When I was contacted about being interviewed for Richard Littlejohn's The War on Britain's Jews I had, to put it mildly, some doubts. Despite the reassuring words of producer Anna Ewart-James, it was clear that any programme fronted by Littlejohn would have a set agenda. This was no balanced documentary.And does he regret being on the telly? No! Spoken like a true self-lover.
So did the programme live up to my worst fears? Yes. Do I regret being interviewed? No.
Firstly Channel 4 deserve to be heavily criticised for this programme. At least the BBC does bias subtly; with Littlejohn it's laid on in spades. The bias throughout the programme was unremitting and at times tedious. And that is why Littlejohn's programme will only fool the gullible.
The message was quite simple. Anti-semitism is on the increase and it's mainly the fault of these nasty Muslims and those dupes on the left who oppose Israel. Hizbullah are apparently one of the most anti-semitic groups in the world. (Actually it's their opponents, the Christian Phalange, who were responsible for attacks on Beirut's Jewish community, not Muslim groups, and it was the Palestinian guerilla group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who defended the Lebanese Jewish community in the civil war.)
If Channel 4 was seriously concerned about anti-semitism then the last person to present it would have been Richard Littlejohn. This is the same person who said of the Rwandan genocide: "Does anyone really give a monkey's about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them" - which is a direct take from the late Alan Clark's infamous remark about "bongo bongo land".
He has also called the Palestinians "the pikeys of the Middle East" and suggested that it was time to "wring [their] necks". "Pikey" is a racist reference to Gypsies, one of Littlejohn's pet hates, along with gays and asylum seekers.
The main thrust of the programme was the alleged increase in anti-semitism. Yet even the statistics used by the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Anti-semitism show (paragraph 29, page 14) that there was a 14% decline in anti-semitic incidents from 2004 to 2005.
What made Littlejohn's concern about anti-semitism so grating is that he has never hesitated to demonise asylum seekers as benefit scroungers, malingerers and fakers, using some of the crudest racial stereotypes.
He is someone who delights in pillorying different minorities, and he looked startled when I held up a copy of the Daily Mail from August 20, 1938, which proclaimed that "The way stateless Jews from Germany are pouring in from every port of this country is becoming an outrage: the number of aliens entering the country through back door - a problem to which the Daily Mail has repeatedly pointed"
The truth is that when Jews were really the targets of anti-semitism, the Richard Littlejohns of the day were vehement in attacking them. And the paper he writes for, the Daily Mail, was an ardent enthusiast for Hitler and Oswald Moseley. What it says about Muslims today was then directed at Jews.
For Littlejohn anti-Zionism equals anti-semitism. Why? Because the "new anti-semitism" means opposition to the Israeli state. If you oppose a state where, in an opinion poll, 75% of Jews don't want to live next to an Arab, why is that anti-semitic?
Every anti-semitic act is to be condemned. Likewise all forms of racism, but the programme generalised from a few anti-semitic attacks. And pretending that Muslims, who are the primary victims of racism in our society, are the main perpetrators, is to stand the truth on its head. No group has been more assiduous in feeding this racism than the pro-Israel lobby. Muslims are seen as backward and reactionary, rather than as people whose lands have been colonised.
Of course political Islam is reactionary but who was it who supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and helped create the Taliban and al-Qaida but the United States? And wasn't it Israel's secret service, Shin Bet, in their efforts to undermine secular nationalism who helped create Hamas? Inconvenient facts are easily forgotten. But what is called Muslim anti-semitism is in reality a pale reflection of European anti-semitism, lacking its social roots, and borrowing its ideas without ever understanding them. As Marx said about feudal socialism, it is "half lamentation, half lampoon, half echo of the past, half menace of the future ... always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history."
But what Littlejohn failed to comprehend was that if it is wrong for anti-semites to associate Jews with Israel's war crimes against the Palestinians, then it is equally wrong for the leaders of Zionism and the Israeli state to proclaim that Israel's war against Lebanon was waged in the name of Jews throughout the world. The fact is that if some people misguidedly attribute Israel's crimes to Jews, one of the reasons for so doing is that Israel and its apologists claim that it acts on behalf of world Jewry.
July 11, 2007
Tony Greenstein sans frontieres?
I thought I'd say that before someone else did. Tony Greenstein has a comment piece on the Littlejohn documentary on antisemitism. Here's the whole thing titled The war on rationality: