  And another 8-9,000 were installed in 2013.  Moreover, Iran had developed more efficient, higher capacity centrifuges.

Uranium enrichment as such is not prohibited under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, because of the ‘dual-purpose’ conundrum.  Nuclear reactors designed for energy generation use uranium enriched to 3-5%.  Enrichment above that limit can be claimed to be conducted ‘for research purposes’; and if one wishes to enrich to 20% and above, one can always claim to produce medical isotopes.  That’s exactly what Iran claimed.  Using guile, staling tactics and intimidation, it limited the access of IAEA inspectors and thus maintained deniability.

One technical detail needs to be understood: the enrichment process is not linear; it actually accelerates at higher concentrations.  It takes longer to enrich natural uranium from natural ore (0.7% uranium-235) to 10%, compared to further enriching the 10% to 20%.  That’s because, as the concentration increases, the amount that needs to be processed decreases and the processes become faster.  Which means that, given a large enough volume of uranium enriched to 20%, the time needed to produce enough explosive material to build several bombs can be compressed to months, weeks or even days, depending on the number and efficiency of available centrifuges.

The ‘international community’ finally sprang into action, spooked by the prospect of a nuclear armed Islamist regime in the most volatile region on earth.  Economic sanctions were tightened; UN Security Council resolutions were issued; even hints of military intervention were uttered.

But did the Islamic Republic really want to enrich enough uranium for a bomb?  I doubt it.  The time was not ripe yet.  Iran had learned to build, install and operate thousands of centrifuges.  But it was not ready for the final assault.

Rather, the regime judged that, for the moment, it had made enough progress regarding Component B: explosive; to push any further was to risk a crippling military attack.  End of leap.  Soldier B takes cover.

So the regime signalled a willingness to concede.  Exploiting to the full the West’s reluctance to engage in yet another military conflict in the Middle East, Iranian negotiators drove a tough, tough deal – the bombastically named Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015.

Soldier C leaps

Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic switched its focus to Component C: vehicle.  The JCPOA placed no limits on missile development.  The UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the JCPOA, contained the following loose clause:
“Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day or until the date on which the IAEA submits a report confirming the Broader Conclusion, whichever is earlier.”
But, since Iran does not have to open its missile programme to any international scrutiny, who’s to say what missiles are “designed to be capable” and which are not?  What does “called upon” mean and what happens if Iran, is “called” but does not answer??

Iran’s missile programme did not begin in 2012 or 2015, of course.  It started much earlier, with North Korean help.  But the pace of missile development now becomes frenetic: in 2015, Iran test-launches at least 3 different ‘brands’ of missiles, with ranges reported as ‘up to 3,000 km’.  (This would make them capable of reaching Berlin and Rome.  Jerusalem is just 1,000 km away from Iran, as the crow (or indeed the missile flies); Riyadh is just 600 km away.)

The tests accelerate in 2016: in just two days of military exercises in March, Iran test-fires no less than 5 different types of missiles – the Qiam-1, Shahab-1, Shahab-32, Ghadr-H, and Ghadr-F.  In September, a new model (dubbed Zolfaghar).  A Shahab-3 missile is test-fired in December, as part of a broader military exercise.

In February 2017, Iran test-fires a cruise (guided, rather than ballistic) missile, with a range of between 2,000 and 3,000 km.

In June 2017, 6 Zolfaghar missiles are combat-fired at a target in Deir ez-Zor, Syria, which Iran claims was ‘an ISIS command centre’.

And so on…

And lastly…

In short, the Iranian regime employs a variant of the ‘leapfrogging’ tactic: each component of the nuclear programme is advanced in turn, while the other two are maintained on the slow burner.  The latest ‘leaps’ can be dated, as shown, around 2003 and 2015.  And we know what ‘leapfrogging’ leads to: the final assault.  Or, in this case, the speedy, all-out dash towards achieving operational, deployable, deliverable nuclear weapons.  That ‘assault’ will take place when the Iranian regime feels that it has closed down on that target; close enough to be able to achieve it in weeks, rather than months; i.e. before ‘the enemy’ is able to muster a response.  The regime may also wait for the right moment in a broader international context.  Perhaps a conflagration in a different place; a significant event that further distracts the fickle attention of the much vaunted ‘international community’.

Nobody really knows when that might happen, though of course every ‘expert’ will have an opinion.  But the current focus on Component C may well represent Iran’s final ‘leap’.

The time for counter-attack is now.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Antisemitism that drives on the Left

British Jewry is in a state of shock.  And not just because they feel that the levels of antisemitism are rising – for the first time since the Holocaust; not even because antisemitism is increasingly found in the mainstream, rather than on the dark fringes of the political spectrum.  No, it’s more than that: British Jews are shocked to realise that so much of that antisemitism is found in the Labour Party.

Following the Holocaust, most Jews in the West instinctively associated antisemitism with the extreme right.  The Left, which embraced anti-racism as one of its main defining values, was seen by most Jews as their natural political home.  Hence the shock, the frustration and the bitter taste of betrayal.

