Sunday, March 26, 2006

British Parliamentary
On Anti-Semitism

British Member of Parliament, John Mann, has agreed to chair the bipartisan
Parliamentary group against anti-Semitism. Here is a link to an article from The Guarian where he explains the his concerns about the rise of the new anti-Semitism:

As chair of the all party parliamentary group against anti-semitism, I am delighted to see a group of cross-party MPs taking the time to examine anti-semitism in Britain.

Having attended only one of the sessions of this inquiry, David Clark rushed into print to judge an inquiry which is still proceeding and whose evidence he has not read (Accusations of anti-semitic chic are poisonous intellectual thuggery, March 6).

It is clear from evidence presented to the inquiry that anti-semitism has not gone away and that its nature is now more varied. Traditional anti-semitism still exists, with fascist leaflets as crude as in the 1930s distributed on the streets of the UK. Attacks on Jews continue.

Clark skirted round this issue and failed to differentiate between hostility to Israel, and aggression against Jewish institutions and people. What other community has to spend over £5m annually defending itself because its places of worship, schools and community buildings have been seen as legitimate targets worldwide?

Undoubtedly there are strong views on Israel and on the Palestinians, but those views can cloud debate and hide racism. When I visited Tel Aviv and Ramallah 20 years ago, I was vilified by some for even talking to the Israeli government. For some on the left, the mere recognition of Israel's right to exist has become a defining issue.

I have not spoken in parliament on the Middle East, yet I receive hate mail inaccurately addressed to "Jewish bastard Mann" and relating my views on anti-semitism to my supposed support for the actions of Israel. Clark may describe this as "plain obnoxious", but he fails to grasp the mindset of someone who would take time to send such stuff.

One aspect that is particularly frightening and unacceptable is the incipient growth of anti-semitism on the left under the cloak of anti-Zionism. Clark is clear that dismissing anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Zionism as anti-semitism "cheapens the term". However, he does not draw a line beyond which legitimate debate becomes illegitimate, and where hostile becomes offensive. It is a crucial line to draw if language itself is not to become an actor rather than a descriptor.

The imagery and some of the language is familiar. A cabal of Jewish conspirators, well funded, close to or in power, working to their own agenda. It is not just the MP Tam Dalyell who expressed such thoughts, others have done so in private and, increasingly, in public.

When I commissioned this inquiry, one MP commented with surprise: "I didn't realise you were Jewish." Neither did I. Anti-semitism is like all other racism: unacceptable without qualification. I hope that this inquiry will recommend some practical conclusions that can help redraw that line.