Sunday, September 10, 2006

Hello Alan, how are you? We had a nice talk the last time we spoke, and I don't like to talk about negative things when there is no need, but a friend of mine sent this to me and I just wanted to see what you thought. I don't necessarily feel a need for alarm by this but what's your take, an Englishman and a local who understands a bit more about England than I do?

Report: British Jews facing more anti-Semitic sentiment than ever
By Assaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondent

LONDON - Britain's Jewish community faces an unprecedented level of anti-Semitism and feels more threatened than ever, according to the report of the all-party parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism, which is to be released Thursday.

The panel found an increase in "anti-Semitic discourse," particularly among leftist groupings, and recommends a series of actions to prevent the situation from deteriorating further. Panel chairman Denis MacShane, who will present the report's conclusions to Prime Minister Tony Blair Thursday, told Haaretz Wednesday that the report rings the "alarm bells" for Britain.

The committee was created about a year ago in order "to investigate the current problem, identify the sources of contemporary anti-Semitism and make recommendations that we believe will improve the current situation."

Over 100 written statements were submitted to the 14 committee members, who span the political spectrum. Experts, politicians and public figures testified before the panel in four separate hearings.

The panel was initiated by members of Parliament and not intended to be an official inquiry.

According to the report, the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in Britain has risen since 2000, accompanied by a decline in public support for Jews.

The panel attributed the escalation to flare-ups in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (but did not specify a direct connection), as well as the "anti-Semitic discourse" being held openly among Muslims, the extreme left and, to a lesser extent, the extreme right. "

It is this phenomenon that has contributed to an atmosphere where Jews have become more anxious and more vulnerable to abuse and attack than at any other time for a generation or longer," the report said."

We are ringing the alarm bells for Britain," MacShane told Haaretz, to tell the people that the country's Jews are unable to live lives free of fear and to enjoy cultural, community and religious life without the constant fear of being attacked.

He said that one of the most important findings of the panel is that most Britons are simply unaware of the serious problem of anti-Semitism in their country.

Great Britain is home to 300,000 Jews, two-thirds of whom live in the Greater London area. The recommendations in the 66-page report include better reporting of anti-Semitic incidents on the part of the police and an investigation of why only ten percent of such incidents result in a suspect being accused.

"The Panel recommends that the Home Office require police forces nationwide to record such incidents using the current Metropolitan police model of categorizing such incidents as both racist and anti-Semitic."

It "calls on the Department for Communities and Local Government to commission an annual survey of attitudes and tensions between Britain's communities to be monitored by the Commission for Racial Equality," and places great emphasis on combating anti-Semitism on university campuses and on limiting "traditional broadcast and internet access to racist, including anti-Semitic, material."

One of the more interesting chapters of the report deals with the public mood in Britain, which, according to the authors, changes markedly "when Jews are discussed, whether in print or broadcast, at universities, or in public or social settings."

The report warns against the growth of a "new anti-Semitism" that transfers the traditional stereotypes about Jews to Israel, as a Zionist state. "We heard evidence that contemporary anti-Semitism in Britain is now more commonly found on the left of the political spectrum than on the right."

MacShane believes that the academic boycott of Israel by the Association of University Teachers (which was later reversed) and the decision by the Anglican Church to re-examine its investments in companies with ties to the Israel Defense Forces contribute to anti- Semitism.

He said the decision to focus on Israel while ignoring all the non-democratic regimes in the world is hypocritical and contributes to the Jews' feeling like "second-class citizens" who are spurned by certain elements in the country.

The publication of the report coincides with the celebration this month of the 350th anniversary of the Jewish presence in Britain. "I've been here for 11 years and I never thought it would get so bad," said Linda Cohen, an Israeli who was assaulted about two weeks ago in an anti-Semitic incident in the largely Jewish London neighborhood of Golders Green.

Cohen, the owner of a Jewish-Israeli cafe, said, "I didn't know there was anti-Semitism in Britain until two young men assaulted me verbally and physically after asking whether this was a Jewish cafe."

According to the report, anti-Semitism in contemporary Britain is a complex issue. "Anti-Semitism is not one-dimensional. It is perpetrated in different ways by different groups within society and for this reason it is hard to identify."