But the notion of a Jew-friendly Left has been a Western illusion.  Those Jews who survived the Holocaust in Eastern Europe tell a different story.  They have lived under Stalinist regimes that, while killing individual Jews in a far less systematic manner, resembled the Nazism in their determination to destroy Jewishness.

In fact, as left-leaning authors such as Dave Rich, David Hirsch and Prof. Robert Fine have brilliantly shown – the Left has a history of ideologically-entrenched antisemitism comparable to that of the Right.

Far-left ideologues viewed Jews as part of the structure of capitalism – and hence destined to vanish together with that obsolete socio-economic system.  Karl Marx and Bruno Bauer may have disagreed on fine points of doctrine; but they both agreed about the Jews' 'ugly character'.  As Marx famously put it in ‘On the Jewish Question’:

“What is the secular basis of Judaism?  Practical need, self-interest.  What is the worldly religion of the Jew?  Huckstering.  What is his worldly God?  Money. […]
The Jew has emancipated himself in a Jewish manner, not only because he has acquired financial power, but also because, through him and also apart from him, money has become a world power and the practical Jewish spirit has become the practical spirit of the Christian nations.  The Jews have emancipated themselves insofar as the Christians have become Jews. […]
In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.”

Most Jews are shocked when reading Marx’s pamphlet for the first time; astounded, a friend once exclaimed: “It sounds like something Hitler would say!”  Well, it does indeed – and not by chance.  Antisemitism has been called “the socialism of fools” – by the German social-democrat ideologue August Bebel.  An alternative description, however, would be ‘the socialism of extremists’.

In fact, paradoxically the concepts of Left and Right become increasingly meaningless as one moves closer to the extremes.  The political spectrum is not linear at all; it is much better represented as a horseshoe – with the left and right extremes much closer together than we’ve been accustomed to believe.

What characterises extreme ideologies (and extreme ideologues, irrespective of ‘flavour’) is that they view the world as divided into two irreconcilable camps – ‘we’ and ‘they’.  Those camps are construed as locked in some sort of existential struggle; not a difference of opinion, but a primeval conflict between the angelic ‘we’ and the demonic ‘they’; a conflict that can end only with the physical or ideological disappearance of the ‘they’ camp.  Put simply, extreme-left and extreme-right ideologies share the same fundamental, fanatical bigotry.

Historically, both right-wing and left-wing ideologies began to take shape at a time when science gradually replaced religion as the main source of power and influence in the Western society.  Unsurprisingly, therefore, both ideological families claimed the authority of science in order to justify their tenets.  Far-right and far-left differed in terms of the concept they focused on in order to draw that fundamental divide between the good/worthy/superior ‘we’ and the bad/undeserving/inferior ‘they’: extreme right ideologies were primarily obsessed with ‘race’, ethnicity or ‘blood’; while the left focused more on socio-economic ‘classes’.

But it would be a mistake to conclude that right-wing ideologies dealt exclusively in ‘biology’, while their left-wing counterparts focused entirely on socio-economics.

In fact, both ‘families’ mixed biology and economics in various proportions.

Nazis, for instance, saw a world divided between the ‘Aryan race’/the Herrenvolk and ‘inferior races’/the Untermenschen.  But, while the concepts were born of (pseudo-)biological differences, they very much spilled over into socio-economics.  Nazis saw Jews not just as biologically inferior, but also as economic oppressors; they also viewed other ‘races’ (such as blacks or Slaves) as incapable of intellectual achievement – and hence not just biologically inferior but also less productive economically and, therefore, holding back the socio-economic progress of the Herrenvolk.  Nazis saw themselves as champions of an Aryan race that was both biologically superior and socio-economically oppressed.  It is not by chance that the full name of the German Nazi party was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.  It saw the German nation as the vanguard of the Aryan ‘race’ – the elite of an elite; but it was also ‘Socialist’ and ‘Workers’ because it wanted to represent a class of people both oppressed and held back by the ‘inferior races’.

Similarly, while Communist ideologies viewed the world as divided into classes and more generally between ‘the workers’/the exploited and ‘the capitalists’/the exploiters, that initial socio-economic divide gradually acquired biological characteristics.  Viewed as idle parasites, ‘the capitalists’ were also portrayed as physically weak, atrophied.  Although interpreted these days as signifying only moral decay, the Leninist concept of capitalist ‘decadence’ was meant to also suggest some sort of physical frailty bordering on biological inferiority.  With the sensitive nerve tendrils of a novelist, H. G. Welles picked up on that when, in his Time Machine, described a society in which the two ‘opposed’ economic classes had evolved into two distinct species: the Morlocks and the Eloi.

