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The Poisonous Return of Anti-Semitism By: Fraser Nelson
TheScotsman.com | Monday, June 23, 2003

LAST month, the largest anti-Jewish attack on Britain since the Second World War was visited on a cemetery in east London. The photographers found a staggering scene: some 390 graves desecrated.

The picture did not make the news; few Fleet Street titles covered the story at all. In the grand scheme of things, it was treated as a local act of vandalism which had few wider implications.

This was not a one-off attack. It was part of a series which has sent the number of such incidents in London soaring by 75 percent during the first three months of this year alone. Even now, few are willing to name this poison. Anti-Semitism is back.

Its return to British shores has come in several phases and under numerous disguises - having crept back through a grey area opened through the Iraq war.

It started on September 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks renewed focus on the Middle East, as people who had been only vaguely aware of the West Bank and Gaza Strip suddenly started to learn more about the conflict in Israel. It was relatively easy to deduce that the Islamic terrorism was being traced to one conflict, and that the Palestinian struggle has been used by Osama bin Laden as a rallying banner to unite the previously warring elements of Islamic fundamentalism. By regularly adding "Jews out of Israel" to his demands, bin Laden managed to forge his global base for Arab dissidents.

In the West, the analysis of the situation was more refined - but not entirely different. The conflict is easy to see in basic colonialist terms: the Jews occupying Israel and subjugating the Palestinians on Arab soil. Dig a little more into history and the situation blackens: defending Israel’s existence is one thing, but defending the conquests made after 1967 is another. All but the most fervent Zionists will conclude that it is time for Israel to obey the United Nations and surrender occupied territory.

Those looking into the quagmires of Kashmir and northern Cyprus can reach similar conclusions - but the Israeli situation alone has power to inflame opinion worldwide. Most ominously, disapproval of Israel and Ariel Sharon’s government is morphing into suspicion of Jews. This is the point where anti-Zionism, fuelled by criticism of Sharon, has created a grey area which anti-Semitism is breeding.

The forces which fuelled one million "stop the war" marchers to the streets in London and Glasgow are hugely important and still alive today. The brew of political motives deserves closer scrutiny - because this is where the poison has crept in.

The "stop the war" coalition was quickly merged with the "Free Palestine" campaign, at first for practical reasons. Two marches had been planned for the same day, so the separate causes were aligned.

There were the pacifists, opposed to removing any dictator if it involved force - a coherent position used around the world for years to turn a blind eye to a murderous regime.

Those unaware of the threat which Britain faces from terrorists acquiring biological weapons were protesting against the idea of swapping peace for war, again entirely understandable.

Beside them were sceptics - unsold by Tony Blair’s weapons of mass destruction argument and suspicious about his real motives. The suspicions are turning out to be well-founded: Mr Blair’s emphasis on weapons was primarily a line to keep the UN and international coalition together.

But the search for a conspiracy theory was also there. The anti-American Left and the anti-capitalists (who saw the war as globalisation with guns) suspected it was a drive for oil.

The next theory was the most dangerous of all: that it is all the work of the Jews. This is why, in Paris, the "stop the war" placards included the Star of David equated to a swastika. Where Palestine is used as the symbol of anti-colonial defiance, then Israel is the symbol of the oppressor. This allegory is used with relish in Northern Ireland, where Catholic areas fly Palestinian flags and Protestant areas the Star of David.

Behind the placards were the political arguments. Those looking for a Jewish cabal found suspects in the neo-Conservatives in the Bush administration - mainly Richard Perle, defence adviser and Paul Wolfowitz, defence minister. These Jews pushed George Bush to war, runs the theory, to make the Persian Gulf more acceptable to Israel. And this Jewish influence, not the oil, was the real conspiracy.

Tam Dalyell, the Father of the Commons, took this further: the message from this US "cabal" has "fallen on fertile ground" in the UK - i.e., Jews such as Peter Mandelson, Jack Straw and Lord Levy, hired as Tony Blair’s chief fundraiser. His accusation is as risible as it is contemptuous. First, the leading hawks in America are Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney - neither of whom is Jewish. And the original charge against the US president is that he was under the thumb of Christian fundamentalists.

Second, the name "Mandelson" may sound Jewish to those with an ear to hear it - in the same way that Scots surnames starting in Mc- rather than Mac- are deemed Catholic. But neither the former Northern Ireland Secretary nor the Foreign Secretary is Jewish, in spite of Mr Dalyell’s research into their family trees. Lord Levy may be Jewish, but he is not used as a military adviser.
Mr Dalyell suggests that he makes a harmless observation. It could equally be seen as the first public glimpse of an undercurrent which has been running throughout European politics. In France, where the Muslim population is one in ten, there were 300 attacks against Jews in the first half of last year alone - few of which found their way into the media, with its pro-Palestinian tilt.

In Romania, the government has declared that there was no holocaust in its borders. This is demonstrably untrue, but is the kind of denial which the German neo-fascists fantasise about - yet it is happening in 2003.

And in Britain, denouncing the Sharon government is often done under the banner of being "anti-Zionist" - while stressing that this is very distinct from being anti-Semitic. But the headway made by anti-Zionism has created space where anti-Semitism has crept in. When "Jews" become interchangeable for the Israeli government, the line of racism has been crossed.

The British National Party thrives in the grey area between anti-asylum feelings and downright racism. A decade ago, the BNP was alien to democratic politics - now it is accepted as the ugliest part of the voters’ matrix.

When politicians start playing name-the-Jew, anti-Semitism will not be far behind. When anti-Americans and anti-capitalists loosely include certain Jews in their demonology, by dint of their religion, this will rub off on protesters - who have never looked too closely at the facts.

History has taught what happens when anti-Semitism is given the slightest breathing space. As the conspiracy theories over the war continue to proliferate, the idea of blaming Jews deserves to be called by its name.

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