General Antisemitism

Loyalty test for British Jews?

This is cross posted by Mark Gardner at the blog of the CST

The suggestion by Paul Flynn MP (Labour, Newport West), that Britain ought not to have a Jew as Ambassador to Israel, fuels the growing sense that it is becoming increasingly acceptable to say things about Jews that we had hoped were consigned to history. It also infers that Jews in public life must undergo systematic loyalty tests throughout their careers. Such logic is plainly racist, even if Flynn did not mean it to be.

If this phenomenon were restricted to ‘the usual suspects’ of the far right, then it would be easier to comprehend. The depressing reality, however, is that far too many such accusations come from within mainstream liberal-left sources in Parliament, media and campaigning circles. Indeed, Flynn’s outburst occurred in a Select Committee hearing with Britain’s most senior civil servant, Sir Gus O’Donnell.

When the accusations are openly about Jewish conspiracy (eg Tam Dalyell MP in 2003“a cabal of Jewish advisers”), it is relatively straightforward to call them for what they reveal. (Although Paul Foot in the Guardian famously argued otherwise.) When the accusations come against pro-Israel lobbies, or Zionists, it can be more challenging. The instinct is to accuse certain MPs, media outlets and journalists of hiding their antisemitism behind a cover of anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism, but the reality is surely far more complex: as keenly shown by this example, with Rob Halfon MP writing in the Jewish Chronicle that he does “not believe for one moment that Mr Flynn is antisemitic”.

It was Rob Halfon himself who interjected against Flynn’s outburst, and the former head of Conservative Friends of Israel is an unforgiving opponent of antisemitism and extremism. So, his saying that Flynn is not an antisemite is important here. Indeed, the remainder of Halfon’s article (aptly titled “A Shocking Outburst of Prejudice“) is sternly critical of Flynn and the phenomenon his words reside within. As Halfon puts it

…when I tried to interject, Mr Flynn then accused me of being a neo-conservative and part of a clique that wanted to bomb Iran.

Mr Flynn’s actions betray an extraordinary mindset on the left, that allows normally highly intelligent and engaging individuals to lose all sense of proportion when the word ‘Israel’ is mentioned.

…[this mindset ignores Syria and Iran], preferring to focus on Israel as part of some vast international conspiracy – usually involving American and British Conservative politicians.

This strikes to the heart of the matter. The framework for the attack is one of right wing conspiracy, and adjectives such as “Zionist” or “pro-Israel” or “neo-Con” provide a nasty dog whistle spin that is heard only by those who either oppose antisemitism, or are turned on by it.

The fact that the left also uses this hate lexicon to denote miscreants within their own ranks (as seen with the excoriation of Tony Blair and the excommunications of David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen) makes matters only worse: reinforcing the notion that once you are labelled with Zionism or Israel, you are understood to be an insidious alien threat to the body politic.

Nevertheless, those blowing this dog whistle are blissfully self-assured of their progressive anti-racist credentials; and perceive themselves as having the courage and insight with which to explain Western embroilment in Afghanistan, Iraq and (rapidly) Iran. Worse still, the whistlers’ instinct is to interpret objections and concerns as further proof of just how embedded the pro-Israel conspiracy has become.

All of this constantly reinforces the vicious cycle of accusation and counter-accusation.

Any regular reader of the London Review of Books, New Statesman, Guardian and Independent cannot fail but be struck by their urgent warnings of Israel’s singular wickedness; and of the powerful, perfidious reach of the lobby that sustains it (sometimes “pro-Israel”, sometimes “Zionist”, sometimes “Jewish”, even “kosher” – sometimes any combination of the above, even in the same article). The temptation is to blame such media for creating an environment from which suggestions such as Flynn’s emerge. Again, the reality is more complex and more depressing: because these outlets display the intellectual and political milieu of their leading influences, whilst also reflecting (and reinforcing) the attitudes of their readers.

Whilst Paul Flynn MP should be publicly disciplined by his party for this outburst, we should note that his initial intervention towards Sir Gus O’Donnell was on the basis of his representing two constituents who had written to him concerning their having been detained by Israel, and their belief that the Ambassador had been more concerned with Israel’s interests, rather than their own.

