Au Currant’s Jackie D says a lot of interesting things, most of which I disagree with. Briefly, she believes that sticking to Western liberal values when dealing with militant Islam involves fighting with one hand (each) tied behind our collective backs, which is bad; I think we can win despite the back-tyage, and that we betray all that’s good and right about the West when we stoop to extra-judicial killings and secret military trials.
Recently, I asked Jackie D whether she really thought the UK Parliament featured a lot of anti-semites; she suggested I look into ludicrous Saddam stooge George Galloway, old-time leftie Tam Dalyell (who I’d vaguely respected since I was very young over the Clive Ponting affair), and black Jewish MP Oona King.
Is this fair? Let’s start with Ms King… she’s claimed that “in escaping the ashes of the Holocaust, [Israelis] have incarcerated another people in a hell similar in its nature – although not its extent – to the Warsaw ghetto.”
The obvious way to read this is something along the lines of “As Jews, we should try particularly hard not to treat others the way Europe once treated us. While the conditions in the Occupied Territories are in no way as bad as the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto [and as a non-Jew, I wouldn't feel at all comfortable making such a comparison at all - JB], we should be worried about the way we’re restricting Palestinians’ movements and ability to make a living.” This is hyperbolic and silly – but it’s not anti-semitic. If anything, it’s the opposite – “we’re better than them, so we shouldn’t behave in anything that even superficially resembles the way they did”.
Moving on to Mr Galloway – the fact that he’s a bit of an idiot (see bottom story) is pretty well established. But the closest I can find to a charge of anti-Semitism against him are his links to assorted Islamist crazies via the Stop the War movement. This seems like a broad brush with which to tar someone.
The case against Mr Dalyell is more convincing. He publicly stated that “Jewish advisers” had “captured the ear of the President of the United States“.
This is obviously a stupid point, given that Bush’s cabinet is largely Christian (by identification, if not by following the teachings of St Paul – but there are enough rich men seeking to enter the Kingdom of Heaven to make that point moot), that he’s actually putting quite a lot of pressure on Sharon to avoid extra-judicial killings and to implement the ‘roadmap to peace’ – and that the War on Terror is a far better explanation of the Bush administration’s behaviour in general. But is it anti-semitic?
I’m genuinely not sure. The quotes sound redolent of the vile Protocols of the Elders of Zion (oddly, the first Google hit for said protocols is hosted by the strange racist Hispanic-American organisation that’s dogged Cruz Bustamente’s California candidacy, but this isn’t enormously relevant), which isn’t a good start.
On the other hand, Mr Dalyell is a long-time friend of Israel. In the 1960s, he claimed Israel was the only socialist country on earth (for those of you not paying attention, this is high praise in his book), and went to work on a kibbutz – not the behaviour of a traditional anti-semitic loon.
It’s possible that Mr Dalyell has gone completely bats in his old age. It’s possible that he was misquoted – he’s since maintained he was referring to the neo-conservative organisations that may or may not have Bush’s ear, such as the American Enterprise Institute. Referring to such groups as “Jewish advisers” is daft, and you’d hope that a sane person wouldn’t. However, a large proportion of prominent NCs are Jewish, and the NC Mid-Eastern view is strongly in favour of Israel’s current policies. So, err, so what?
I don’t know. I feel let down by Mr Dalyell, certainly, although that’s more a dashing of childhood illusions about brave, good politicians and whistleblowers vs evil Maggie than a rational perspective. But casting the guy as anti-semitic on the basis of one sentence following a lifetime of supporting Israeli and Jewish causes seems, well, unreasonable.
I guess the reason I’m wary here is that calling someone anti-semitic is a far worse insult than calling them anti-French, or anti-American, or Islamophobic – even though it’s objectively on the same level. 20th century history means that anyone labelled as an anti-semite is pretty much automatically labelled as a friend of Hitler, and enemy of all that’s good, right and worth having. It’s not a term to toss around lightly, and none of the people above deserve to be classed as the worst scum of the universe. Even if the things they’ve said do warrant a good slapping.