A few months ago, the Southwark Crown Court sentenced white supremacist nutter Joshua Bonehill-Paine to three years and four months in prison, for inciting racial hatred against Jews. As the verdict suggests, this was not so much about what the bonehead did, but about what he wrote. Among other things, he called for an “anti-Jewification” march and promised that it would “be an absolute gas!” Correctly in my opinion, the court considered that the right of law-abiding citizens to live free of incitement trumped the man’s right to free speech.
Bonehill-Paine is not the only nutter in town. Just a few days ago, a certain Gerry Downing was re-expelled from the Labour Party (he had been expelled and re-instated) after calling on Marxists to “address the Jewish Question concretely today”.
Apparently, Bonehill and Downing represent diametrically opposed ideologies: the former is an avowed right-wing fascist; the latter – a self-described socialist revolutionary. Yet, as I have observed before, these ideologies have much more similarities than is commonly recognised. One of the points of agreement is the existence of a ‘Jewish Question’ in need of a radical and urgent solution. Bonehill and Downing subscribe to the same anti-Semitic trope: that Jews own huge financial means and use them to get a genuine stranglehold on Western political and economic life.
Despite that essential similarity, it is unlikely that Gerry will join Joshua in prison anytime soon. To start with, politically it is very easy to deal summarily with someone like Bonehill-Paine. He and his overtly fascist supporters are a constituency onto themselves – and one too small to matter. When it comes to Downing, things are more complicated. Good ol’ Gerry’s ‘revolutionary’ jargon and ideas are at times uncomfortably similar to those employed by many at the ‘court’ of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Simply put, placing him in prison would be striking too close for comfort. Downing’s juggling of the terms ‘Jewish’, ‘Zionist’ and ‘Israeli’ is very clumsy; Corbyn, Ken Livingston and George Galloway are accomplished masters in that fine art. Still, we live in a world of intellectual contorsionism, in which using the code word ‘Zionist’, however clumsy and transparent, suffices and allows one to dress naked bigotry into the ‘noble’ mantle of political activism. In this atmosphere of moral relativism, one can be an anti-Semite, as long as one is clever about it; as long as one is a Downing, rather than a Bonehill. This is why ol’ Joshua was sentenced to prison in a court of law, while Gerry was only expelled from Labour – unless, that is, his appeal will ultimately be upheld by The Party’s new powers that be.
A few months ago, I was taking part in a conference dinner in Germany. Across the table sat a British delegate, a rather boisterous 50-something. Somehow – I don’t even know how – the discussion turned to the Arab-Israeli conflict. My interlocutor opined that ‘most British Jews are not Zionists’, before implying that ‘the Zionists’ wielded immense power over Britain’s financial and political establishment. He joked that I’d probably report him to those all-powerful Zionists – and get him in trouble. I rather contemptuously answered that there were just about a quarter of a million Jews in the UK, and since ‘most of them were not Zionists’ he was unlikely to ‘get in trouble’. ‘A quarter of a million?’ he asked, incredulously. ‘I thought there were a lot more…’ ‘And how many of them are politicians?’ he asked, after a moment or so. ‘I don’t know’, I replied, ‘there’s no more than a handful of MPs who are Jewish’. ‘A handful?’ he asked, ‘so five MPs?’ ‘Probably’, I said, eager to finish the conversation, ‘I don’t know exactly’. ‘Five MPs’, he proclaimed, in a triumphant tone. ‘You see? Twice the proportion in the population! And that’s just the ones we know about…’ A minute or so later, he was threatening to throw the contents of his glass in my face, incensed at my implication that his statements amounted to anti-Semitism. He was drinking red wine (quite a lot of it) and I was wearing my best suit – so that was the end of that conversation.
I was reminded of that incident a few weeks ago, when a British friend told me how, during a childish altercation in the schoolyard, her son had just been called a ‘Jewish c*nt’. The offender – a 12-13 year old kid – apparently thought that Jewish c*nts were decidedly worse than Gentile ones. I’ll leave it to you, learned reader, to judge whether that was just a technical assessment – or an anti-Semitic comment the kid might have picked up from his parents over dinner.
In any case, it was the second such incident that my friend’s boy had been involved in. Rather distressed, she asked me whether this time she should ‘make an issue of it’. I opined that she should ask the Head teacher to organise a short course on Jews and anti-Semitism, so that the children could learn to recognise and reject the phenomenon. She wrote a nice letter, proposing just that. She even volunteered me as an unpaid lecturer on the subject. In response, she received a very polite letter from the school, thanking her for raising her concerns and informing her that the school will not tolerate any manifestations of racism. As for her suggestion of educating the children about anti-Semitism, the school’s management would seriously consider it… She never heard from them again; I’m sure they continue to consider her suggestion – very seriously.
That’s not to say that the incident was swept under the carpet. I’m sure it was dealt with – the boy was probably harshly admonished. But dealing with this as if it’s an isolated occurrence achieves a big fat nothing; this is not about admonishing one 12 year old, but about educating a generation.
All the episodes described above are overt, obvious anti-Semitic incidents. These days, we record them, classify them, analyse them. We publish statistics and reports about them. Yet anti-Semitic incidents are not the biggest problem – anti-Semitism is. We are recording the few visible symptoms, while ignoring the widespread malignant disease. As another friend of mine – a well-assimilated British Jew – told me once “You know, a lot of people here don’t quite like Jews…”
And that’s why my problem is neither Joshua Bonehill-Paine, nor Gerry Downing. Whether in prison or in the political rubbish bin, these overt, “classical” anti-Semites are clowns of no consequence; even malodorous politicians like Corbyn, Livingston and Galloway are but minor pollutants in the great scheme of things. No, the villain in my story is the Head Teacher in my friend’s school. Because of his indifference, how many kids will be lost to the Dark Side? How many will grow up ‘not quite liking Jews’? How many of those kids will grow up propagating further this cancer which – even in the 21st century – eats into Europe’s moral stature, into its very soul? He, The Educator, has the possibility and the duty to save not the European or Israeli Jews, but the European Gentiles from a disease transmitted from generation to generation – over centuries.
Unfortunately, there are too many such head teachers. And that’s just the ones we know about…