The convergence between economic and biological is obvious if one compares works of art approved/encouraged/supported by the Nazis and by the Communist regimes.  They are incredibly similar: under both types of totalitarian rule, the ‘we’ camp was portrayed as not just morally superior, but physically imposing as well; conversely, ‘they’ were depicted as both morally and physically/biologically inferior.  Unsurprisingly, both the Nazi and the Communist regimes invested in physical education and assigned immense importance to success in sport competitions.

Spot the difference: Communist and Nazi art

The conceptual differences between ‘class’ and ‘race’ have been much further blurred in recent times.

The extreme right increasingly sees itself not simply as the defenders of the Aryan or white race; but of a white working class they see as economically oppressed.

Conversely, the extreme left increasingly identifies ‘the oppressed’ with the non-white ‘races’ or minorities (blacks, Muslims, Asians) and ‘the oppressors’ with ‘the white race’/the West.

Thus, it would be wrong to view extreme left and extreme right as opposite political camps; in fact, each is much better understood as just the mirror images of the other.

But the two extremes share another trait: their fundamental disdain for Jews.  For both extreme right and extreme left ideologies, Jews are not just the ultimate ‘they’ – both ‘biologically’ and ‘socio-economically’; they are in fact the most convenient ‘they’.  Jews can be seen as either non-white ‘pollutants’ or as part of the privileged white race, depending on one’s argument.  In both cases, they can be portrayed as rich – and therefore ‘oppressors’ by definition.
Mural by Mear One: 'oppressors' are white, with Jewish features;
'the oppressed' are portrayed with dark complexions.

Take for instance Mear One’s mural, which Jeremy Corbyn appeared to endorse.  Much has been written about the caricaturised Jewish features of the Monopol-playing ‘oppressors’.  Fewer people have pointed out, however, that the ‘oppressed’ (on whose backs the game of Monopol is being played) are portrayed as having dark complexions.  Jackie Walker’s contention that Jews were “chief financiers of the [black] slave trade” is a variation on the same theme.

This is significant and explains, to a large extent, the extreme-left’s knee-jerk hostility towards Israel: the Israeli-Arab/Israeli-Palestinian conflict is construed as a quintessential case of white oppressors vs. ‘brown’ oppressed.  In the extreme-leftists’ mind, hating the Jewish state and its supporters is not antisemitic; quite the opposite, it is the ultimate manifestation of anti-racism.

Pro-Israel discourse often highlights the country’s economic success, its proud status as ‘the start-up nation’.  But, far from endearing Israel to the far-left crowd, this only serves to reinforce its image as the well-to-do oppressor mistreating the pauper Palestinians.

Today’s high incidence of antisemitism in the Labour Party should come as no surprise; positioned left-of-centre in the past, the party has now been taken over by extreme-left factions.

Extreme ideologies – left or right – have an issue with Jews.  And not just because of biology and socio-economics, but because they are, in effect, religions – with adherents fuelled by messianic zeal.  ‘Believers’ cannot tolerate dissent.  But the Jews are the ultimate dissenters: whatever else they are, they insist on remaining Jews, on preserving some sort of separate identity.  For bigots, that’s heresy.

And extreme ideologies are built on bigotry – that’s why they are ‘extreme’.  For Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, Tories are not political opponents; they do not count as people whose opinions – however wrong – are legitimate.  No, for Corbynistas Tories are demons, criminals, ‘Tory scum’.  Israel is not just another state whose actions and policies can be approved, admired or criticised – as the case may be; no, it’s the very embodiment of everything that’s evil: nationalism, colonialism, terrorism, Nazism, apartheid.

The Twitter account 'motto' of a Corbyn supporter

It is, therefore, ridiculous to hope (let alone expect) that Jeremy Corbyn would ‘clean’ the Labour Party of antisemitism.  One might just as well expect that kind of behaviour from a fascist.  Antisemitism is not some external infection; it’s not a virus that has somehow contaminated an otherwise sound body.  Rather, when it comes to extreme ideologies – left or right – antisemitism is organic; it is part and parcel of their ‘DNA’; it’s woven into their fundamental bigotry, into the very characteristic that makes them ‘extreme’.

Jeremy Corbyn’s 'Labour Party' is not the Labour Party of yesteryear.  It’s no longer a social-democratic party; it’s no longer Left, but Extreme Left.  And Extreme Left differs from Left just as much as fascism differs from conservatism.

As I write this, I know that many will protest: it’s not Jeremy Corbyn’s party; a party is more than its current leader, etc.  That’s all well and good – in theory.  In practice, Jeremy Corbyn has been elected leader of the party – twice; and with comfortable margins.  He’s been elected not because he suddenly became attractive, after decades of wearing out the back benches; not because ‘the country has changed’; but because the Extreme Left has infiltrated the party in large numbers and has taken it over.  The ‘believers’ have now achieved power and it is naïve to hope that they will relinquish it.  They make the rules – and they’ll make them in their favour.