MacShane hopes the report will draw a lot of attention to the situation of Britain's Jewish community. He says another MP on the committee told him that his constituents are completely unaware of the things heard by the panel over the last year.

Hey Yaniv,

I have written to you about this before, about a year ago I think. The truth is that there anti-Semites in my country, as there in every country, but they are a tiny, tiny, minority. What there is, and I'm sorry to say I believe increasingly so, are a sizeable number of people who are angry and bitter toward the state of Israel. Attacks on Jewish sites, like graveyards, are reportedly increasing, though they are still very rare, and rarer still are they the actions of 'real' anti-Semites - rather they are the actions of those with a grudge against Israel, and see their attacks as a means to punish it.

I'm not defending these people in any way, they are criminals who need to be caught and prosecuted; I'm just trying to offer you an explanation. Israel's month of madness in Lebanon was the most horrendous demonstration of how to create resentment and make enemies; And I'm not just talking about the pictures of mutilated and dead children which filled our papers and TV screens; Israel's decision to leave behind 100,000 unexploded cluster bomblets as it withdrew, for example, was something which deeply angered many people in Europe, and even promoted the UN's humanitarian chief to describe the action as "completely immoral". What on Earth was Israel thinking? She seems to have completely lost sight of need to resolve her problems with her neighbours - not give them more reasons to hate her.

I'm not sure whether or not this is the kind of response you were expecting, but either way, please accept my comments in the spirit of honesty which I wrote them in.

Take care mate,


The only thing the Israeli government has in common with the people in those graves is that they are both Jews; is that enough of an association to violate them?

In my opinion, yes.

Wow, well that certainly is an interesting opinion. So are you saying were a British Jew to mark up the grave site of a British Arab because he did not approve of Palestinian suicide bombing or Hezba-llah attack that you would approve on the same basis? Maybe I'm wrong in that you did not approve of the violation but said that you think it is enough of an association. I disagree entirely. In fact, were I a British Jew and saw or heard that another Jew (or Jews) had violated the grave of a British Arab because he (they) was (were) angry at something that Arabs in Lebanon did, I would take a stand against it - there is absolutely no association, just bigotry there. It's just wrong, plain and simple.

I think I understand. You are a pacifist, which is a person who subscribes to the ideology of pacifism, which I believe shares a linguistic and therefore conceptual root with "passive." Most pacifists are anti-war, and there is not one thing wrong with being anti-war. However, their being anti-war stems from the fact that they are usually anti-aggression. This is both a blessing and a curse - a blessing because people who are anti-war don't start wars. It's a curse because were someone to attack an anti-war ideologue, or specifically, a pacifist, if the pacifist were honest to his/her ideology he would have to allow the attack to continue, i.e., he would not resort to aggression of any kind as a means to ward off or end the attack (see Ghandi and Martin Luther King). That is, pacifists don't start wars but they also don't end or prevent them, which is also usually tragic. The problem, and it occurs in the real world, is that there are people out there who do believe in aggression and they are not hesitant to use it. Pacifists, whom practice pacifism, allow for "aggrecifists" to go on rampages; it seems that if pacifism does not create it, then it at least empowers and emboldens "aggrecifism," which can also be called fascism or militarism. Sometimes there is a good use for aggression and/or power. An aggressive person (or society or military) will take over another or at least disrupt and dominate the way of life of another by way of total invasion if nothing stops them; Nazi Germany constantly serves as a good example of this but there are tons of others in human history.


Whether or not you agree, I do think that there is a psychological connection between certain brands of anti-Israelism and real anti-Semitism.

I think that, to a limited extent, you are right. Most of those who are angry at Israel do understand the difference between being Jewish and being Israeli, (so they must understand the difference between being anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli) but for some the difference is unimportant (sadly, you might be right). And let's be realistic, any mindless moron who is prepared to attack a Jewish graveyard is unlikely to be particularly high up the intellectual scale.

I think that the psychological connection I referred to means that people don't realize that there is a difference between a Jew and an Israeli, even intelligent people. It would be easy on our conscious to say that the culprit is a backwards primitive form of ignorance, but we can't whitewash the fact that anti-Semitism, like all types of hatred, has traditionally been caught up in all forms of intellectualism and intellectual justification. Nevertheless, assuming that you are right, those who understand the difference need to do what they can to obstruct those who do not understand the difference.

