uploaded : Sunday 6th Apr 2003 at 18:22
by : The Editor
I have just returned from what I had fully expected would be an unpleasant experience, but I did not bank on the scope of its unpleasantness. I was invited to attend a live broadcast of the Jonathan Dimbleby programme at the ITV studios in London. The programme itself, a debate on the Iraq War and its aftermath, was civilised and informative, but the trouble came from the audience.
Unbeknownst to the moderator, whose back was to the area of the audience from which the main disruptions were emanating, a group of people began to heckle the American spokesperson, Ruth Wedgwood, who was live from a Washington studio. It was impossible to hear her because the hecklers were shouting, ?Shut up, you stupid prat? and other abuse as well as hissing and guffawing.
The real unpleasantness arose, however, when one of the men in the noisy crowd shouted ?ZIONISTS!? when Menzies Campbell MP and Helen Liddell MP mentioned the post-war administration and the destiny of Iraq being discussed by Britain and the UN with the main elements of the Bush Administration. At that point a commercial break was had, and this is what followed:
Me: Excuse me, sir, did you say ?Zionists? when the Bush Administration was mentioned?
Man: What? What do you ask?
Me: Can I explain something to you about American culture?
(Hisses, shouts and ?shut up, you stupid cow? in my direction from others in the crowd.)
Man: How dare you? How dare you? American culture? There is no such thing.
Me: May I continue?
Man: Not if you use the expression American culture, madam -- you ought to be ashamed of yourself. America has no culture. (Claps from others.)
Me: (Duly ignoring him) The majority of people who rule America are still White Anglo Saxon Protestants. Zionists have no say in the ruling of America.
Another man: Oh, shut up! Look at her, she?s a Zionist herself.
Man: I say again, you should be ashamed of yourself coming here and lecturing us, bloody American. What are you doing here anyway?
Me: There are still places in the USA, like country clubs, that Jews may not join. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft are not Jews. They represent the WASP ruling classes.
Man: Your so-called democracy is a disgrace. (Another man shouted ?The bloody Jews run America and its oil companies and now they?ll be running Iraq.?)
Me: Please be reminded that millions of Americans like myself voted for Gore and another twenty million voted for Nader, and yes, the so-called democratic electoral system needs to be reformed.( Others, all English, shouting ?shut up, Zionist! Zionist!?)
Man: Whomever you voted for, you are a disgrace and ought to be ashamed of yourself.
You may ask, why did I engage with a nutcase? The man was well-dressed, had been articulate when the broadcast was taking place and was sitting amongst a similarly-well-dressed and articulate group of people. (They were a mixed collection of white English and non-English individuals.) Their venom was palpable and for a moment I wondered if I might suffer the same fate as a woman who had attended a similar event in France last week and was attacked afterwards. (Three male audience members pinned her down and another carved a Star of David in her arm with his Gentleman?s Penknife.)
This kind of angry abuse has become de rigeur for Jews and Americans in Europe. It is a frightening and serious problem. I would not mind energetic debate but even amongst friends and neighbours debate has become loud aggression and disgraceful remarks about America that betray their abject ignorance of American -- yes -- CULTURE.
Thankfully, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre daily monitor attacks on Jews and Jewish targets, but we Americans -- and Canadians whose accents provoke attacks -- are at the receiving end of uncomfortable abuse that started long before the Iraq War. What is the answer? Even when Bill Clinton was President, the obsessive loathing of American support for Israel regularly filled the pages of British newspapers. I say this over and over again: Who started the Holocaust? America? Who expelled its Jews? America? Who persecuted Jews for 2,000 years? America? Britain and Europe seem to feel that after the Holocaust Jews need to be further disabled by being starved of aid to their tiny state, when in fact it was unspeakable European anti-Semitism that culminated in the establishment of a Jewish homeland. Who ought to fund the Jewish State?
The day at the ITV studio did not end with the America-haters. Near the end of the programme Menzies Campbell MP decided to put in HIS learned two cents about the United States. He made the astonishing suggestion that there is no hope for the Middle East peace process because the New Hampshire Primary is some fourteen months away and ?the East Coast United States lobby? will get to work on that result. This is Britspeak for ?the bloody Jewish Zionist lobby will subvert the American electoral process yet again.?
Well, due to time restrictions I was unable to respond on-air to Mr Menzies Campbell MP, but I wish to state my views here:
1. William Jefferson Clinton, who (though the 'Jewish vote, it must be emphasised, is insignificant) was overwhelmingly supported by Jewish America (the vast majority of American Jews are Democrats) in 1992 and again in 1996 devoted eight tireless years to the Oslo peace process. He and Warren Christopher, along with Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and others -- at great expense to the Israeli and American taxpayer -- worked with zeal and sincerity to bring the Arab factions to the peace table after fifty years of Israeli strife in a hostile region. Indeed, the Republican President Bush Senior and Likud Yitzhak Shamir figured in Madrd after the first Gulf War.