In representing his constituents’ concern, Flynn always risked being seen as agreeing with it, and there may be those who consider his age (he is 76) as mitigating his lack of politically correct language. Nevertheless, his “neo-con…bomb Iran” reported attack on his fellow Committee member, Rob Halfon MP, was surely absent from his constituents’ letter (even if it did most likely reflect their opinions); and shows a thoroughly modernist approach to the subject area.

This “neo-con…bomb Iran” aspect reveals a very worrying overlap between the opinions of serious anti-Israel activists and those of an MP who has previously holidayed in Israel with his family. It strongly suggests Paul Flynn is symptomatic of a far deeper attitudinal malaise, whereby things that ought to be restricted to openly racist circles may now be voiced within progressive ones. In fact, the malaise is now so utterly axiomatic in proper far left media and activist circles that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s attempts to disown the worst of the antisemitism around it, now risk seriously splitting the anti-Israel movement.

Where anti-Zionist attitudes prevail, they inexorably present an essentialised image of anybody whom you might (rightly or wrongly) associate with Israel. The essential trait is the same as that underpinning the Jewish conspiracy myth: Jews cannot truly assimilate into the surrounding body politic, they are forever alien and therefore always at risk of working for their mutual interest against the rest of society.

Put this mindset into practise and there is only one logical outcome. Namely, loyalty tests for Jews in public and political life, wherever and whenever they might come into contact with areas of interest to the pro-Israel / Zionist / Jewish lobby: and that is why Paul Flynn MP should be publicly disciplined by his party, regardless of what he meant, or which of his constituents he was representing when he began descending this slipperiest of slopes

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35 replies »

  1. There’s no absolute need to have a Jew as UK ambassador to Israel – but nor does anything (i.e. any reasonable voice) speak against such an appointment.

    Shades of the shameful Oliver Miles.

  2. To restore the “balance”, I suggest we should not have British Ambassadors with pro-Arab/anti-Israel sympathies serving in Arab countries. Or is that something that might not be serving British interests mmm?

    • I think it is actually far worse than it appears. If Jews are all suspected of being disloyal, how can any of them be allowed to have any place in public life at all? There would be no point to a loyalty oath as they would just lie anyway.

      To prevent Moslems from being in public life would obviously be Islamophobic apartheid. But Jews, as this Flynn creep obviously believes, are not to be trusted, and their exclusion from public life would only be prudent.

      But where to start? Perhaps anyone with a Jewish grandparent should be counted as Jewish for this purpose. How oddly familiar that sounds…

  3. Talk about paranoid. A stupid comment from a useless nobody MP translates into the potential for loyalty oaths?

    Sadly the one thing this article lacks is any evidence whatsoever that anyone of any authority anywhere is suggesting such a thing.

    Chill a little.

    • “Chill a little.”

      It has nothing to do with paranoia Mario. There is no delusion here. An MP speaks his mind.What he says seems to indicate that he harbours some antipathy towards a Jewish British Ambassador in Israel. He’s the one with a problem. He’s not a useless nobody. He is an MP and has responsibilities towards his constituents. His comments were uncalled for. Simple

      • I agree with what you say but it is not relevant to my first post. I’ll repeat it though: it is ridiculous to make the jump from one stupid MP making a stupid comment to suggesting there might be a “loyalty oath” process for UK Jews.

        And again – I say – no one, anywhere, of any importance is suggesting it. Some of the debate here is simply paranoid.

        So yes – chill. You can’t fight things that don’t exist.

    • This particular stupid comment reflects, unfortunately the zeitgeist of the UK and Europe, “anti Zionist” threadbare cloak covering antisemitic attitudes, reflected in thoughtless antisemitic remarks.

      I want Jewish sensitivities to be respected every bit as much as those of Muslims and other minorities. UK Jews, being intelligent for the most part and capable of thinking for themselves rather than knee jerk reacting here in the UK, contribute much to UK society so it would be the politically correct thing to do wouldn’t it?

      • I am sorry – I have no idea what you are trying to say here. There are words – they are in English – but the sequence you have put them in makes no sense. If English is not your first language then I apologise.

      • This particular stupid comment reflects, unfortunately the zeitgeist of the UK and Europe, “anti Zionist” threadbare cloak covering antisemitic attitudes, reflected in thoughtless antisemitic remarks.

        That’s libellous, surely!!!

      • mh – when my cursor ran over your name it came up as 972mag. anyways, you’re welcome to point out where you disagree and to construct a reasonable argument, but I have the feeling that however carefuly I’d expressed my concerns about this case (and more importantly, the wider context), that your intention is not a constructive one.

    • Mario Dunn – the comments were made to the head of the civil service in a Select Cttee hearing. Good luck to you if you believe that they fall upon utterly barren ground. I suppose Tam Dalyell’s Jewish cabal and all the other examples of recent years are equally unrevealing.

      • Either your paranoia blinds you or perhaps you do not understand the structures of UK politics and government. You and others here have taken a stupid comment and worked it into a whole series of absurd meanings. A nutjob MP making a stupid comment to a senior civil servant is not an indication that UK authorities accept the premise of that MPs argument. This is not a conspiracy and if you think it is the “paranoid” tag is accurate.

        And again Tam Dalyell was a totally maverick MP. Dalyell and Flynn are not “establishment”, do not represent any government and to be honest barely represent their own political party.

        So again – unless you can point to evidence that anyone of any position of any significance anywhere within British government circles is even remotely thinking about such concepts as “loyalty oaths” I will repeat – you are paranoid – fighting battles that don’t exist and don’t need to be fought.

    • Did you comment on the recent “nuke the Arabs” post – or the ATL “the Muslims have so much contempt (for Norwegians)” comments?

      Are you comfortable with the hate speech on CiFW?

      • pretzels, are you comfortable with the hate speech and misrepresentation in Der Guardian?

        Personally, I wish for Arabs and Muslims what they wish for Jews, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Bahais, Zoroastrians…

        • I’ve never seen anything ATL at the Guardian that makes sweeping, prejudiced statements about Jews – as the deleted article did about Muslims.

          But I guess you’re happy with the latter.

          Then there was Derek Pasquill’s “the Norwegians appear to be clinically insane” comment. Imagine if someone said that about Israelis.

          Less of the hypocrisy, please.

          • They do, pretzelberg, and this was said by one Palestinian psychiatrist in particular, whose impartiality and professionalism has at least to be questionable.

            This is a quote from Tricky Dickie Silverstein’s blog. I will not give the link. I don’t want to be responsible for more hits to it than is absolutely necessary. Note that Eyad al-Sarraj refers to Israelis and Jews in general ie he is a card-holding, even proud, Jew-hater:

            ‘… I’ve asked myself: “Are they evil by nature, these Jews? Or are they stupid, born mentally subnormal? Why are they doing this?” It’s unbelievable. And I found after long, long thinking about it that they are not born evil. And they are not stupid. They are psycho-pathologically disturbed….’

            Note the conflation of Israel and Jews a first-order symptom of Arab antisemitism.

            He’s a real charmer, isn’t he and an utter and complete disgrace to his profession but he’s only saying what other Palestinians are taught to say by their leaders and learn at school and from the Koran. One might excuse this in someone who has had little education or is otherwise challenged and cannot think for himself but in a psychiatrist of all people this is objectionable in the extreme. However it does go some way to explaining the mindset to which knee jerk, automatic, Jew-hatred (note not only hatred of Israel) is expressed without any thought at all.

            • You have nowt to say about a) your agreement with the bigoted anti-Muslim ATL Norway article and b) your agreement with the baseless BTL comment there that Norwegians in general “blame Israel” for the rapes referred to in that article?

              Are you incapable of introspection?

              They do, pretzelberg, and this was said by one Palestinian psychiatrist in particular

              This is in reference to what?
              (just asking)

          • pretzels, When was the last time your dear Der Guardian reported on the genocidal hate rally by the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran?

            Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Death to Israel”

            Der Guardian is expert in Suppressing News that doesn’t fit its fascist politik.

  4. The fact that the left also uses this hate lexicon to denote miscreants

    FYI Mark Gardener (and I’ve usually found his writings perfectly reasonable) “the left” does not use such a hate lexicon.

    • pretzelberg –

      I said at the beginning of the post that I was talking about “far too many such accusations come from within mainstream liberal-left sources in Parliament, media and campaigning circles.” So, perhaps I should have written “The fact that so many on the left use this hate lexicon”, rather than “the left use this hate lexicon”: but I think on balance its still more correct than wrong.

      (And, I gave Blair, Cohen and Aaranovitch as examples; and elsewhere in the post cited London Review of Books, New Statesman, Guardian and Independent as media outlets where it can be seen.)