Authoritarian and totalitarian trends – in the United Kingdom and France.

Even when socio-political trends develop in countries which at first sight appear trivial and which do not have anything to do with Israel they can end up indirectly having an impact. The observation that the countries with which Israel can develop the most solid and healthy relations are liberal democracies where there is a widespread and real attachment to fundamental freedoms may in some cases be more theoretical than real.  It still has a lot of validity.

The disproportionate influence currently being exerted by authoritarian individuals in many of the world’s liberal democracies – most dangerous in nations which lack strong constitutional protections for the afore-mentioned fundamental freedoms – manifests itself in various ways. Though the #MeToo movement has had many positive consequences, it has also, within these countries, reinforced illiberal forces which have no time for the protection of essential principles like the presumption of innocence and due process in criminal proceedings.

The abuse of anti-racism by so-called “progressive” activists, manifested in the massive increase in the number of people, whether in private or public life, wrongly accused of racism – whether because they have been careless in their choice of words or, very often, because negative connotations are dishonestly read into the language they have used – has reached alarming proportions. Unjust accusations of racism, which can sometimes have damaging effects, on the careers of those accused in turn often add to many observers see as a poisoning of the social climate – incompatible with the best values of a liberal democracy.   The selective invoking of anti-racist principles – particularly manifest at the orgy of extreme antisemitism which in 2001 characterized the so-called World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Xenophobia in Durban, South Africa – continues to contribute significantly to a new rise in anti-Jewish hostility.

The expression “stupid woman” no more implies that someone is stupid because she is a woman than “stupid man” implies that stupidity is a particularly male quality – and yet there have been wildly disproportionate reactions to Jeremy Corbyn’s insult of Theresa May.  (There is an excellent analysis for the libertarian site Spiked, which refers to a ridiculously “over-the-top” remark of  Conservative M.P., Ruth Soubry: “Tory MP Anna Soubry claimed that the ‘stupid woman’ jibe was yet another example of the ‘abuse’ that women in politics have put up with for decades.”.  Another article has warned of the danger of new restrictions introduced in the name of suppressing “abuse”, which would criminalise the use of vigorous language – there being more than enough legitimate provisions to deal with harassment and threats of violence)

This politically and ideologically motivated outrage, which panders to all kinds of professional offence-takers, seems at the very least to equal the indignation stirred by the antisemitism in the Labour Party which has become entrenched under his leadership (as documented in admirably detailed fashion by David Collier and Harry’s Place).

How can this not dismay those people fighting vigorously against enormous odds to try gradually to reverse the current dangerous situation caused by the tolerance – indeed indulgence – shown by the leader of the U.K.’s main opposition party towards the enormous number of new members who have shown blatant anti-Jewish prejudice and/or who promote anti-Jewish lies and/or who are apologists for murderous terrorism directed against Israelis and/or who continue to intimidate and even threaten with violence those members of the Labour party who oppose this?

At the same time (a piece of news not as much publicized as the disorders which have accompanied the protests of the “gilets jaunes”) there is a potentially very dangerous “anti-smacking” law (“loi anti-fessée”) – totalitarian in effect, if not in nature – going through the French parliament, which has till now met worrying little resistance. Though declarative in nature and not imposing any criminal penalties, if adopted  it could be followed by a law with teeth which punishes severely parents allegedly or actually guilty of “verbal violence”, “psychological violence”, or “humiliation” in the course of imposing discipline or punishment n their children.  (This law would not only punish smacking, even mild smacking without the use of an implement).

It is not difficult to see French enemies and demonisers of Israel now having even more dishonest arguments to use and dubious legal precedents to invoke when they accuse the Israelis of crimes against children.

To conclude, in many if not most cases, when liberal democracies succumb to authoritarian and indeed totalitarian temptations this is bad for them and bad for Israel.

About the Author
Paul Leslie is an occasional independent journalist and researcher, living in London. He has degrees from Exeter College, Oxford University and the Sorbonne (history of the Jews of Algeria and Tunisia, in two different colonial systems). Paul Leslie is am a fan of cinema – all genres – and is passionately interested in modern history.