As for the sane Labour membership, they need to overcome their emotional attachment to a name that no longer reflects what’s in the can.  Rather than attempting to valiantly but ineffectively fight the windmills of what should now be called Far-Labour, they should leave it in disgust and recreate the party they know and love – the True Labour.  They should do so now, while they still command seats, followers, political clout.  And dignity, and self-respect.  Or, they can stay in and suffer – while hoping for some improbable change.  But hope is not a strategy!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Antisemitism in 21st century United Kingdom?


Don’t like Jews

An acquaintance once confided: “A lot of people here don’t like Jews”.  He is a born-and-bred British Jew, a successful businessman, not just well-integrated, but almost entirely assimilated into the social fabric of modern-day United Kingdom.  This man is the very image of self-confidence, yet he delivered that disconcerted statement at the dinner table in a low, almost conspiratorial voice.

His words spring to mind every time somebody mentions ‘defining’ antisemism.  And so, I remembered them recently, while reading the results of the latest survey on antisemitic attitudes in contemporary Great Britain.

Please tell us if you are an antisemite…

Undertook in 2016-2017 by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (a British-Jewish think-tank), the new poll is reputed to be the largest and most accurate survey on antisemitism ever performed in Britain.

But first, let’s talk about scope and methodology: the survey measured attitudes towards Jews and towards Israel among the British population.  It did so by approaching a representative sample of that population (more than 4,000 people in total), who were asked to provide answers to a questionnaire.
The first question asked was rather obvious:
“Please tell me if you have a very favourable, somewhat favourable, somewhat unfavourable or very unfavourable opinion of Jews”.
I say ‘obvious’ because this question is but a posher version of my friend’s rumination: it seeks to determine how many people “don’t like Jews”.  The immediate answer: 5.4% (that is, slightly more than 1 in 20 individuals or circa 3.6 million Britons) responded that they had either “a somewhat unfavourable” or “very unfavourable” opinion – i.e. that they “don’t like Jews”.  On the other hand, 39% said that they had a “favourable” or even “very favourable” opinion of Jews.  But the majority (56%) declared that their opinion of Jews was “neither favourable nor unfavourable”, or that they didn’t know/didn’t want to answer.



“Not very helpful, this”, must have thought the academics behind the survey, scratching their balding pates.  Hence they asked the question again, while eliminating the ‘neutral’, fence-sitting option “neither favourable nor unfavourable”.  This time, 12.6% of respondents (i.e. 1 in 8) admitted that they didn’t like Jews.  In the absence of another ‘neutral’ option, 19.4% (almost 1 in 5) chose the ‘don’t know/refuse to answer’ option.

The survey report authors analysed the difference between the two sets of results:
“Within the context of this survey, that means that the respondents may have been somewhat cautious about revealing the true nature of their feelings toward certain groups, and may have given responses that were socially acceptable instead, i.e. responses that were unlikely to result in them being negatively judged. In survey science jargon the outcome of such under-reporting is called social desirability bias.”
Great.  Now let’s dispense with the “survey science jargon” and with ridiculous euphemisms such as “somewhat cautious about revealing the true nature of their feelings”.  The survey authors seem unable to say it – so let me state it for them: at least 7% of respondents (the difference between 12.6% and 5.4%) lied.  In the first experiment, they declared themselves ‘neutral’ – even though in reality they “don’t like Jews”, as proven by the second experiment.

And that is a fundamental problem with the “survey science”: people lie.  As we’ve all seen, most recently in polls regarding the Brexit referendum and US elections.  They lie to the pollsters and – perhaps even more frequently – they lie to themselves; and the more ‘controversial’ the issue, the higher the propensity to lie.  Ask yourself, dear reader: if you harboured some deep dislike towards an entire racial, ethnic or religious community – how likely would you be to admit those attitudes in writing, even in a questionnaire purported to be anonymous?  In fact, how likely would you be to admit them even to yourself – if they were (as they often are) well-hidden or even subliminal?

In fact, what the survey academics didn’t say (or didn’t say in plain English) is that those 12.6% are not the ones who “don’t like Jews”, but just the ones less reluctant to admit it.  In fact, there is no way of knowing how many (perhaps all?) of the 19.4% that stubbornly refused to answer did so because of understandable reluctance to confess a racist attitude.  It is also impossible to say how many of those who responded that they liked Jews actually lied (to the pollsters or to themselves) and in reality harbour dislike.

Here’s another part of “survey science”: the very words used in asking the question create a strong bias, because people are always more likely to declare something positive (such as a “favourable opinion”) than they are to admit negative feelings (“unfavourable opinion”).  Even more so when it comes to issues of ‘race’.

The survey academics did not say all this in plain English – but they know it.  Which is why they continued their research beyond the obvious ‘favourable/unfavourable’ question.

I’m not antisemitic, but…

Respondents were presented with a number of statements about Jews and were asked to state if they agree with those statements or whether they disagree.  The statements themselves were based on common antisemitic preconceptions, but they also included a few positive statements about Jews.

