Sunday 4 August 2019

Antisemitic Spite

Two of my sons are named after Old Testament prophets. The other is named after the Italian boy of a countess that I once worked for as a teenage AuPair. This OT naming is not particularly unusual nor usually fraught with political barbs, there are mini 'prophets' a plenty, but it became so for me at a children's play centre a few years ago, when on hearing my son's name, one of the mothers said, "You're not a Zionist are you?" I replied that I didn't know, that I'd need to look into it, "Are you?" I asked. She gave me a funny look and took herself off. Given I felt I was being judged (and not by a Deborah) I took the word home, looked it up and then put it on the table to examine it. This is what I figured out: I believe in Israel's right, its necessity, to exist on their historic land. As far as I know, through the bible and other historical texts I have read, the Jews lived in Jerusalem before the Muslims, yet Jerusalem has, for the past 70 years been divided between Israel and Palestine - the call to prayer is part of the atmosphere there. Jewish and Arab Israeli's mostly live happily alongside each other according to a new poll

When Israel was established in 1948, there was nowhere else for the Jewish people to go. No one wanted them despite what they had endured in the Second World War. I am deeply sympathetic to their historical sufferings; I am also sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians in the settlements (Palestinians currently make up 20% of the general voting population according to this BBC article Israel is far from perfect, and should be held to account for specific actions or policies, it clearly has complex issues that are yet to be resolved, and to criticise Israel is not to be anti-Semitic but across social media and social situations, it seems that socially acceptable criticism of Israel provides a pretext for anti-Semitic attitudes. 

Recently, over a crowded table at a friend's 50th, someone in fashion howled with laughter on hearing my son's name, this despite her naming her children along the lines of Frank Zappa's. The assumption was that the assembled would join in but her husband just looked embarrassed. I have also noticed a disturbing rise in antisemitism on Twitter. Many of my left-leaning friends are anti-Israel despite it being the only democratic country in the Middle East. Israel is the only country in the Middle East who has a Pride celebration for instance, where those of Jewish and Arabic descent party happily together. I think there is an assumption that Arabic groups are shunted out of Israeli society and discriminated against in general, but Arabic is one of the official languages of Israel, and I am told (by people who have visited) that Arabs and Jews, live peacefully together there and minority rights are protected. Arab Israelis are active in all areas of life including in the Supreme Court and in parliament. I will not lecture on what Israeli ingenuity has given us or how many Nobel prizewinners are Jewish, but I do wonder about cultural jealousy as a possible cause for this antisemitic spite.

I have some Jewish blood through my great, great grandmother, or so I am told through my cousin David Leitch, who traced our ancestry on my grandfather's maternal side from Odessa to Denmark to Liverpool and wrote about it in his book, #FamilySecrets. As we know, this historical peripatetic movement of the Jewish people has been essential for their survival. Why so much hatred for the Jewish people still exists in our society given the Holocaust is still recent history is beyond me, but it is an insidious social disease that needs to continue to be recognised, spoken about and decried when it is seen. Anti-Semitic hate incidents reached a record high in 2018 and Corbyn's leadership has been dogged by anti-Semitism. I am concerned that hatred of the Jewish people is becoming an acceptable leftist view and one that is assumed and presumed by the inhabitants of the moral high ground.