Thursday, February 17, 2005

Antisemitism in the UK: People are Nervous

Just spoke to my blog mentor, Sasha, a savy and sophisticated Londoner. She is really disturbed [freaked out?] by a series of events in the last three weeks in London. First it was Prince Harry's rather stupid choice of costume for a party. Harry may not be the sharpest blade in the drawer, but it's hard to understand how he could have been so oblivious. [Truth be told, this issue is as much [more?] of an insult to the Brits who suffered and died during the war than it is to Jews. After all he is their Prince.]

Then there was the Labour Party's very dumb "pigs could fly" advert about the leaders of the Conservative party, both of whom happen to be Jews and an advert about their slimy ways with money. And finally and most disturbing was the comment by Ken Livingston [Mayor of London]to a Jewish reporter in which he essentially compared him to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

These things have rattled Sasha. But she's even more rattled by the fact that the people who seem most troubled by this are Jews. Can you imagine if Livingston had said to a reporter from Al Gezira, "Are you a suicide bomber?" EVERYONE, including the Jews, who have gone beserk.

5 comments:

David H Lippman said...

My understanding is that the Prince of Wales, who is colonel-in-chief of a number of British and Commonwealth Army regiments -- all of which took beatings at the hands of the Nazis -- and has been heavily involved in British and Commonwealth veterans' and WW2 events, let Harry have both barrels for his stunt. I believe they want him to go to Auschwitz. In any case, I know the Royal Family takes Britain's war seriously. At the Queen Mother's centenary birthday, the surviving holders of the Victoria Cross and the George Cross -- only about 13 VC recipients left -- marched past the Royal Box. The Royals stood up to show the medalled heroes respect. I'm sure Charles let it be known to Harry that the kid's gesture was nothing more than spitting on that medal and the men who earned it, usually at the sacrifice of their lives.

Deborah Lipstadt said...

I am sure that he won no points in the family for this stupidity... But it is quite amazing that no one around him said: "Whoa, fella. This ain't smart."

David H Lippman said...

That amazes me, too. But it would not be the first time a rich kid pulls off a stupid stunt designed to torque off his immediate elders, which they have to learn about the hard way. The entire life of Paris Hilton is an example of that phenomenon. I'm that if Conrad Hilton was alive today, he'd be dragging Paris, her dog, her cell phone, and her adult film, to the woodshed. I have a hunch that Prince William was acting like a lot of college students -- behaving in a deliberate offensive manner to get the attention of his parents. He seems to have forgotten that the entire British Commonwealth are his parents, in a superficial way.

RichardHutton said...

Hi. re. Ken Livingstone: Livingstone is not an anti-Semite, nor were his comments anti-Semitic.
They were irritating, crass and obnoxious, but not the stuff of prejudice or bigotry. Nor can his association with Qaradawi be seen as an endorsement of the latter's views: Qaradawi is a fairly virulent homophobe - as pointed out by Peter Tatchell repeatedly - whilst Livingstone was attending a ceremony celebrating Chris Smith's coming-out as an HIV positive gay man c. 25 years ago. Obviously the two are not compatible. Livingstone's ignorance and arrogance explain the paradox (again, see Peter Tatchell in The Guardian).

Livingstone's comments would have been anti-Semitic if he'd insulted the journalist in question because he was Jewish, but this was not the case (you might be surpsied at how many people failed to grasp the distinction, and less surprised by those who deliberately blurred it): it was because he works/ed for the right-wing Evening Standard paper. This doesn't make Livingstone's behaviour okay - Livingstone was out of line as the Mayor of London (and evidently half-cut - see below) and hypocritical given his own former employment with the Evening Standard (as a food critic), but there's no anti-Semitism in his words, or in his attitude. The full transcript of this incident is available on the Guardian's web-site, and following it through logically reveals this, as well as Livingstone's gross unprofessionalism.


Personally I'd be careful before joining the chorus decrying 'the left' for its supposed anti-Semitism: the calls from Nick Cohen and Marvin Perry, for instance, tend to focus on very trivial (if obnoxious) incidents that don't have the bearing they're purported to; whereas the much more aggressive pieces written by the likes of Melanie Phillips are quite clearly political propaganda pieces designed to 1) attack the strawman of 'the left' (invariably an anonymous entity) and 2) justify policies that openly discriminate against Muslims (for their supposed homegenous anti-Smeitic tendency - this point especially is taken to absurd degrees, in some cases leading to the coupling of valid criticism of groups like Al Qaeda with open support of far-right groups like the British National Party and Vlaams Bloc whose ideological forebears perpetrated the Holocaust in the first place). Thanks.

RichardHutton said...

Hi Deborah. This is just an addendum to a previous post I made regarded Ken Livingstone viz anti-Semitism. Please find below a list of articles that prove the various points I was rambling on about. I left out documents regarding the other commentators I mentioned (Cohen et al) because this is a lengthy digression. I hope they’re helpful. Thanks.

‘An embrace that shames London’
Peter Tatchell; 24th January 2005.
http://www.newstatesman.com/200501240019

= Tatchell discussing Livingstone’s paradoxical relationship with Qaradawi.

‘This is about Israel, not anti-Semitism’
Ken Livingstone; 4th March 2005
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2005/mar/04/society.london

= Livingstone outlining his reasons for criticizing Israel. They’re tendentious and crass, not bigoted.

‘Livingstone: Daily Mail is reprehensible’
Chris Tryhorn; 15th february 2005.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2005/feb/15/dailymail.pressandpublishing1

= a more accurate outline of the background to the otherwise trite fracas between Livingstone and Feingold.

‘Transcript’
The Guardian; 25th February 2006.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2006/feb/25/localgovernment.politicsandthemedia
= a transcript of the taped exchange between Ken Livingstone and Oliver Feingold. As I said in the previous post, there’s no way a responsible commentator could infer an anti-Semitic motive behind Livingstone’s words. Crapulence, however...