As a young boy, I used to think my grandma very strange. In her bedroom she kept a suitcase, packed and ready for use at a moment’s notice. “Just in case,” she’d tell me when I asked where it was that she was always waiting to go to. “You never know when they’ll turn on the Jews.”
Her house in Northwood was epitome of suburban comfort, and I couldn’t understand what on earth she meant. Until, that is, I learned some history – including the history of the Jews. Which is, in short, that pretty much everywhere, they have turned on the Jews.
From my teens through my twenties and thirties, the fact that I am Jewish meant little to me beyond the Jonathan Miller sense of being Jew-ish. I adored beigels, matzoh balls, Seinfeld and Woody Allen more than your average gentile would think they deserved. And that was about it. If you’d asked me, I’d have told you that after the Holocaust, real, serious anti-Semitism – the sort where Jews were killed for being Jews, rather than the odd nasty comment – was a thing of the past, in civilised Europe, at least.
It matters, of course, to all of us, because – as we have seen both on 9/11 and ever since, Islamist terrorism is not specific in its targeting. But it matters to me more, I would say, than anything else I can think of. Because although these maniacs will happily kill anyone, they say, andtheir subsequent murders show, that – quite specifically – they want to kill me. A Jew. So on level I am not in the least bit shocked, or even surprised, by the reemergence of Jew hatred as a thing in recent years. By what arrogance would we think that our generation, alone in history, would be free of the oldest hatred?
With “anti-Western-imperialism” as part of the glue binding the alliance, everything else falls into place. So Hamas and Hezbollah might have as their defining goal the elimination of an entire people from the face of the earth, but that unfortunate consequence for Jews is by the by, because Hamas and Hezbollah are freedom fighters.
And because Israel is part of the Western imperium, as well as a key target for Islamists, it is also enemy number one for progressives. So an obsessive preoccupation with the Jewish state becomes the default position of the Left. China, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia – pah! The focus must be on Israel and Israel alone. From that springs an entire worldview that encompasses “Zionist” control of the media, of business, of everything. And we can’t be accused of targeting Jews because we don’t use the word. We say Zionist, not Jew.
So deep does this warping of what it means to be Left and progressive now run that it is almost prosaic to assert Zionist control. But now, to cap it, we have a Labour leader whose entire political career has been in this milieu – feeding it, growing it and pushing it.
For months now, week by week, examples have been emerging of cut and dried anti-Semitism – most dressed up, oh so cleverly, as anti-Zionism, but much not even bothering to hide it. And the Labour leader’s response to the criticism that he is soft on anti-Semitism and that it’s his political mindset that has fuelled its rise is not to get hard on anti-Semitism. It’s to get irritated.
This is not some academic exercise or interesting political theory. This is reality – the reality that the Labour Party is now run by a cadre for whom anti-Semitism really is ok, so long as it is dressed up as anti-Zionism. Because Zionism is the enemy of all good people.
Should I admit that I am afraid? Because I am. I don’t go about my life in fear. I wouldn’t be writing this or doing my job if I did. But how, quite rationally, can I not be afraid when Jews are being murdered on the streets of Europe simply for being Jews; when anti-Semitic tropes and discourse is becoming part of the mainstream of political debate; and when one of our main political parties is led by a man who does not merely let this fester, but actually describes representatives of terrorist groups as “friends”?
If this is the level we have reached today, I fear not just for myself but far more for my children. History shows that when anti-Semitism takes hold it does not wither; it grows. Yes, Britain is a wonderful home to Jews, as it is to all minorities. Yes, we have the full backing of the law and the authorities. But yes, I do look over my shoulder. Wouldn’t you?
Stephen Pollard is the editor of The Jewish Chronicle.