Those who stalk—er, follow, I mean—Caroline Glick as religiously as I do know that she’s taking a break from writing her columns for the Jerusalem Post to work on a book.
After participating last week in a debate in London about Israeli communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines organized by the self-consciously pretentious Intelligence Squared debating society, I can now say from personal experience that Amis is correct. The public atmosphere in England regarding Israel is ugly and violent.
The resolution we debated read: “Israel is destroying itself with its settlement policy. If settlement expansion continues Israel will have no future.”
My debating partner was Danny Dayan, the outgoing head of the Yesha Council.
We debated Daniel Levy, one of the founders of J-Street and the drafter of the Geneva Initiative, and the son of Lord Michael Levy, one of Tony Blair’s biggest fundraisers; and William Sieghart, a British philanthropist who runs a non-profit that among other things, champions Hamas. Levy has publicly stated that Israel’s creation was immoral. And Sieghart has a past record of saying that Israel’s delegitimization would be a salutary proces and calling for a complete cultural boycott of Israel while lauding Hamas.
We lost overwhelmingly. I think the final vote tally was something like 500 for the resolution and 100 against it.
A couple of impressions I took away from the experience: First, I can say without hesitation that I hope never to return to Britain. I actually don’t see any point. Jews are targeted by massive anti-Semitism of both the social and physical varieties. Why would anyone Jewish want to live there?
As to visiting as an Israeli, again, I just don’t see the point. The discourse is owned by anti-Israel voices. They don’t make arguments to spur thought, but to end it, by appealing to people’s passions.
I want to note that the audience was made up of upper crust, wealthy British people, not unwashed rabble rousers. And yet they behaved in many respects like a mob when presented with pro-Israel positions.
I honestly don’t know whether there are policy implications that arise from my experience in London last week. I have for a long time been of the opinion that Israel shouldn’t bother to try to win over Europe because the Europeans have multiple reasons for always being anti-Israel and none of them have anything to do with anything that Israel does. As I discuss in my book, these reasons include anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, addiction to Arab oil, and growing Muslim populations in Europe.
I’m sure you can hear the echo of Aggie’s voice in Glick’s words. There are the more “practical” justifications for Jew-hatred—Arab oil, Muslim immigrants—and then there are the less rational excuses: anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. In other words, snobbish, intellectual, Leftist Brits hate Jews because… well, because they hate Jews.
She begins her post by quoting Martin Amis from 2010:
I live in a mildly anti-Semitic country, and Europe is mildly anti-Semitic, and they hold Israel to a higher moral standard than its neighbors. If you bring up Israel in a public meeting in England, the whole atmosphere changes. The standard left-wing person never feels more comfortable than when attacking Israel. Because they are the only foreigners you can attack. Everyone else is protected by having dark skin, or colonial history, or something. But you can attack Israel. And the atmosphere becomes very unpleasant. It is traditional, snobbish, British anti-Semitism combined with present-day circumstances.
Exactly so. As sick as the Marxist academics would be to acknowledge it, they share their Jew-hatred with—indeed they inherited it from—their aristocratic lords and ladies in Castle Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley) or Bunghole Abbey. Colored by “present-day circumstances”.
Having lived there, having worked with and among them, I can’t say I recognize these monsters. But then I didn’t engage in these debates, and hadn’t yet abandoned Liberalism myself. What does sound familiar is echoes among their American counterparts. I bet Glick would have found nearly as hostile a crowd on many an American campus as well.
The UK’s notorious Sun newspaper once published a cover in fear of a Labour victory at the polls that read: “If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights”. (When he lost, to the gray and anonymous John Major, the Sun boasted “It’s the Sun Wot Won It.”) The last person to leave Britain will not have to turn out the lights. It’s already gone dark there.