"The has been a European leader in several areas of antisemitism in the new century. It holds a pioneering position in promoting academic boycotts of . The same is true for trade-union efforts at economic boycotts.
"Although the anti-Zionist narrative is worldwide and widespread in the European Union, this discourse in the probably exceeds that of most other Western societies. Thus antisemitism has achieved a degree of resonance, particularly in elite opinion, that makes the country a leader in encouraging discriminatory attitudes. Trotskyites who infiltrated the Labour Party and the trade unions back in the 1980s are an important factor in spreading this poison."
Prof. Robert Wistrich holds the Neuberger Chair for Modern European and Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since 2002 he has been director of the
He adds: "There is also no other Western society where jihadi radicalism has proved as violent and dangerous as in the . Although antisemitism is not the determining factor in this extremism, it plays a role. This Islamist radicalism has helped shape the direction of overall antisemitism in the .
"Another pioneering role of the , especially in the area of anti-Israelism is the longstanding bias in BBC reporting and commentary about the Jewish world and in particular. Double standards have long been a defining characteristic of its
"One characteristic of English antisemitism has been its often understated nature, in keeping with British tradition. That makes it more effective because one does not become aware of it so easily. One example among many is the British journalist Richard Ingrams, who was editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye for twenty-three years starting in the 1960s. He once wrote in the Observer that he threw away unread all correspondence he received from people with Jewish names regarding the Middle East because, he thought, they must be biased on the subject. If someone were to tell him he is an antisemite he would, of course, reject that. But would he publicly write the same thing about Arab correspondents?"
Medieval : A Leader in Antisemitism
Wistrich observes that analyzing current antisemitism requires looking back in time. The present motifs often resemble ancient ones and have their roots there. "Nothing is ever as new as it appears. Antisemitism in has been around for almost a thousand years of recorded history. Medieval was already a leader in antisemitism.
"In the Middle Ages, pioneered the blood libel. The
"From the Norman Conquest of 1066 onward there was a steady process-particularly during the thirteenth century-of persecution, forced conversion, extortion, and expropriation of Jews. This culminated in the expulsion of the Jews from in 1290 under Edward I. It was the first ejection of a major Jewish community in
" was not only the first country in medieval
Antisemitism without Jews
"The long absence of Jews from the shores of the
"I grew up on English literature. When I was sixteen we had to prepare for the advanced-level certificate. In our syllabus were several of the classic English works. They included Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales from the late fourteenth century; Christopher Marlowe'sThe Jew of Malta from the late sixteenth century; and William Shakespeare's The Merchant of
"One interesting question is how could Shakespeare draw such a portrait of Shylock probably without ever encountering a real flesh-and-blood Jew? There are many theories about that. Yet he and Marlowe before him managed to portray the Jews as major villains whom the populace would instantly recognize as the 'antitype.' I am not, of course, saying Shakespeare was an antisemite in the ideological sense (his portrait of Shylock is more complex than that). But the force of the anti-Jewish stereotype is so powerful that this is what is ultimately retained in the 'collective unconscious' of English culture.
"This Shylock image influenced the entire West because it fits so well with the evolution of market capitalism from its early days. Shakespeare portrayed the subject in a way that is to a certain extent realistic, reflecting the rise of a commercial society in
Literature Drenched in Antisemitism
"We also studied Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist, from the Victorian era, in which a Jew is again the archetype of the villain. In addition, there were modern twentieth-century authors who portrayed their characters in a partly antisemitic way. Among them were Edwardian writers like John Galsworthy, H. G. Wells, and Nobel Prize winner T. S. Eliot. The latter was the major twentieth-century poet whose work we had to study. There were few authors devoid of any antisemitism. One exception was George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), an eccentric though remarkable woman who understood the Jewish plight. Her book Daniel Deronda can be considered a pro-Zionist work, as well as being a classic Victorian novel.
"From my experience with this syllabus, all these authors, however admirable their contribution to English and world literature, were unintentionally transmitting culturally embedded antisemitism to future generations. The influence of such a process should not be underestimated. It is difficult to neutralize antisemitic images like that of Judas-the betrayer of Christ-in the Gospels.
"English literature and culture are drenched in anti-Jewish images, perhaps even more than many of the great literary traditions of
The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
During the nineteenth century, matters evolved more favorably for the English Jews. Says Wistrich: "The
"Yet here, too, the picture is more ambivalent than is often assumed. This was particularly so in the late nineteenth century with the immigration of Jews from and
"In the twentieth century, after the Russian Revolution, a linkage between Jews and communism that was intertwined with antisemitism became a pronounced theme in British public discourse. There was considerable publicity around the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This ended when Philip Graves, a London Times correspondent, exposed it as a forgery. Until then, one could read editorials in The Times that were based on the belief that had spilled much blood in the First World War only to fall into the hands of a world Jewish conspiracy-a Pax Judaica!
"Similar accusations had been made before that, during the Boer War in . There were insinuations that a small clique of cosmopolitan Jewish financiers had dragged the
"In the literature around 1900, one often finds examples of a full-fledged left-wing conspiracy theory in which British imperialism is being manipulated and controlled by 'Anglo-Hebraic' financiers. The entire issue was connected to the discovery of gold in . This theory was promoted by distinguished English intellectuals, enlightened journalists and writers, as well as the prominent liberal economist John Hobson.
"The entire episode shows striking similarities with trends in left-wing political circles in recent years. The radical Left asserts that former prime minister Tony Blair was led by the nose into a disastrous, neo-imperialist war in by a clique of rich British and American Jews. The so-called American neoconservative conspiracy had spilled over to , serving Ariel Sharon and the Likud government that was then in power in . British trade unionists, then and now, proved susceptible to this kind of conspiracy theory."
