A Parliamentary Inquiry is about to report a large increase in the number of antisemitic attacks in Britain in recent years, which has accelerated further since the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah.
More shameful than the numbers is the fact that the character of the attacks has changed. While in the past most antisemitic attacks came from tiny fringe groups, Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust reports that nowadays the attackers
are from across society [...]. “When it's verbal abuse, it's just ordinary people in the street, from middle-class women to working-class men. All colours and backgrounds. We hardly ever see incidents involving the classic neo-Nazi skinhead. Muslims are over-represented.”
Indeed, a few days ago this violence from ‘across society’ spread to the normally staid House of Lords, when Lord Janner, who is 78 and Jewish, was physically attacked by Lord Brammer who is 82. The attack was caused by their disagreement over Israel's non-existent war crimes in Lebanon, and subsequently legitimised by Janner's colleagues, who apparently persuaded him to make no complaint.
In hate-mail to senior Jewish figures, ordinary Jewish people were being blamed for the deaths of Lebanese civilians. “There are also references to the Holocaust, saying that Hitler should have wiped out the Jews.”
Mr Gardner said that the rise in attacks reflected increased hostility to Israel and Jews in the media and across society: “The number of anti-Semitic attacks reflects the mood music around Jews and Israel.”
Where does this ‘mood music’, to which ordinary British people are responding, come from?
Jon Benjamin, of the Board of Deputies, said: “The problem is the spin that Israel is an irredeemably evil regime, and we are concerned that it may become common currency to connect British Jews with this.”
But this spin that Israel is fundamentally evil cannot be separated from the spin that British Jews are fundamentally evil and therefore legitimate targets for attacks. If Israel really were evil then the two issues could easily be separated, because the Jewish community in Britain would then certainly become active in the campaign to de-legitimise Israel. But that cannot happen because, in reality, Israel is a moral beacon to the world. The spin that it is evil and the spin that Jews are evil are the same out-and-out lie. On the grand stage of world history, this lie is part of the millennia-old and incomparably widespread and persistent evil known as antisemitism. But the proximate cause, today in Britain, is a powerful, self-sustaining irrationality in the subculture known as the media.
In the sidebar of the Times article that reports these dismal devlopments is the very phenomenon that is causing them. Of the six headlines linked there under the heading ‘Related Stories’, at least four carry the spin of Israel's alleged evil, and not one even hints at Israel's case, or even that it has one.
The mildest example is: Annan says Syria to respect Hezbollah arms embargo, (link). This would be much less misleading if it were Syria claims it will respect Hezbollah arms embargo. By reporting Syria's claim through the mouth of the UN Secretary General (who was doing nothing more than report what was said to him) The Times manages to attribute maximal authority to that claim. Only deep in the article, and nowhere in the headline, is there a hint that there exists an opposing point of view, namely that Syria's claim is a ludicrous and cynical lie whose main purpose is to de-legitimise Israel's self-defence.
The worst of this particular batch of headlines is Cluster bombs leave ‘toys’ that kill children (link). The casual reader will receive the impression that Israel has littered Lebanon with toy-shaped booby traps with the satanic intention of maiming and murdering Lebanese children, an impression that is, again, only dispelled deep in the article, and even then not explicitly. The spin here is the ancient antisemitic blood libel that Jews are child murderers. This is expressed, in the context of the Lebanon war, in the lie that Israel has targeted innocent civilians – a lie that is frequently intensified by the explicit or implicit claim that this blood lust is directed especially towards children.
In a culture that excoriates President Bush for once using the term ‘crusade’, even though in English that word has carried no specifically Christian or anti-Muslim connotation for centuries, there can be no excusing these antisemitic spins as accidental. They are part of a systematic phenomenon of entrenched irrationality that is poisoning our society and causing violence. Yet the cause is not (for the most part, anyway) that journalists wake up one morning and realise that it is The Jews who are responsible for all the evils in the world, any more than Lord Brammer woke up one morning thinking that Lord Janner is responsible for all his troubles. Mel Gibson thinks like that, and so do many cultures, even in Europe. But the antisemitic spin that is spreading through mainstream British society is not rooted in racial or religious hatred of Jews, but rather it is the other way round. (Indeed, one of the ways it entrenches itself is that its purveyors can honestly testify, from introspection, that they are motivated by no such hatred. This, in turn, leads them to imagine that they are seeing for themselves proof that those who accuse them of bias are guilty of yet further offences, namely whining and slander.) The pathological spin originates in a pathological world view which, in itself, makes no direct reference to Jews or any other group. Yet by its inner logic it homes in on Jews, and hence on Israel. For some powerful but as yet only dimly understood reason, Jews are, as always, the canaries in the coal mine, the first to suffer the effects of poison.
Update 1: Solomonia makes the same point, but he is able to express it in just three words.
Update 2: The IDF's policy on cluster bombs.