And here are the results:

-          13% agreed/strongly agreed that “Jews think they are better than other people”;
-          12% agreed/strongly agreed that “The interests of Jews in Britain are very different from the interests of the rest”;
-          12% agreed/strongly agreed that “Jews get rich at the expense of others”;
-          10% think that “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes”;
-          8% think that “Jews have too much power in Britain”;
-          4% agree/strongly agree that “The Holocaust has been exaggerated” and 2% think it “is a myth”.

Again, the authors of the study avoid using plain language.  So let me do it in their stead: these ‘statements’ represent various embodiments of anti-Semitic prejudice.  And the percentages above are those of people who admit that they harbour those types of prejudice.

Interestingly, a full third of the people who declared unfavourable opinions in the previous round did not agree with any of the listed types of prejudice against Jews.  Maybe they base their antipathy on some other aspect; or perhaps they lied in the second round, when asked the more specific questions.  Or (more likely in my opinion), their dislike of Jews is a ‘matter of gut feeling’ and not based on any particular reason.  After all, racism isn’t rational; and, for some racists, it doesn’t even have to be post-rationalised.

True, on the other hand considerable majorities of Britons (78% and 61% respectively) agreed/strongly agreed that “A British Jew is just as British as any other British person” and that “British Jews make a positive contribution to British society”.

But, again, that’s not the end of the story.  A huge proportion of people (between 34% and 47%) reacted to the ‘negative’ questions either by choosing “neither agree nor disagree” or by refusing to answer.  On the other hand, just 16% chose that ‘neutral’ option with regard to the positive statement “A British Jew is just as British as any other British person”.  Perhaps many interpreted this as a statement of fact, rather than of opinion: after all ‘British’ (unlike ‘English’, ‘Scottish’ or ‘Jewish’) has to do with citizenship, not ethnicity; and it is a fact – not a matter of opinion – that British Jews are citizens equal under the law.

So, again, we are left mostly in the dark.  Take, for instance, “Jews get rich at the expense of others”: how many of the 39% who chose not to let us know their opinion about this statement actually agree with it (but are reluctant to confess it) and should really be added to the 12% who admitted the prejudice?  How many of the 34% who preferred to hide their feelings on the matter really believe that “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes”?

We know one thing: that, in the previous experiments, the number of people who admitted not liking Jews went up from 5.4% to 12.6% when the ‘neutral’ option was eliminated; in other words, 6 out of 10 individuals who actually don’t like Jews initially lied about it.  Assuming the same proportion for the ‘negative’ questions (an assumption that makes sense, I think, but for which I am unable to provide evidence) would mean for instance, that at least 27.5% of Britons believe that “Jews get rich at the expense of others”.

Unfortunately, the study’s authors did not overly concern themselves with the painful issue of insincere answers.  They did something else, however: they calculated the proportion of people who either admitted to disliking Jews or admitted to harbouring at least one type of anti-Jewish prejudice.  That proportion is 30%.  I.e., about 1 in 3 Britons admits to harbouring a dislike or prejudice against Jews.


Boundary of the diffusion of attitudes

British Jews have a complex relationship with antisemitism: on one hand, they are keen to expose it, so that it can be dealt with; on the other hand, they are loath to admit its true extent.  And not just because it means confronting a scary situation, but because it would force them out of that false comfort of ignorance.  It is hard for a Jew to live, work and interact with other people when he/she knows that – statistically speaking – many of them ‘don’t like Jews’.

Hence, every piece of British-Jewish research into antisemitism always seems to tread softly, to gently tiptoe around the issue and to contain ‘clarifications’ meant to take the edge off otherwise harsh findings.

This study is no exception.  Having established – even with the huge caveat of deeming every answer as sincere – that scary 30% proportion, the authors take great pains to try and humble down its significance:
“We relate to this figure not as the proportion of antisemites that exist within British society (such a claim simply does not stand up to any reasonable scrutiny), but rather as a boundary of the diffusion of antisemitic attitudes in society. The use of the new term, diffusion, is highly significant analytically. It signals a shift in emphasis – from counting antisemitic individuals to quantifying the spread of attitudes that Jews consider to be antisemitic, and that may represent a source of discomfort or offense to many Jews when exposed to them.”
Well, I agree that antisemitism is not a matter of black-and-white, but a continuum of attitudes ranging from complete lack of prejudice to violent, berserk hatred.  What I do not understand or accept is the attempt to detach the assessment of the pandemic from the number (or proportion) of infected individuals.  Let’s do away with posh academic lingo and take an example.  Say an individual agrees (or strongly agrees) with the statement “Black people are lazy” (this is a prejudice originating, I believe, with white slave owners).  Would you then say that the polled individual is a racist – or would you just say that “We relate to this […] as a boundary of the diffusion of [racist] attitudes in society”??

