It began with a preview of the new BBC television blockbuster drama series starting just after Christmas. ‘Dickensian’ is a mashup of Dickens most popular works. In the preview, Fagin is a stereotypically sinister, snarling Jew with a prominently worn Mizrachi Jewish skull cap. Fagin is shown in profile to cinematically disturbing effect.
At a time of heightened fear of terrorism the press does its best to ignore antisemitism even though in every country that statistics are kept, antisemitism is of considerably greater prevalence than Islamaphobia.
Christmas is a time that is supposed to represent good-will to all men (and I assume women as well). Until recently most orthodox Jews ignored Christmas, even as a secular festival, because of its negative history. That history was one where Jews experienced fear due to incitement by the Christian clergy and persecution based upon the accusation of deicide. Modern Israel not surprisingly, ignores this period of the year except in the distribution of free pine trees to any Christian families wishing to celebrate the festival. It makes the deception and incitement by Western news outlets (our modern priesthood) all the more telling.
If we set aside the egos and prejudices of journalisms’ finest sons and daughters then that is our first issue. It is a naïve belief that journalism is meant to inform rather than what it really is; a platform for the expression of biases; a vehicle for conveying editorial prejudice. And Jews have a particular interest in the chimera of honesty that is the practice of journalism because it is the Jews who are always the first to suffer its deceptions.
Our problem is that Jews are not meant to be normal people with normal fears, desires and anxieties. We are constantly being enjoined to learn from our history as if only we are expected to respect those who disrespect us, and exercise restraint at every provocation. But we have always been told to turn the other cheek (so that we would make an easier target). The definition that UK society refuses to acknowledge is this: Antisemitism is the expectation that Jews will respond to every action against them in a way that demonstrates a unique tolerance, a tolerance that is expected of no one else. It is the reaction to that failure of expectation that self justifies the bigot’s antisemitism.
So my complaint is that Jews in the Jewish Diaspora and in Israel are held to a standard expected of no one else and no other nation. The hallmark of the modern antisemite is not his or her naked aggression or the intimidation that is part of their natural demeanor towards us. It is the displeasure, the rarely concealed contempt that is displayed whenever we and only we do not listen to the “instructions” or “advice” given to us, most often unsolicited, by journalists, lecturers, professors and politicians alike.
It is truly an act of deception or naïveté to believe that the visual media either informs or educates to a neutral agenda. Repetition is the essence of the propagandists’ art and visual stimulation, the most effective means of imprinting an idea, good or bad into our sub-conscious.
For example, on December 26th a popular BBC soap opera “Eastenders” had a story line around a Nativity play. In the play a boy states “Yes we can stay in this inn because Islam welcomes all faiths.” Islam emerged a distance of 1,300 kilometers (as the crow flies) from Israel and did not begin until 600 years after the biblical story. The remark, aside from its fundamental inaccuracy implies that Mary and Joseph were excluded from the inn on religious grounds. This is also not part of the biblical story. Just to round off this antisemitic fantasy defilement, at this time of the year apologists for Palestinian terror often endow Jesus, Mary and Joseph with a faux Palestinian identity. The reality is that Palestinians, as Arabs, would have assaulted and perhaps murdered any Jews not traveling in convoy, for that lawlessness and thuggery is also the history of Arab (Palestinian) conduct towards non-Muslims over the centuries of their habitation in the Holy Land.
When I was growing up I had never seen a person who was not white except for those people I watched on TV and they were mostly gangsters. I did not know how I would react to my first encounter with someone who was “different”. But I was thankfully brought up to believe in the essential equality of everyone so I passed the test. I do not believe that film makers are unaware of the impact their film making has on people. When dealing with reality based fiction they cater to our need for the reassurance of familiarity and not to jar us from the sense of comforting complacency that most of us prefer to inhabit in our everyday lives.
There are some reinforcing memes best abandoned to the antechambers of history, for the study of relics of past abomination by scholars and antiquarians. The Merchant of Venice and the various Passion Plays are two of these negatively reinforcing and culturally ugly literary events. So is Oliver Twist. No matter how the literary crowd try to sugar coat them, with their antiquity or by their authors’ pedigree the characters portrayed also deliver a message, of reinforcing and repulsive stereotype. The damage prejudiced portrayal causes can not be justified, not in an era when even associating Islam with terrorism is regarded as secular blasphemy; not when politicians, social commentators and national media outlets make every effort to disassociate us from fearing the Muslims in our midst, to protect Muslims from any negative association that the expression of Muslim extremism may generate.
The BBC more than most international media behemoths understands this. Its’ sensitivity ensures that even Muslim mass murderers are never portrayed as villains. It does its best to inoculate Islamists from being forced to confront their inhumanity. The BBC’s discomfort with terms such as “Islamic State” and any other term that ties the Muslim faith to crimes of violence or hate crimes proves that the BBC has internalized at least some historical lessons.
To rationalize a narrowly focused bigotry in a world that is experiencing ethnic and religious conflict on a global scale and to dismiss the criticism of that bigotry because it is done in homage to art is an unacceptable rationalization for continued prejudice and hate.
The latest BBC drama series about Charles Dickens was previewed on Breakfast BBC’s news program and from the start it was clear that it was not meant for us to feel sympathy for anyone of Jewish background. The BBC is at war with Israel, both individual and nation. Its methods are subtle but that does not detract from its purpose. If you are Jewish but do not heed the “advice” of Britain’s elite you are the enemy. The Jews have always been Britain’s enemies. The BBC is at war with most of us, Jews and Israeli’s. It is always happy to implant seeds of hate via a new program or via its latest headline. Isn’t it time the Board of Deputies of British Jews or the Jewish Leadership Council (for the British, Jewish community) and the government of the State of Israel took this threat with all seriousness?