“There’ll always be an England, and England shall be free…” unless you are Jewish. In a recent ‘The Guardian’ opinion column, prolific historian novelist Richard Zimler, justifiably opined about the growing anti-Semitism in none other than Great Britain. Best known for his writings like The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, Zimler has just launched another book: “The Gospel According to Lazarus”. As his publicist was in the process of promoting and scheduling book signings in Britain, Richard got tased with a sudden and unexpected jolt of anti-Semitism.
The rising tide of bigotry and anti-Semitism has finally reached the shores of Great Britain. The bastion of literary superiority and culture has slowly been hijacked by the intolerant anti-Semite political polarization. Under the pageantry and stiff upper lip is an undercurrent of unfortunate anti-Jewish sentiment reminiscent of pre-war Europe.
Richard Zimler has neither political nor personal ties to Israel. He happens to be Jewish. He is American Portuguese and lives in Portugal. His novels albeit based on historical truism are mostly fictional. He takes his readers on a journey through time. The Jew in his stories is always the protagonist but in a historical context. His latest book is about the relationship between Christ and Lazarus; bringing into focus the life of a Jew in Roman times, and the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Richard’s relationship with Britain has always been welcoming, until now. His Guardian column said it all: “I have never met anti-Semitism in Britain…until now.” What changed?
Unfortunately, Britain has joined the rest of Europe in rising anti-Semitism. Unlike the 1930’s, this latest wave of anti-Jewish sentiment is nebulously hidden under a pseudo political excuse of anti-Israel or anti-Netanyahu political rhetoric. Similar to the anti-USA by virtue of anti-Trump sentiment, the reasoning is limpid at best and vile at worst.
Richard Zimler suspects the BDS movement behind his boycott and the anti-Jewish prejudice in general. The BDS is not courageous enough to come out and take credit for its visceral hatred of Israel and Jews. It hides behind the political activist veil of Palestinian justice while spreading its hateful ignorant talking points on campuses, and as currently apparent in Britain: political parties. The Labor Party has shown empathy toward BDS and ingratiated itself with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. They’ve had their hands slapped a few times by an indignant ineffectual Theresa May, but nothing serious. Whistle blowers with a conscience have come forward with allegations that anti-Semitism is rampart within Labor Party ranks. Some of them resigned because they feared repercussions. And to think that there are Britons who still vote for these pinheads.
Never ceases to amaze me how a tiny country like Israel can raise such ire. Such visceral hatred. Such unprecedented bigotry. As I have often reiterated; there is a common thread that binds the far right and far left in a perfect harmonious knot. It is the hatred of Jews. Those on the left will deflate their anti-Semitism by giving you the irrelevant explanation that their beef is with Israel and not the Jews. That’s like saying that the problem is with the food not the restaurant. The far right is more straightforward: they hate everyone.
Europe is now at a cross roads. It either stands up to the anti-Semitism or it is doomed to repeat its dark history. Blaming Jews for what ails the world is familiar discourse. It was the Nazi playbook. But BDS is not the Nazi party. It is a self-appointed watchdog organization that devotes its existence to the vilification of Israel. They do not go after Venezuela. I haven’t seen them condemning Syria. And Iran is not on their radar. Their villain is Israel and the preferred reference to Jews: Zionists.
If an organization like BDS can boycott Richard Zimler, then no one is safe. Who will be their next target? Jewish doctors, scientists, actors, businesses? When an author is boycotted by virtue of his Judaism, then we should not be surprised if the anti-Semitic net is thrown far and wide to include the rest of the Jewish population. The reality is that most European Jews have never set foot in Israel. They do not all support Israeli politics, and have been known to publicly criticize Netanyahu’s administration. Yet, that is inconsequential to BDS and others of that ilk. The guilt by association is convenient for race baiters and bigots.
Political polarization has given birth to blatant intolerance and justification of religious bigotry. It is easy to hide under the activist umbrella to support an argument. Haters of Israel have used the Palestinian cause to justify their bias in the UN, social media, and left-leaning main stream media. History is being re-written to fit a narrative. Debate is no longer an option. Some campuses celebrate Apartheid Week against Israel. Harvard was among those campuses. It is easier to sling shot buzz words like “apartheid” to raise eyebrows and bring the narrative home to a generation that has chosen to ignore historical truth. Truth is somewhere between self-absorption and tweaking history to arrive at a convenient conclusion.
Richard Zimler fears the worst. If a Jew can be boycotted in Britain then Europe is in trouble. He never thought it would happen to him. But then so did the millions of Jews living in pre-Nazi Europe. Richard was not only shocked by the blatant discrimination against him, but angry because he has often written about discrimination and hatred. He is also angry at the event organizations and organizers for making a decision based on his faith. He was not boycotted because of Israel, but simply because he was Jewish. The cowards who refused him had the audacity to play the victim card. They were victims of a “backlash”. Familiar playback? “I was only following orders”.
When we engage in systematic bigotry under suspicious arguments; we might as well step back into our dark past. Using politics to justify infringement of a segment of society is beyond unacceptable, it is vile. BDS would not have flourished had governments and universities not given it a viable platform. Regardless of whether one is critical of the Israeli government or not, Israeli politics can never be a convenient excuse for anti-Semitism. Britain and the rest of Europe needs to wake up from its complacent reverie and realize that if not decisively stifled, the irrational dislike of Israel and Jews will eventually creep into the normal fabric of their society. Is this what they want for a mission statement?