Monday 14 March 2016

It’s alright to be an anti-Semite, as long as you’re not Bonehill… err… boneheaded about it!

A few months ago, the Southwark Crown Court sentenced white supremacist Joshua Bonehill-Paine to three years and four months in prison, for inciting racial hatred against Jews.  As the verdict suggests, this was not so much about what the bonehead did, but about what he wrote.  Among other things, he called for an anti-Jewification march and promised that it would be an absolute gas!  Correctly in my opinion, the court ruled that the right of law-abiding citizens to live free of incitement trumped the lunatic’s right to freely speak his mind.

The coat-of-arms of the National British Resistance – one of
Joshua Bonehill-Paine’s organisations

Bonehill-Paine is not the only nutter in town.  More recently, a certain Gerry Downing was re-expelled from the Labour Party (he had been expelled and re-instated) after calling on Marxists to address the Jewish Question concretely today.

Apparently, Bonehill and Downing represent diametrically opposed ideologies: the former is an avowed right-wing fascist; the latter – a self-described socialist revolutionary.  Yet, as I have observed before, these extreme ideologies have a lot more similarities than is commonly recognised.  One of the points of agreement is the existence of a ‘Jewish Question’ in need of a radical and urgent solution.  Bonehill and Downing subscribe to the same anti-Semitic trope: that Jews control huge financial means and, through them, have a genuine stranglehold on Western political and economic life.

Despite that essential similarity, it is unlikely that Gerry will join Joshua in prison anytime soon.  To start with, from a political point of view it is very easy to deal summarily with someone like Bonehill-Paine.  He and his overtly fascist supporters are a constituency onto themselves – and one too small to matter.  It is easy to dismiss them as a small bunch of hooligans – and treat them accordingly.  When it comes to Downing, things are more complicated.  Good ol’ Gerry’s ‘revolutionary’ jargon and 'anti-Zionist' rhetoric are at times uncomfortably similar to those employed by many at the ‘court’ of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.  Simply put, placing Gerry Downing in prison for inciting racial hatred would be striking too close for comfort.  Downing’s juggling of the terms ‘Jewish’, ‘Zionist’ and ‘Israeli’ is, admittedly, very clumsy; Corbyn, KenLivingston and (especially) George Galloway are accomplished masters in that fine art.  Still, we live in a world of intellectual contorsionism, in which use of the code word ‘Zionist’ –  however clumsy and transparent – suffices, allowing naked bigotry to wrap itself in the ‘noble’ mantle of political activism.  In this atmosphere of moral relativism, one can be an anti-Semite, as long as one is clever about it; as long as one is a Downing, rather than a Bonehill.  This is why ol’ Joshua was sentenced to prison in a court of law, while Gerry was only expelled from Labour – unless, that is, his appeal will ultimately be upheld by The Party’s new powers that be.

Gerry Downing (right) talks about the ‘Jewish Question’, but also rages against ‘the Zionists’.
He was therefore considered ‘kosher’ for a BBC interview. 

As I was writing up these two examples, a third one cropped up: Vicky Kirby is an up-and-coming Labour activist from Woking in Surrey.  So up-and-coming, in fact, that she had been selected to represent the Party in last year's general elections.  Woking is rather far from Jerusalem, but the parliamentarian candidate's Twitter account showed a surprisingly keen interest in that part of the world.  One tweet called Hitler "the Zionist God", while another claimed:
“We invented Israel when saving them from Hitler, who now seems to be their teacher.”
After promising, in yet another tweet
“I will never forget and I will make sure my kids teach their children how evil Israel is!”,
Ms Kirby proceeded to lament Islamic State forces "not attacking the real oppressors, Israel".

Finally, she observed
"Point abt Jews is that they OCCUPY palestine. Used to live together, now slaughter the oppressed."
Vicky Kirby won't be going to prison, like Joshua Bonehill; not has she been expelled from the Labour Party, like Gerry Downing.  True, upon discovering her charming tweets, the Labour Party dropped her MP candidacy.  But that was the Old New Labour.  She has now re-surfaced as Vice-Chair of Woking Labour Party’s executive committee.  The New New Labour Party, that is.  Corbyn's Labour Party.  In her exalted capacity as Vice Chair, lovely Ms. Kirby will also operate as Trade Union Liaison Officer, as well as Communications and Campaign Coordinator!  But worry not: despite these onerous responsibilities, I'm sure that good ol' Vicky's interests are much bigger than Woking; so she will surely find time to set the world right, by dealing first and foremost with the Jewish OCCUPATION.

