Blaming the victim

The following editorial appears in today’s Australian newspaper:

Cheap “dissent” enables global anti-Semites

WHILE Winston Churchill will always be remembered for staring down the Nazis, a recent discovery by a Cambridge academic suggests the wartime prime minister’s attitudes towards Judaism were not perfect either. In a never-published 1937 essay entitled, “How the Jews Can Combat Persecution”, Churchill complained that cheap Jewish labour was “taking employment away from English people”, adding that despite terrible persecution “the Jew is different. He looks different. He thinks differently . . . He refuses to be absorbed”.

But while some will say Churchill’s comments were simply a reflection of his time – and in his defence he also urged Britons to fight “evil” Jewish persecution – the more disturbing thing is how such attitudes continue to reflect a contemporary European culture where anti-Semitism can sometimes lurk just under the surface of society. When in 2001 the French ambassador to the UK made an off-the-cuff remark calling Israel a “shitty little country”, he was articulating a feeling that is commonly seen and heard throughout Europe whether in immigrant ghettoes or at posh dinner parties. And while in Europe opposition to Israel is largely cloaked in strategic cowardice – Western support for a Jewish state only makes us a target for Islamic terrorism – across the Middle East all the demented ancient fantasies of anti-Semitism, from blood libel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, are still given wide airing.

All of this is useful to bear in mind given news of the formation of Independent Australian Jewish Voices, which claims to “dissent” from the supposed uniformity of opinion among high-profile Australian Jews on the subject of Israel. Yet even as IAJV purports to take the moral high ground it promotes a dangerous moral equivalence between Israel, a legally sanctioned state created by the UN, and its neighbours who have since its birth repeatedly tried to push it into the sea. And we wonder what controversial Israeli actions they feel they are not allowed to disagree with. Yitzhak Rabin’s signing of the Oslo Accords, which enshrined the principle of land for peace only to be roundly violated by the Palestinians? The growth of the Kadima party, which was formed by no less a hawk than Ariel Sharon and is predicated on giving up territory for security, and which is now the largest party in Israel? Likewise their wilfully naive analysis of Israeli-Arab relations ignores the reality of Middle Eastern geopolitics and the bloody struggle between Sunni and Shia Islam. Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s antagonistic comments towards Israel have failed to provoke uproar in Europe. But Iran’s nuclear ambitions have lifted tensions throughout the Middle East and forged a new level of co-operation between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Certainly, Israel is not without sin. But it is a democracy that has voted repeatedly for peace and coexistence. This will not be possible until its enemies come to the same conclusion.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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