Sunday Morning Live is technically a religious programme, and the BBC based the question concerning antisemitism on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s contribution to a new booklet for the Holocaust Educational Trust.
“Justin Welby has said that antisemitism is "entrenched in our thought and culture" and that historically the Church has "compounded the spread of this virus" in an essay for the Holocaust Educational Trust [HET].
In his article, Welby called antisemitism an "insidious evil", adding that the "habits of antisemitism have been burrowing into European and British culture for as long as we can remember."
He went on: "It is a shameful truth that, through its theological teachings, the Church, which should have offered an antidote, compounded the spread of this virus. The fact that antisemitism has infected the body of the Church is something of which we as Christians must be deeply repentant. We live with the consequences of our history of denial and complicity."
The Archbishop highlighted contemporary anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. "Even today, in the 21st century, it is shocking that antisemitism still has traction; the virus continues to seek a host," he said. "It latches onto a variety of different issues: financial inequality, wars and depressions, education, politics and government, grave international issues, such as the rights of Israelis and Palestinians, and interfaith tensions. It twists them to its own ends, with the perverted and absurd argument that a small group runs or plots against our society and manipulates international affairs."
In that elusive ideal world that we all hanker after, one would be able to produce short, succinct and snappy essays, but sometimes (often) one gets bogged down in a labyrinthian tangle, trying to cover all aspects of a topic. In this case I set out - with brevity in mind - to complement Craig’s piece, with a little detail but not too much, just enough to make a point or two. As you can see, once I got going I just couldn’t stop. Sorry.
Naga Munchetty introduced the item.
Edwina Currie has been lampooned for almost everything she’s ever said and done, including a mutually inappropriate fling with John Major, the egg thing, writing a series of racy novels and having a somewhat abrasive character. She has been on a long journey in the public eye and is approaching national treasure status, which means she can say what she likes without worrying about what anyone thinks. That amounts to a licence to abandon political correctness.
She was on good form, almost flaunting her ‘nothing to lose’ attitude. She said:
“The Arch of Cant, dare I say that? No I can’t!”
She did though.
Religious figures define their ranking with assorted waggish millinery, the ridiculousness of the hat being proportional to the outrageousness of the faith.
By that measure, Qari Asim, with what looked like an upturned jelly mould on his head, gave a mixed message; benign congeniality on the outside, perhaps belying an ominous turmoil smouldering beneath. As soon as he was asked for his view on antisemitism, virtually every viewer would have been timing the moments till "anti-Muslim prejudice" (Islamophobia) popped out. Not a long wait.
Just as poor old Ken Livingstone can’t help mentioning Hitler, Muslim spokespersons can’t help tethering antisemitism to Islamophobia. Since one of the main drivers of the current wave of left-wing antisemitism emanates from a religion where hatred of Jews is de rigueur, this elephant is almost as big as the room.
As Craig has already said, Digby Jones gave us a warning. If we don’t stamp out antisemitism now, we’ll be back in 1939. Such words, coming from Digby Jones, sounded promising:
“You know, there’s been anti Judaism, firstly because of their religion in the Middle Ages, then because of their race all the way up to 1945, and now it tends to centre round Israel.”
That was certainly worth noting. He’s alluding to the business of cloaking antisemitism behind ‘justifiable’ anti-Zionism. The next bit started well but ended on a rather ambiguous note:
“And there’s always been a cause to be anti-Jewish, and if we acknowledge what antisemitism really is, it’s insidious in our free society, and it’s that disgusting, cos after they finish with the Jews, they’ll come after you and me, believe me, it ain’t stopping there and that really worries me. They’ll be after you guys”
.......and as he said ‘you guys’ he gestured towards both Edwina and the Muslim. What, Qari Asim too? “They” are coming after the Muslims?
Well, I suppose that’s already happened in Glasgow, but I’m not at all sure that the murder of Asad Shah was what Digby Jones was referring to.
Perhaps he was being generous to Qari Asim, as a fellow guest on the BBC’s sofa. Perhaps he was giving his fellow guest the benefit of the doubt and including him in the category of ‘good’ Muslim threatened by the ‘bad’ Muslims.
On the other hand, does Digby Jones also lump antisemitism, Islamophobia (and all forms of racism) together, seeing them collectively as potential targets of a one-size-fits-all nationalistic Nazi mob, hell-bent on disposing of all minorities?
Surely Digby Jones isn’t himself in denial about the roots of the ‘new’ wave of antisemitism? Surely he’s not just as much in denial, if not more so, than these mysterious unnamed ‘they’, the ones he describes as “disgusting antisemites who are in denial and don’t think they are.”
