Last night’s Channel 4 Dispatches Programme on Jews and their influence in Britain failed to ask or answer one question. (So, too, did the fuller report by James Jones and Peter Oborne). Why, if Jews are held to have such occult lobbying power, are they so spectacularly unsuccessful?
Israel has the worst press of any UN member state in the British media. The Commons is far more likely to hear a denunciation of Israel than any criticism of a neighbouring Arab country, let alone the openly anti-Semitic Hamas. This summer a rigorous, accurate report showed a doubling of anti-Semitic attacks in Britain – cemeteries desecrated, rabbis punched, Jewish kids jostled or spat at. Not a single national paper, let alone the BBC, covered it.
Other British citizens with links to Kashmir or Kurds or Sikhs or Cyprus are allowed to promote their cause. But British Jews cannot express support or affinity for Israel without being accused of forming a secret, money-rich cabal. This is 1930s style prejudice dressed up as modern TV journalism.
But it is part of a European-wide trend to lower the old barriers against depicting Jews negatively. Take Hungary. The main opposition party there is Fidesz, whose MP Oszkar Molnar had this to say about Jews recently: “I give primacy to Hungarian interests over those of global capital, Jewish capital, if you like – which wants to devour the entire world, especially Hungary.” This age-old image of Jewish capital attacking national interests comes straight for the pre-war politics of Nazism.
This willingness to excuse language that only yesterday would have been considered as anti-Semitic is now normal. In Poland, Felip Stanilko works for the policy think tank of Poland’s PiS Party, whose controversial alliance with Britain’s Conservative Party has stirred up passions. Mr Stanilko thinks that Jews control the main left-liberal Polish daily, Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s equivalent of the Independent or Guardian. In an interview with Canada’s Globe and Mail recently, the PiS analyst, speaking English, linked communism and Jews. “The faction of this society were predominately Jew, from Jew origins. You’ve got a Zionist path, you know, the people who created Israel, and you’ve got a communist path, because of the influential model of Marxism as a model of Talmudic thinking. And these people emigrated to the Soviet Union, they returned, they were very well educated by postwar standards, and biographically they are the crucial part of Gazeta Wyborcza.”
Far from being a creature of Moscow, Gazeta Wyborcza was created by anti-Soviet journalists from the Catholic Solidarity union. But the PiS statement is further evidence of the re-entry into European politics of anti-Semitic tropes.
On the eve of the 71st anniversary of Kristallnacht, last week, swastikas were sprayed on a Jewish cemetery in Dresden. Last month the Jewish cemetery in Ottawa was similarly daubed. We should not be surprised. As anti-Jewish remarks and discourses make their re-entry into European politics we can expect a gradual lowering of our guard. Far from “Never Again” the time has come to admit that anti-Semitic politics is back.
Denis MacShane MP is a former Europe Minister. His book, Globalising Hatred: The New Anti-Semitism, is out in paperback (Phoenix, £8.99)