Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I've Been Vilified by My Fellow Jews for Condemning Israel,but I Won't Bow to Political Correctness

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I've Been Vilified by My Fellow Jews for Condemning Israel,but I Won't Bow to Political Correctness

Article excerpt

Byline: GERALD KAUFMAN

IHAVE a high regard for Dr Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, and value our cordial personal relationship.

I hope that relationship will not be disrupted by my disagreement with a thesis he seemed to be advancing on BBC radio this week. The Chief Rabbi appeared to be linking criticism of the policies of the Israeli government with the challenging of "Israel's very right to exist" and "a certain whipping-up of anti-Semitism in this country".

The conclusion that could be drawn from his remarks was that rejection of the policies of the current Israeli government towards the Palestinians is a cover for anti-Semitism.

I know anti-Semitism when I see or hear it - and, believe me, I have experienced quite a lot of it.

When I was a Jewish scholarship boy at Leeds Grammar School in the Forties, that overwhelmingly gentile institution was riddled with anti-Semitism, among both the pupils and the staff. I couldn't wait to leave the school, and never go back.

In Parliament, when I first was elected in the Seventies, I was abused verbally by a man called Sir Charles Taylor, Tory MP for Eastbourne, who after a debate in which I defended the state of Israel, told me to go back to where I came from; he did not mean Leeds, where I was born, but specified Tel Aviv. Since

then, I have faced little overt anti-Semitism, though I know that it exists as a substratum in British society, and should neither be ignored nor underestimated.

It is very easy for individuals who are members of ethnic or religious minorities to delude and/or comfort themselves into believing that personal antipathy towards them, or problems they encounter, are due to their religion, or the colour of their skin.

I have a constituent who ascribes all her problems to the fact that she is black and being discriminated against. Her problems have nothing whatever to do with her being black, but to the fact that she is a difficult person to deal with.

And that, at a more generalised level, is the situation with the Israeli government today. Far from being criticised because it rules a Jewish state, it is to a large extent being insulated from criticism because it rules a Jewish state.

While there will always be some undercurrent of anti-Semitism towards Israel because it was established by Jews, all-pervasive political correctness often impedes criticism of Israel in case it is interpreted as anti-Semitism.

Memories of the Holocaust rightly haunt Western societies and to some degree have protected Israeli government policies from criticism which is justified. …

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