Most of those who are angry at Israel do understand the difference between being Jewish and being Israeli, but for some the difference is unimportant.

I don't believe that only stupid people find the difference unimportant. Again, hatred of all forms, in this case anti-Semitism, has always existed in the circles of elitists and intellectuals as well as among the naive and uneducated/uninformed peasantry. I don't want to be rude, but check the history of your own continent and its social institutions, both religious and secular - lots of brilliant anti-Semites in its past (see Enlightenment).

Do you realize that this war was started by Hassan Nasra-llah when he kidnapped those soldiers (and hasn't returned them) in a time of relative peace with Israel?

Yes I do realise that, but invading another sovereign state was disproportionate and made a bad situation immeasurably worse. Israel's actions served only to portray herself to the world as the aggressor in this conflict, and by default portray Hezba-llah as fighting to defend Lebanon - and ultimately being victorious in repelling Israel (without her two soldiers).

So I pose the question to you; what would you have done if you were the Prime Minister of Israel? What could Israel had done that would have been both acceptable to the international community and actually making some progress in defending itself?

I for one know that the situation would have become immeasurably worst had Israel not done what it did - the attacks would have continued precisely as they have in the past when Israel has not attempted to destroy terrorist infrastructures. You should try to realize that the fighting would have lasted longer on a whole had Israel not gone in, because Hezba-llah would not have backed down until Israel had reacted and no diplomacy would have stopped them (their words, not mine). Now, a "critic" of Israel might patronizingly suggest that in one of those cases where the terrorist attacks continued despite Israeli non-violence, or relative non-violence, that there was some other "hidden" factor to blame for the violence and then would charge that Israel is actually not doing all within its power to create a just and lasting peace. This, by the way, has been said, and quite a bit. For example, even when Israel was negotiating with the Palestinian Authority and literally handing it over pieces of land and sovereignty in order to administer a Palestinian state, the terrorist attacks continued As a result, "critics" concluded that Israel was not doing enough to end the violence, which is bizarre.

A very interesting psychological phenomenon that often happens in situations where one party is aggressive and another is being debased and/or attacked is that the attackees and surrounding bystanders are pushed into a state of empathy for the aggressor; usually it is caused by a) the desire not to be attacked themselves, and empathy is (supposedly) a way to ensure that, and b) the sheer violence of the act(s) can cause a sort of "shell shock" and apathy. Either way, forceful power displays can have astounding effects on the human psyche and creating "interesting" support systems, almost symbiotic, and we can again use Nazi Germany as an example. By the way, if you look at the rules of war as set down by Islam you'll see that they tap into that human group-thought phenomenon as a way to coalesce power - it usually ends up with the defeated party accepting Islam or forever being at war with Muslims, which is the case with Israel. This phenomenon is called "Stockholm Syndrome" after a woman (one person of many) was held hostage by a bank robber in Stockholm - she began to empathize (initially to save her life) with him and the two eventually got married.

Israel's actions served only to portray herself to the world as the aggressor in this conflict, and by default portray Hezba-llah as fighting to defend Lebanon - and ultimately being victorious in repelling Israel (without her two soldiers).

If this is true, which it might be, then that is because Israeli defense is considered to be an act of aggression - again, seen through the lens of pacifism, albeit selective pacifism (since Lebanon has the right to be aggressive and Israel, and therefore Jews, only have the right to be victims). By the way, Israel left in order to give the diplomatic route a chance - Hezba-llah's "interpretation," like all Arab-Muslim terrorist groups', is that Hezba-llah forced Israel out. How can you make or have peace with someone who thinks that way? Hezba-llah made the first (offensive) move and Israel made the second (defensive) move. After that point, even if Hezba-llah was defending Lebanon from Israel (which it was), its actions cannot be considered that of a defensive country because it started that war and/or series of battles. Truly, this is entirely Hezba-llah's doing, and by association, Lebanon's (Emile Lahoud) government, which did not prevent it but also made it possible by supporting Hezba-llah as an army.

I know this is a distortion of reality, but it was Israel who orchestrated the whole ill-thougt-out farce and failed to anticipate how it would look to the world.

If it is a distortion of reality, why did you even mention it? If it is a distortion of reality then we cannot rely on it.


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