Nor is anti-Semitism confined to the world of nutty revolutionaries and political activists with an axe to grind.  On the contrary, it stems from the grassroots.  A few months ago, I was taking part in a conference dinner in Germany.  Across the table sat a British delegate, a rather boisterous 50-something.  Somehow – I don’t even know how – the discussion turned to the Arab-Israeli conflict.  My interlocutor opined that ‘most British Jews are anti-Zionist’, before implying that ‘the Zionists’ wielded immense power over Britain’s financial and political establishment.  He joked (or half-joked) that I’d probably report him to those all-powerful Zionists – and get him in trouble.  I rather contemptuously answered that there were just about a quarter of a million Jews in the UK, and if indeed ‘most of them were anti-Zionists’ he was unlikely to ‘get in trouble’.  ‘A quarter of a million?’ he asked, incredulously.  ‘I thought there were a lot more…’  ‘And how many of them are politicians?’ he asked, after a moment or so.  ‘I don’t know’, I replied, ‘there’s no more than a handful of MPs who are Jewish’.  ‘A handful?’ he asked, ‘so five MPs?’  ‘I guess’, I said, eager to end the conversation, ‘I don’t know exactly’.  ‘Five MPs’, he proclaimed, in a triumphant tone.  ‘You see?  Twice the proportion in the population!  And that’s just the ones we know about…’  A few minutes and a couple of sentences later, he was threatening to throw the contents of his glass in my face, incensed at my implication that his statements amounted to anti-Semitism.  He was drinking red wine (quite a lot of it) and I was wearing my best suit – so I dropped the subject.

I was reminded of that a few weeks ago, when a British friend told me how, during a childish altercation in the schoolyard, her son had just been called a ‘Jewish c*nt’.  The offender – a 12-13 year old child – apparently thought that Jewish c*nts were decidedly worse than Gentile ones.  I’ll leave it to you, learned reader, to judge whether that was just a technical assessment – or the result of an anti-Semitic comment the child might have picked up from his parents over dinner.

In any case, it was the second such incident that my friend’s boy had been involved in.  Rather distressed, she asked me whether this time she should ‘make an issue of it’.  I opined that she should ask the Head teacher to organise a short course on Jews and anti-Semitism, so that the children could learn to recognise and reject the phenomenon.  She wrote a nice letter, proposing just that.  She even volunteered me as an unpaid lecturer on the subject.  In response, she received a very polite letter from the school, thanking her for raising her concerns and informing her that the school will not tolerate any manifestations of racism.  As for her suggestion of educating the children about anti-Semitism, the school’s management would seriously consider it…  She never heard from them again; I’m sure they continue to consider her suggestion – very seriously.

Now, that doesn't mean that the incident was swept under the carpet.  I’m sure it was dealt with – probably the boy was harshly admonished.  But dealing with this as if it were an isolated occurrence achieves nothing; this is not about scolding one 12 year old, but about educating a generation.

All the episodes described above represent overt, obvious anti-Semitic incidents.  These days, we record them, classify them, analyse them.  We publish statistics and reports about them.  Yet anti-Semitic incidents are not the biggest problem – anti-Semitism is.  We are recording the few visible symptoms, while ignoring the widespread malignant disease.  As another friend of mine – a well-assimilated British Jew – told me once “You know, a lot of people here don’t quite like Jews…”

And that’s why my problem is neither Joshua Bonehill-Paine, nor Gerry Downing.  Whether in prison or in the political rubbish bin, these overt, 'classical' anti-Semites are buffoons of no consequence; even malodorous politicians like Corbyn, Livingston and Galloway are but minor pollutants in the grand scheme of things.  No, the villain in this story is the Head Teacher in my friend’s school.  Because of his indifference, how many kids will be lost to the Dark Side?  How many will grow up to ‘not quite like Jews’?  How many of those kids will propagate further this cancer which – even in the 21st century – eats into Europe’s moral stature, into its very soul?  He, the Educator, has the possibility and the duty to save not the European or the Israeli Jews, but the European Gentiles from an epidemic transmitted from generation to generation – over centuries.

Unfortunately, there are too many indifferent head teachers.  And that’s just the ones we know about!

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