‘Good’ news: they don’t ‘just’ hate Jews…

Perhaps in an attempt to persuade themselves that ‘things are not so bad, after all’, the survey authors also asked respondents about any ‘unfavourable’ opinions about Christians, Hindus and Muslims.  Needless to say, the vast majority of people in the UK do not dislike Christians – those who do represent just 3.1%.  After all, the UK is still ‘a Christian country’ – nominally at least, if not in terms of church attendance.  5.5% of respondents admitted to having unfavourable opinions of Hindus and 14.4% harbour such opinions with regard to Muslims.  So hey – there you are!  Jews fare no worse than Hindus and much better than Muslims.  Yippeee!!

Except that – though the academics behind the study failed to point this out – things are not so simple.  To start with, there are (according to the 2011 census) only about 260,000 Jews in the UK, compared to circa 835,000 Hindus.  That’s not including 425,000 Sikhs – although it’s doubtful that the average Briton differentiates between those two religions; in fact, it is much more likely that the majority of respondents had taken ‘Hindus’ to mean ‘more-or-less of Indian origin’, and hence have mentally included all ‘Indian-looking’ people, whether originating from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, whether Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Muslim.  That would bring UK’s total ‘Hindu’ population in 2011 to 3 million people.

As for Muslims, the 2011 census found circa 2.8 million self-declared adherents of this religion in the UK.

So both Hindu and Muslim minorities are considerably more numerous – arguably a full order of magnitude above Jews in absolute numbers and in proportion within the general British population.  As a result, the comparison is rather meaningless.  And for several reasons:

Firstly, given the minuscule proportion of Jews in the UK (and the fact that most British Jews live concentrated in a handful of urban areas), it is obvious that the vast majority of Britons spend the vast majority of their lives without ever interacting with Jews.  This means that, if they declare an ‘unfavourable opinion’ or some prejudice about Jews, that’s mostly not the result of some personal experience, not even personal experience wrongly twisted and generalised.  It is pure, unadulterated racism.

Secondly, at under 0.4% of population and given the long and bitter history of European antisemitism – including Inquisition, pogroms and the Holocaust – Jews not just feel more vulnerable, but objectively are more vulnerable than both Hindus and Muslims.  With regard to Jews (but not Hindus or Muslims), there is a concrete, relatively recent and absolutely horrific history of specific persecution.  This is not a ‘potential’ danger; nor are we talking about the type of racism that results in ‘mild’ discrimination – but about racism that has shown centuries of genocidal intensity.

Thirdly, in terms of sheer electoral muscle (the ultimate source of power in a parliamentary democracy) Jews are a negligible factor.  Hindus and Muslims are not.
All of the above should translate – in any democratic and caring society – into an understanding that Jews are more at risk of oppression and should therefore be more entitled to protection.

Left, right and centre

One of the issues investigated by the survey was the specific prevalence of antisemitic attitudes across the political spectrum.  To that end, respondents were asked to self-describe their political inclinations on a scale ranging from ‘very left wing’ to ‘very right wing’.  These categories were then cross-related to the previously measured antisemitic attitudes.

In the authors’ opinion, the only relevant result pertains to the ‘very right wing’.  52% of those who self-described as ‘very right wing’ admitted some form of antisemitic prejudice, as compared to 30% in the general population.  All the other types of political persuasion (including ‘very left wing’) hovered around 30%.  In the authors’ words:
“The very left-wing is indistinguishable from the general population and from the political centre in this regard. In general, it should be said that, with the exception of the very right-wing, there is little differentiation across the political spectrum in relation to the prevalence of antisemitic attitudes.”
Not so in relation to anti-Israel attitudes (which was measured using a similar methodology to the one described above).  Anti-Israel attitudes are hugely prevalent among the ‘very left wing’ – affecting close to 80% of those respondents.  Even among the ‘slightly left of centre’ anti-Israel attitudes are found among two thirds of respondents.  This exceeds even the prevalence of such sentiments among the ‘very far right’.

Should we conclude, then, that antisemitism is mainly an issue on the far right and that the far left is, in that respect, no-better-no-worse the rest of the British population?  Well, such stupid conclusions might, I think, come under the title ‘Statistics triumphs upon reason’.

The ‘anti-Zionism is not antisemitism’ has long been a slogan on the far-left.  Far-leftists have heard arguments around this slogan and are as a consequence both more motivated and more able to consciously avoid statements that are overtly antisemitic; to conceal antisemitic sentiment – and to more skilfully cloak it as ‘anti-Zionism’.  That biasing factor is certain to have been amplified in the period 28 October 2016 - 24 February 2017, when the survey was conducted and when Labour and Momentum were very much ‘under fire’ on the issue of antisemitism.  (See for instance articles published even in The Guardian.)

In fact, the poll attempts to use the same tools on two completely different populations: one (the militant far-left) is ‘forewarned’, extremely aware from a political point of view – and hence ‘forearmed’; the other, the much more ‘innocent’ and much less politically active centre, which decidedly less skilled in the art of dissimulation.  This is decidedly like comparing apples with oranges.