2. The so-called ?Jewish? or ?Zionist? lobby, which is coined every time I open a British newspaper or watch a BBC discussion show, is a fantasy of the mind of the anti-Semite. There are six million Jews in the USA, a tiny minority. As Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Lau (see our article ?Gone With the Wind?) said last week, the American Jewish population is declining. There is a handful of Jewish Senators, Governors and Congresspeople. Had the ?Jewish lobby? had such a stranglehold over the American electoral system, as Mr Campbell suggested, Joe Lieberman would now be Vice President by a landslide. 85% of affiliated American Jews are in the Progressive Movement, which, in turn, though supportive of Israel, has been critical of the Sharon regime and is not to be construed as a ?Zionist lobby? by any wild stretch of anyone?s imagination.
3. The so-called ?Jewish/Zionist lobby? was never mentioned when Bill Clinton was masterminding the Oslo peace process. He gave up in despair at the end of 2000, when the deal offered at Camp David degenerated into the al Aqsa Intifadah, and the Bush Administration was installed. Indeed, this administration is fiercely sympathetic to Jewish aspirations. Its deeply felt Christian adherence, which make many people distinctly uncomfortable, transmogrify to the belief that the survival of Israel is essential for the next Coming of the Messiah. This has nothing to do with the political allegiance of millions of Jewish voters who will begin choosing a Presidential nominee next year. The vast majority will be Democrats who want peace in the Middle East.
In summation, Mr Campbell?s assertion that the ?East Coast lobby? will begin to do its work to subvert the American presidential race to suit the destiny of Israel has no basis in fact and typifies the alarming ignorance in the United Kingdom about the nature of American society and its Jewish community.
In this week?s British newspapers there has been an alarming amount of similar rhetoric: in ?The Independent? Paul Vallely uses the expression ?The Jewish connection we will come to later? in his profile of Gen. (Ret) Jay Garner, who has been earmarked to administer post-war Iraq. Similar phrases were used by Joseph Goebbels and Julius Streicher in Nazi newspapers to denounce organisations that might have a tenuous Jewish connection. Vallely suggests that a fact-finding mission to Israel in 2000 was tantamount to being a dangerous pro-Zionist adventure .
General (Ret) Garner, like any military, security or arms consultant worth his or her salt, consulted Israelis, some of whom are amongst the finest in the world. The article says he went on a ?freebie? to Israel -- how many ?freebies? are given every day by British agencies? Furthermore, when Gen Garner was told of the restraint of the Israeli army in 2000, restraint is in quotes as if to connote its lack of veracity. The new Intifadah exploded at the end of 2000. From 1994 to 2000, the Israeli army was withdrawing from areas won in the 1967 War. Anyone who knows Israeli history, which Mr Vallely obviously does not, will be aware that Yitzhak Rabin turned the other cheek when suicide bombs, kidnappings and other atrocities were being perpetrated against the Israeli population during the height of the Oslo Peace process, when lands were being handed back every month. It is a fact that in 2000 the Israeli army , when Gen Garner was advised by Israel on its forces? conduct, continued to show restraint and had withdrawn from Lebanon.
Finally, the article suggests it is unacceptable for the new Iraq to recognise the State of Israel. Does Mr Vallely seriously think that in the New Middle East envisaged by the ultra-dove Shimon Peres repudiation of the tiny Jewish democracy will contribute to regional stability?
This has been an unpleasant week. This has been an unpleasant two years. Since Ariel Sharon?s visit to the al Aqsa Mosque after Rosh Hashanah 2000, the world began to turn against Israel once more. How interesting to see the faces of the US troops who tried to approach a mosque in Iraq this week in order to remove the arms and explosives from the holy place; a massive crowd of what can only be described as crazed citizens, who a few moments before had been friendly converged on the soldiers with such unmitigated fury as to frighten even the most hardened Marine or British SAS veteran. The Americans were bemused and withdrew. Five-hundred years ago their white ancestors might have raged this way had non-Catholics tried to enter a church, but that was five hundred years ago. Arab rage is something we in the West do not comprehend. How disturbing it is to me, however, that ?universal rage? has risen from the dormant disease known as European and world anti-Semitism to become international condemnation of Israel, a pitifully tiny nation with no natural resources trying to defend itself for fifty-four years against that very rage.
I want to see the Arab world examine itself and convert that rage into the energy that built my great native country, the United States and that built Israel from the ashes of Auschwitz. I want to see Arab peoples -- led by their staggeringly wealthy Emirs and Kings -- enjoying music and theatre and scientific achievement instead of blaming the USA and Israel for all their ills. But most significantly I want the people of my adopted country, Great Britain, to cease blaming the United States and Israel for the ills of Arabia. Long before America or Israel were even a concept, the Empires of the world were slaughtering each other in the name of Christianity and Islam, (this whilst Jews, stripped of their dignity in Europe, davened and wrote Torah.) I hope that the New Iraq will be an example to the rest of the Middle East and will herald the dawn of democracy, female equality and an end to perpetual, pointless rage.