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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 23-02-2019 11:15

Anti-Semitism puts on a new guise

Left-leaning progressives who are eager to show solidarity with recent immigrants – most of whom happen to be Muslim – go to great lengths to overlook the intense hostility towards Jews that has always characterised Islam.

French president Emmanuel Macron says that in his country anti-Semitism has already reached levels that have not been seen since World War II. Others who are worried by the phenomenon point out that in France it has a long history, in which traditionalist Roman Catholics and fascists played leading roles. Germans also seek to explain the sporadic outbreaks that are troubling them by alluding to their own country’s appalling past. Though for them it is a bit harder, Britons and North Americans try to do the same. All would dearly like to blame the recent outrages on neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists, but while there can be no doubt that such individuals are doing their best to make life unpleasant for Jews, their role is minor in comparison with the one that is being played by leftists and their Islamist allies.

It is easy to express one’s loathing for skinheads or cranks with a taste for Hitlerian regalia who own copies of that horrifically influential Tsarist concoction The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but these days there are not that many of them; in the United States, attempts by right-wing enemies of Jewry to stage mass meetings attract no more than a few hundred non-descripts and nut-cases.

Leftists and Islamists are far more formidable; as the few brave souls who dare take them on in public soon find out, the power they wield is considerable. In the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, treating Islam without due respect on the social media can get you a visit from policemen investigating “hate crimes,” a term which is used to justify the reintroduction of what in effect are blasphemy laws and to clamp down on free speech. What is more, left-wing activists who are attracted by what long ago August Bebel called “the socialism of fools” and Islamic militants have managed to give antisemitism a patina of ideological respectability.

This issue has already split the UK Labour Party, with eight MPs so far defecting to form what they call The Independent Group because they reject the antiSemitism coming from Jeremy Corbyn and the clique that surrounds him. In the US, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrat leaders have felt obliged to chastise recently elected Muslim legislators belonging to their party for “hate speech” targeting Jews, but they remain reluctant to criticise the like-minded sentiments that are spewed out with even greater fervour by Louis Abdul Farrakhan and other self-anointed leaders of the “black community.” Their refusal to hold such people to the same standards they would apply to others is a symptom of what George W. Bush once called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

In continental Europe, the situation is much the same as in the English-speaking countries. Left-leaning progressives who are eager to show solidarity with recent immigrants – most of whom happen to be Muslim – go to great lengths to overlook the intense hostility towards Jews that has always characterised Islam. As the Quran repeatedly reminds believers, Jews are despicable hellbound creatures Allah once transformed into “apes and swine” who deserve to be enslaved or, better still, killed. Fortunately, these days few Muslims are prepared to act on what most presumably believe, but there are still millions of fanatics, among them a large number of preachers, who take their divinely dictated scriptures literally and make no secret of it.

When Christians try to go back to basics, they tend to form pietistic sects which for the most part take pride in being innocuous. When Muslims do so, they become Jihadis determined to do what, over a thousand years ago, the founders of their religion said they should.

Unlike Jewish and Christian texts which are man-made and can be interpreted in different ways, the Quran and the Hadith offer little wiggle room. That is why the most prestigious and learned Islamic scholars in institutions such as Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, which is generally regarded as the most important in the Sunni world and provides the faithful with detailed practical and spiritual guidance, have been unable to declare the Islamic State a heretical organisation which – as Western politicians continually assure us – has absolutely nothing to do with genuine Islam. The erudite theologians of Al-Azhar may condemn ISIS for its extraordinary brutality and even suggest that on occasion it deviates from what they see as proper orthodoxy, but that is about as far as they are prepared to go.

The decision by the Labour Party leadership and their transatlantic counterparts to embrace Islamic organisations is often attributed to their desire to capture the Muslim vote, which can be more than enough to swing elections in many districts in the UK and some in parts of the US, but there is more to it than that. Many progressives have managed to persuade themselves that, when you think of it, Muslims are on their side because they are mainly brown victims of Western imperialism, white racism, heartless capitalism and all the other evils good people are fighting against.

As for Israel, a country which most left-wingers supported until the Six-Day War of 1967 deprived it of its underdog status, Islamists found it surprising easy to prod progressives into seeing it as a wicked “Zionist entity” in league with the US and big banks that deserved to be shunned by all enlightened men and women. They also accuse the Israelis and, along with them, Western Jews, of exploiting the Holocaust for their own devious ends, an approach that, needless to say, encourages anti-Semitism.

The ancient saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” may make sense in societies that are getting torn apart by conflicts, but the pragmatic relationships thus formed are short-lived. After the Shah of Iran was overthrown by an alliance of leftists and Islamists, the latter soon disposed of their former partners in the time-honoured fashion, jailing them, torturing them and then, in many cases, butchering them. Though nothing remotely like that seems imminent in European countries, peaceful coexistence between the two very different movements that have joined forces to struggle against the current world order is unlikely to last for very long. Sooner or later, they will turn on one another, as their equivalents have done on many occasions in the past.

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James Neilson

James Neilson

Former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald (1979-1986).

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