While far rightists may be just as militant as far leftists, they are less likely to dissimulate attitudes that may be perceived as racist, because such attitudes are less strident in the general picture of their ideology.

For the left (and in particular for the hard left), opposition to racism is – at least in theory – a major ideological thrust.  According to the perception of many Jews, the hard left’s anti-racism manifests a strange blind spot when it comes to seeing and identifying as such antisemitic (as opposed to anti-black, anti-Asian or Islamophobic) attitudes.  It would have been extremely interesting to test that hypothesis: even assuming that the ‘very left wing’ segment manifests the same level of anti-Jewish ‘dislike’ as the bulk of the population, how does that segment compare in terms of anti-Hindu and anti-Muslim sentiment?  If the level of that kind of racism is lower than average (as would be expected from a purportedly ‘anti-racist’ segment), then that would prove the ‘blind spot’ hypothesis.  Unfortunately, that data is not available in the published survey report.

But even if we were to accept that the far left is – from the point of view of antisemitism – no-better-no-worse than the bulk of British population, that should not be, from their own point of view, an acceptable situation.  This is a political segment that – to a considerable extent – defines itself in terms of opposition to racism.  Naively, we would expect them to be at the forefront of fight against antisemitism and not just ‘average’.

But you know what?  Let us now be practical.  Let us assume, despite all the above caveats, that the proportions found in the survey are largely correct.  So, we’ve got 52% of the far right harbouring antisemitic sentiment and ‘only’ 33% on the far left.  Does it follow, then, that the priority should be fighting far-right antisemitism?  Hardly!  In fact, the opposite is more logical, because in contemporary UK the far right is decidedly marginal – both in terms of numbers and of political influence.

Just 1.4% of respondents self-describe as ‘very right wing’, while 3.6% declare themselves as ‘very left wing’.  If we include ‘fairly right wing’ and ‘’fairly left wing’, the proportions are 7.8% and 15.5%, respectively.  As a result, despite the lower proportion, there are more leftists harbouring antisemitic prejudice than there are rightists.

But it’s not just about the numbers.  In terms of practical political influence, the English Defence League is a non-entity and so is the BNP; with no representatives in the Parliament, even UKIP is more and more inconsequential.  On the other hand, the hard-left faction currently leads the Labour Party – the country’s second-largest parliamentary bloc.  It is Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of that faction, that has a chance of becoming the next Prime Minister, not Nick Griffin or even Nigel Farage.

Proudly anti-Zionist, but utterly opposed to antisemitism…

Previous polls showed that, for the vast majority of British Jews, the State of Israel is central to their Jewish identity.  While British Jews accept (and often join) ‘normal’ criticism of Israeli government policies, they typically perceive anti-Israel hostility and anti-Zionism as antisemitic.  The survey attempted to discover, using statistical means, whether there is a correlation between ‘anti-Israelism’ and antisemitic prejudice.

In their academic lingo, the study authors state:
“we find that the existence of an association between the antisemitic and the anti-Israel attitudes tested, is unambiguous.”
In English: according to the survey results, the more anti-Israel a respondent’s opinions, the higher the likelihood that that individual also harbours antisemitic prejudice.  As we have seen, the prevalence of that prejudice is 30% among the general British population; it is, however, 74% among those with high levels of anti-Israel hostility.  1 in 2 respondents with strong anti-Israel opinions believes that “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes”; compared to 1 in 10 respondents in the general population.  Conversely, among those who hold no anti-Israel opinion, 86% are also free of antisemitic prejudice.  Of course, as discussed earlier, the correlation is likely to be even stronger than that, because the survey ignores the (very likely) possibility that some respondents will much more freely express anti-Israel attitudes, which they consider legitimate and even noble political views; but will tend to conceal anti-Jewish opinions, which are less ‘socially acceptable’.

In total, one third of respondents were willing to declare an ‘unfavourable’ or ‘somewhat unfavourable’ opinion about Israel.  The equivalent proportion was 23% about the USA and 48% about Iran.

Unfortunately, the survey investigated the correlation between ‘anti-state’ opinion and ‘anti-people’ prejudice only in the case of Israel and Jews.  It would have been interesting to see, for instance, if respondents who exhibited anti-USA opinions also tended to show more dislike for Americans living in Britain; but such data is not available.

As any student of statistics knows, ‘correlation’ does not necessarily imply causality – and of course does not shed any light on the direction of that causality.  True to their academic (or perhaps didactic) make-up, the study’s authors felt compelled to point that out:
“Our analysis lacks the capacity to identify causality. What remains unclear is just how the connection between the two types of attitudes arises, when it does. Do people develop anti-Israel attitudes because they are antisemitic? Does adopting an anti-Israel position become just one more channel for expressing antisemitism? Or, alternatively, do people become antisemitic as a side-effect of their anti-Israel attitudes and activities? Future research will have to tackle the question of the chain and order of the acquisition of these two types of attitudes.”
Theoretically, that is indeed so.  But, ‘between us girls’, allow me to scoff with contempt at the ludicrous suggestion that a sentiment well-documented in Europe for many centuries may actually be “a side-effect” of attitudes towards the modern State of Israel (established in 1948).  Statistics is an excellent aid for reason; it should never be employed in-lieu of reason.

