Anti-semitism is the only form of racism that sections of the the left and liberal/left seem willing to contextualise, excuse, “understand,” downplay or even deny altogether. It’s one of the most pervasive leftist urban myths that the charge of anti-semitism is usually raised as a ploy by “Zionists” in order to deflect criticism of Israel.
When the Guardian recently published a cartoon (above) by Steve Bell that (I believe, inadvertently) recycled a classic anti-semitic trope, and Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust wrote a very measured letter pointing this out, the response from Graun letter-writers was all too predictable: “Mark Gardner plays the dog-eared antisemitism card” wrote Edward Pearce, “(it’s) the old trick of pretending all criticism of the Israeli government is antisemitic” wrote Mike Scott while one Steve Smart dismissed Gardner’s letter as”preposterous” and people with such concerns as “zealots.”
Whatever you think of the Bell cartoon, can you imagine the charge of racism being dismisssed in such terms by liberals in any other context? Bell’s own response was particularly disappointing.
Well, smug Guardian readers and cartoonists who refuse to recognise anti-semitism as a real issue, may like to consider what happened in Rome on Thursday, when a group of Tottenham Hotspur fans were attacked by a masked gang armed with knives, knuckle-dusters and batons, shouting “Jews!” Whether or not any of the victims were, in fact, Jewish is neither here nor there: Spurs is a club that traditionally has a large Jewish following and has come to symbolise the London Jewish community. The question of whether the attackers, Italian football hooligans, had any serious political motivation, is also largely academic. In the tribal world of a certain kind of soccer fan, apolitical abuse and semi-political communalism merge into one and the same thing. At the game itself, Lazio fans chanted “Juden Tottenham” and unfurled a “Free Palestine” banner. Similar scenes of Jew-baiting (and the same banner? See video below) were seen at a women’s match in Edinburgh this June when Israel played Scotland. The Jew-baiting was at least partially organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and lovingly reported at the Socialist Unity website.
The saddest part of all this is that it does nothing to help the just cause of the Palestinians, but certainly helps alienate and antagonise Jews everywhere. Genteel Guardianistas on the one hand, and football supporters who regard the situation in the Middle East as merely an excuse for tribalism and hooliganism on the other, are both singing from the same anti-semitic hymn sheet.
[As we were saying: 'What is left anti-semitism?']
[Jonathan Freedland -in the Graun ! - denounces those who treat the Israel/Palestine conflict as though it's a football match]