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Squaring the Circle

This is a cross post by Peter Risdon

Monday night, I went to a panel discussion held by Just Journalism and the Henry Jackson Society on the topic: Squaring the circle: Britain and the de-legitimisation of Israel. Marvin the paranoid android has posted an account with photos here.

I won’t say anything about the speakers in this post, except that Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to the UK, is a deeply impressive man. Something else is nagging at me.

To get in, everyone had to wait to be quizzed by security staff. The people in front were Jewish and being asked about their Synagogue and Rabbi. When my turn came, the young woman asked why I wanted to attend the meeting. I was a bit stumped. Was a correct set of opinions a prerequisite? I mumbled about the recrudescence of anti-Semitism in Europe, feeling rather awkward before her calm, watchful eyes. Only later did it dawn on me what had been happening.

It was the El Al security technique of concentrating on the person. She didn’t care at all what my opinions about Israel were. What she did want to evaluate, though, was my body language.

I assume she was from the CST. That such an organisation is needed at all is a very great scandal. That is, it should be. Of course, it’s barely known outside Jewish circles. There’s a pattern here. The Telegraph today reports that the family of the failed Swedish bomber fear they might have to leave the country to avoid reprisals. That’s terrible. But this has gone generally unreported*:

A US-based Jewish group has issued a travel warning urging Jews to exercise “extreme caution” when traveling in southern Sweden.

“We reluctantly are issuing this advisory because religious Jews and other members of the Jewish community there have been subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment,” said Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director of International Relations with the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, in a statement.

“There have been dozens of incidents reported to the authorities but have not resulted in arrests or convictions for hate crimes.”

Attacks on Jews in Malmö doubled between 2008 and 2009 but the town’s mayor is unconcerned at best:

“There haven’t been any attacks on Jewish people and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel, that is not a matter for Malmö,” he told the newspaper

Several months ago in central London I wandered past a picket outside a shop I’d never heard of, called Ahava. It was a shocking experience, like fading through a time warp into the 1930s, just before the persecution of Jews in Europe geared up fully. This is happening now? Again? Again?

At dinner with a group of people on Tuesday, I happened to mention I’d been to a talk the night before. Someone asked what it was about. My answer met with puzzled glances. Someone asked, “Are you Jewish?”

There’s a saying that Jews are the canary in the coal mine: when attacks on Jews start building up, we know there’s a resurgence of fascist-style politics, however it might be being reincarnated this time. That’s a bit tough on the canary. If attacks against any other part of the community were increasing as they have been against Jews, there’d be outrage, million-man marches and Parliamentary debates. If it’s Jews, nada. Hardly anyone cares. That’s why I was asked whether I was Jewish at that supper. Why else would I be interested?

It feels absurdly melodramatic to say this, but it is happening again. We are seeing a repeat of the 1930s, different in many details but similar in broad strokes. Extreme political ideologies are flourishing, religious and secular utopianism, and these always seem to include attacks against the Jews. I have no idea why this is so, but that doesn’t matter.

What does matter is taking a stand against it.

Oh, and on the subject of the legitimacy of Israel, Hamas have a view.

* via J W Beck