So let’s summarise – in as simple a way as possible – what we learned about the anti-Zionism/antisemitism correlation:
  •          If a Brit appears strongly hostile to Israel – this does not absolutely mean that s/he harbours antisemitic prejudice; but there is a 74% likelihood that s/he does.
  •          If a Brit shows zero hostility towards Israel, it does not absolutely mean that s/he is free of antisemitic prejudice; but there is an 86% likelihood that s/he is.

The Muslim factor

The study also tested the prevalence of antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiment among various religious communities in the UK.  To paraphrase the study’s authors, the conclusion in this respect is also ‘unambiguous’: no significant difference was found among the various Christian denominations, or indeed between Christians and those who self-described as ‘of no religion’.  On the other hand, both anti-Jewish and anti-Israel opinions are much more prevalent among British Muslims.

Almost 40% of the British Muslims polled did not agree with the statement “A British Jew is just as British as any other British person”.  63% did not agree that “British Jews make a positive contribution to British society”.  1 in 4 British Muslims believes that “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes”.  1 in 7 believes that the Holocaust has been exaggerated and 1 in 12 believes that it is a myth.

According to the study, the higher the level of Islamic religious observance, the higher also the level of antisemitic prejudice (and anti-Israel opinion) among British Muslims.

It’s not like there are pogroms here!

Finally, the study measured the propensity to violence against Jews.  When asked whether it is justified to use violence against Jews “in defence of one’s political or religious beliefs and values”, 4.1% of respondents opined that this is ‘often justified’ or ‘sometimes justified’; 9.8% opined that it ‘rarely justified’.  When the same question was asked about ‘Zionists’, the proportions were 4.4% and 10.1% respectively; naming Israelis as the target of violence resulted only in a minor increase: 4.8% and 10.4%, respectively.  Strangely, the study authors failed to point out this similarity – which may indicate that for extremists the terms Jews, Zionists and Israelis are quasi-interchangeable.

4.1% might sound like a small proportion.  But when applied to the entire British population, it translates into 3 million people envisaging violence against Jews, either ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’, if they perceive that their “political or religious beliefs and values” are jeopardised.



It would have been interesting to see the propensity-to-violence among Muslim respondents, but the data has not been provided in the report.  Was the result uninteresting, or did it offend the authors’ sense of ‘political correctness’?  We can only guess.

(Not) assigning blame

And perhaps it was political correctness that caused the authors to opine, in the final conclusions that, despite their focus on perceived ‘high incidence’ segments such as far right, far left and Muslims, the ‘responsibility’ for antisemitism cannot be assigned to these groups.  The authors justify that conclusion by showing that, if those three segments were eliminated from the analysis, the level of anti-Semitic prejudice would reduce only marginally.  That’s because those three segments of focus are numerically small within the general population (they account together for only circa 10%).  Well, the number crunching is correct – but the reasoning is rotten; this is yet another instance in which the authors are, in my humble opinion, ‘misinformed by data’.  Looking simplistically at the ‘numeric’ contribution of the three focus segments may be misleading.  We are clearly dealing with segments that tend to be more ‘militant’, where the general population is typically more ‘apathetic’.  The question is – or should be: to what extent are the levels of antisemitic prejudice found in the general population the result of the 3 segments’ militancy?  After all, the activism of a small but militant minority can gradually ‘spill over’ or ‘seep into’ the majority – such phenomenon is well-known in social sciences and is familiar also from historical events.  We do not know if this is what occurred here; but surely the authors should have given more thought to this very credible possibility, before placing the ‘responsibility’ squarely on the shoulders of the ‘mainstream’ and practically exonerating the political extremes (and the Muslim community) as ‘too few to matter’.


Making no bones about it!

It is easy to get caught in (or get bored with) numbers and number-crunching.  But what this study (and of all the studies before it) did was merely to provide scientific evidence for something that most British Jews – the well-ensconced, comfortable British Jews – already knew; for something they feel in their not-yet-assimilated Jewish bones: that antisemitism exists – and at worrying levels; that it exists in 21st century United Kingdom; that it exists in the mainstream and among those that inscribed anti-racism on their flags as a defining value; that it’s everywhere and that it’s growing.

It’s good to have scientific evidence.  But frankly – I don’t need it.  I listen to the scream of alarm coming from those old Jewish bones.  Broken by Inquisition and burned at Auschwitz – they’ve developed delicate nerves.  They’ve learned to identify a certain type of hostility – even when it’s well-hidden, even when it’s reflexive and subliminal.  They tell me all I need to know…

 
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