Thursday, March 04, 2004

British Anti-Semitic Nicompoops: Conservative Jews as Targets 

Fagin and the Labor Party
By Sharon Sadeh sadeh@haaretz.co.il
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/400920.htmlThu., March 04, 2004 Adar 11, 5764

LONDON - So, the chairman of the Labor Party in Britain called Oliver Letwin, the Jewish shadow chancellor of the exchequer, a "Fagin for the 21st century." Big deal. He certainly wasn't referring to the Jewish crook in "Oliver Twist." At most he meant ... what did Labor Party chairman Ian McCartney mean? After all, for the British public, Fagin, like Shylock, is a code word, a euphemism that means a Jewish crook, greedy and scheming.

McCartney said it out loud and in public in a speech to Labor activists in Scotland. His message was simple: If you elect Conservatives, not only will you get a Jewish chancellor but also of the worst kind, like Fagin. The Jewish community preferred to deal with the spittle as if it were rain. "McCartney is not an anti-Semite, but he should be more careful," was the response of the Board of Deputies, the umbrella organization of the Jewish community.

Even if McCartney is innocent of anti-Semitism, the use of terms with anti-Semitic connotations is not accidental. His speech exposed a cynical election strategy, which has crossed the boundary of what is legitimate.

A poll published last month by the Jewish Chronicle found that a fifth of Britons would not vote for a Jewish prime minister;

one out of seven Britons believe discussion of the Holocaust has become exaggerated and one of out five believes the Jews have too much power.

That is all highlighted against the background of the fact that the Conservative Party leadership now includes a particularly large number of Jews, starting with the party leader, Michael Howard, through Letwin and to the chairman of the Tories, Lord Maurice Saatchi, as well as the former foreign minister, Malcolm Rifkind. Through the use of negative and threatening imagery, McCartney has labeled the Conservatives as the "Jewish party," which should be avoided.

The struggle between Labor and the Tories is not only over votes, but over money. Ever since Howard was elected head of the Conservatives, there has been a sharp drop in the extent of contributions to Labor by Jewish businessmen. The party is very worried about that. To block the erosion, Chancellor Gordon Brown, the designated heir to Tony Blair, has stepped up his meetings with the community and with representatives of Israel. His speeches, which already had a pro-Israel tone in the past, are more pleasing than ever to Jewish and Israeli ears.

The Labor government speaks in two voices. In the one hand it condemns anti-Semitism and is very flattering to the Jewish audience, while on the other hand it winks at voters with prejudices, in a reality in which Jews are still perceived as a fifth column when they reach positions of political power. That perception is not only prevalent in the extreme right, among Muslim fundamentalists or in the lunatic left. It is present in the heart of the establishment itself, no matter how many ceremonies and Holocaust Days are held in Britain.

Lord Greville Janner, a Labor Party member and chairman of the Holocaust Education Trust, will never forget the day when he accompanied the Archbishop of Canterbury to an official ceremony. When they entered the House of Lords, he heard someone say, "Who's that walking with the Archbishop?" and heard the answer, "It's that Jew, Janner." Author Salman Rushdie says someone once treated him rudely and afterward apologized, saying, "I was mistakenly informed you are a Jew." Rushdie recalled: "I have never felt a stronger urge to be a Jew, than at that moment."

Delegitimizing Israel in the British media has long since been accepted as natural, as if it were fate, while it has been proven that it is directly translated into an increase in anti-Semitic incidents. With his unfortunate remarks, McCartney opened a new front of delegitimization that has penetrated political discourse and inevitably is going to harm, once again, the security of the Jewish community.
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