We’re none the wiser as to whether he suspects that these “disgusting” antisemites are the Muslims - all of them or just the ‘bad’ ones - and their left wing sycophants, but lacks the courage to spell it out. We’re not sure if he knows that even if ‘good’ Muslims have learned to modify their attitude to Jews, they still use Israel as a proxy.
Mehdi Hasan is just about the only Muslim who has publicly acknowledged that antisemitism is ‘our dirty little secret’, though he appears to have backtracked ever since.
I don’t actually think Digby Jones meant to couple antisemitism with Islamophobia. Maybe, on TV, he wanted to be polite to Qari Hasim, and appear generous and inclusive.
The interfaith movement ignores the elephant in the room as well. Edwina’s post 9/11 gesture of solidarity with Muslims seems all well and good, but if it isn’t reciprocated with a lot more ‘not in my name’ and with a lot less ‘Islamophobia and all forms of racism’ tagged on, it’s meaningless.
Also, it was unclear as to precisely what the ‘not in my name’ was all about. We were talking about antisemitism, not terrorism, after all. While I can foresee more people insisting that moderate Muslims denounce terrorism more vociferously, I somehow can’t imagine anyone demanding that they denounce antisemitism, still less, anti-Zionism.
However, Digby Jones did say to Qari Asim:
“I’d like to see more of your faith out on the streets saying ‘not in my name’ ”
At which Qari Asim came out with a reply that was so ridiculous that I don’t know how he got away with it.
“I think we are, and I don’t think - that’s an issue, and I’d really like to have that conversation off the record in terms of…… Muslims are saying, all the way from the Muftis of Egypt to Sana'a (?) to other parts of the Muslim world, and in this country Muslims are saying it, it’s actually not being heard, or it’s not on our screens, and we need to work to get there.”
I’d love to know where and when he’s seen all these Muftis saying this. The truth is that what’s not on our screens, as anyone who has ever looked at PMW or Memri will attest, is exactly the opposite of Muslims declaiming ‘not in our name’.
The most vile antisemitic bile emanating from the Arab world is what’s not on our screens.
Maybe Digby Jones, who described himself “as a lapsed Anglican Brummie who doesn’t have a dog in this fight” is not aware of PMW or Memri, but if he plans to sit in a BBC studio opposite a Muslim wearing a jelly mould hat to opine about antisemitism he jolly well ought to arm himself with a very fit dog.
Digby Jones said:
“Why are they (The Labour Party) letting it happen? And it’s no good Corbyn sitting there going ‘I deplore this, it’s disgusting’ - I believe him, I think he means it. That’s not the point. They had to suspend some Momentum woman two days ago for remarks she made, and you have to - not just stamp it out, but you’ve got to publicly go there - learnt this a long time ago- don’t listen to what people say, watch what they do.”
[…] “I never thought we’d have - this wonderful country of ours, this tolerant place where people over centuries have come because we have these values, I never thought in 2016 we’d even have to have this conversation, and you are right, sir, we need to be eternally vigilant.
Digby Jones also said, near the beginning:
You know, there’s been anti Judaism, firstly because of their religion in the Middle Ages, then because of their race all the way up to 1945, and now it tends to centre round Israel.
Yes, it does tend to centre round Israel. Israel has been demonised and vilified by the media to the extent that Jeremy Corbyn can denounce antisemitism by comparing Israel with Islamic State and people struggle to explain why this is false. The BBC with its wide reach and its undeserved reputation for accuracy and impartiality has helped create the climate in which antisemitism can flourish. This means that when the Archbishop of Canterbury makes a contribution about antisemitism to a leaflet for the Holocaust Educational Trust, however mealy-mouthed, the dwindling Jewish community has to be grateful for small mercies.
Since I’ve started, in a long-winded, ranty fashion, I’ll continue with this. Over on Harry’s Place,
they’re discussing the forthcoming film ‘Denial’, with Timothy Spall playing notorious holocaust denier David Irving and Rachel Weisz playing Professor Deborajh Lipstadt.
Gene (on Harry's Place) warns us not to look at the comments on YouTube.
The trailer makes the film look pretty tacky, but like the Archbishop’s essay, despite any shortcomings it’s a topic that’s worth raising. I noticed that the BBC has had something to do with the film.
Someone told me they thought the current wave of antisemitism is like a tsunami. Nothing will stop it. The comments on YouTube indicate that this is true.