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Thursday, February 26, 2004

Return of the old hatred

by Melanie Phillips, in The Guardian
Let us all agree on one thing at least. The more Jews warn that anti-Semitism has come roaring out of the closet, the more people don't like the Jews. Which is a bit of a problem if you believe, as I do, that the oldest hatred has indeed alarmingly resurfaced but is hiding under the respectable skirts of hostility to Israel.

This week, the European Union finally admitted there was a problem with rising Jew-hatred. While there was no comparison with the Holocaust, said European Commission President Romano Prodi, some criticism of Israel was 'inspired by what amounts to anti-Semitic sentiments and prejudice'. Yesterday, the Community Security Trust, a Jewish charity, reported the second largest rise in 20 years in attacks on synagogues, cemeteries and Jewish people in Britain.

Yet there were immediate moans in the press of 'grossly exaggerated' warnings about rising anti-Semitism. In an Economist debate at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts last week, those issuing such warnings were accused of being the 'new McCarthyites', waving the shroud of the Holocaust to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel.

So when a woman said to me one evening, 'I hate the Jews', I should have dismissed my shock as a 'grossly exaggerated' response. When I was listed in a newspaper as one of the Jews exercising sinister control over public debate in Britain, I should have said I brought this on myself by writing anything at all.

When I heard claims by a radio reporter that the Jews might have 'poisoned the water wells of Egypt' in 1947, I should not have wondered why one of the stock libels of medieval Jew-hatred was being broadcast as if it were true, since my concern was obviously shroud-waving.

And when in the ICA debate Tory MP Robert Jackson accused British Jews of dual loyalty, saying their Britishness was conditional on their explicit repudiation of the policies of Sharon, it was obvious the reason he was singling out the Jews as second-class citizens in this startling way was because they are McCarthyites.

Read it all.