"The theme of 'warmongering Jews' became especially popular in the 1930s with the rise of British fascism under its aristocratic leader, Sir Oswald Mosley, who came originally from the Left. British fascism was stopped by active mobilization against it. Contrary to what would happen a few years later, the communists were among the most militant antifascists in the
"In the Second World War, was not willing to attempt to rescue the Jews of Europe in any meaningful way. It was not only imperial Realpolitikthat made the British close the gates of
"During the war the British government was obsessed by the fear that their fight against Hitler could be construed as a war on behalf of the Jews. To avoid 'fighting a Jewish war' became a kind of alibi for the British authorities to do almost nothing for the Jews. 's solemn commitment to create a Jewish National Home in
Toward 's Creation
"After 1945-in the three years before the creation of the state of Israel-relations between and the Yishuv, the Jewish community in
"After the Mandatory Government in
"Ernest Bevin, the foreign secretary in the Labour government of Clement Attlee, was convinced that a Jewish conspiracy existed, supposedly in alliance with the
"Bevin made a number of antisemitic statements. He made remarks about Jews trying to jump to the head of the queue even after
"Another eyewitness testimony was that of James McDonald, the first American ambassador to , who had been actively involved in the refugee issue in the 1930s. In
"Winston Churchill's record on Zionism was, of course, far more positive. But it was not as unequivocal as we often assume. There is a discrepancy between his wonderful rhetoric and what Churchill-as a lifelong Zionist-actually did for the Jews when he was in power. He was very intransigent on key issues. The gates of
"During the Second World War, Churchill was in favor of the White Paper and kept it in place, despite his strong condemnation of it in 1939 when in opposition. His wartime actions regarding the Jews were no better than those of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which is to say, unimpressive. Nor, after becoming prime minister again in 1951, was Churchill's record on particularly brilliant, though he had the historical vision to understand that 's re-creation was a major event in modern history. In expressing its meaning Churchill was at his best."
The British Roots of "Zionism Is Nazism"
"It is important to remember that in the 1940s the 'Zionism is Nazism' libel was rather popular among highly placed Englishmen. True, the Nazi-Zionist equation was predominantly a Soviet contribution to postwar antisemitism. But it did not originate there. Indeed, a number of Britishers can claim first-class honors in this field. An example is Sir John Glubb Pasha, who was commander of the Arab Jordanian Legion fighting against in 1948. He was an upper-class conservative Englishman and a lifelong Arabophile, with a special love for desert Arabs. He was also a convinced antisemite.
"Glubb was obsessed with the idea that Jews had anticipated Hitler's master race theory. Nazism, in his view, was a pale copy of the Hebrew original as revealed in Old Testament sources. In memos he sent to
"Glubb was not alone. One can find in British documents similar statements from high-ranking officials in the
"The perverse theory that the Jews were not 'Semites' or connected to Palestine but descendants of the Khazars in Asia was also very popular among important people such as Sir Edward Spears, who headed the Committee for Arab Affairs in Britain in the late 1940s. Even today one can hear this theory cropping up in conversations with certain members of the British elite after a few glasses of port."
"In the 1950s and 1960s Arnold Toynbee, the renowned British philosopher of history, was immensely popular. I had to read him at school and as an undergraduate at
"Toynbee ranted on about the 'expulsion' of the Palestinians, which he considered a crime of a greater order than that committed by the German Nazis! Israeli ambassador Yaacov Herzog demolished his arguments in a debate in the early 1960s in
"In the 1970s, I was actively involved in such debates when I wrote my doctorate at
"In the 1970s, the anti-Zionists in -some of them Jews and expatriate Israelis-were already vilifying as an 'ethnic cleansing' and 'racist' state. Even then there were claims that Zionism equals apartheid. Among the most extreme demagogues were Jewish Trotskyites, who were the most vitriolic in their loathing for Zionism."
"It is a curious fact that Trotskyites have been influential in left-wing circles in the -at least in comparison to other European countries. Only in does one find anything equivalent. There seems to be no obvious reason connected to British society or culture. Perhaps it is related to the weakness of the Communist Party, which faded quickly in the 1950s in . Unlike in and , communism was never very powerful on the British Left. Trotskyism could therefore fill the vacuum. It is an alternative form of communism that bears many parallels with the Stalinism that the Trotskyite s love to hate and vilify. Of course, the Trotskyites were hunted down in the
"Trotskyites have been characterized by an intense polemical energy and have often been in the forefront of the 'anti-imperialist struggle.' With the collapse of official communism after 1990 in most parts of the world, they saw a chance for themselves to become what they call a 'revolutionary vanguard.'
"In their concept of the world, Zionism has for decades been inextricably linked with global capitalism and American imperialism. These were also the hackneyed phrases of Soviet propaganda. The communist empire has collapsed, of course, but the Trotskyites are still running with the ball. Their numbers are small but they have tenacity, ideological discipline, and use clever tactics of infiltration. They have practiced these more effectively in recent decades in the than perhaps anywhere else. Trotskyites infiltrated the Labour Party and the trade unions in the pre-Blair era. We see the bitter fruits in boycott actions today against , sparked by people who went through this anti-Zionist indoctrination and have passed it on.
"Trotskyites are organized in the Socialist Workers Party, which was very active in the 1970s. It has become a larger political factor in recent decades. I watched the huge antiwar demonstration in
"In the demonstration there were antisemitic insinuations and intonations in the slogans and catchwords used. The protest came at the time when the 'cabal' theory that the Jews had seized control of American and British foreign policy was being widely advanced. It was crudely asserted in ,
The Respect Party
"There is also a relatively new party called Respect led by MP George Galloway from . He was on the left of the Labour Party before he went independent.
"Then there is the more general Muslim contribution to antisemitism in , which is growing all the time and has become a significant factor. The exploration of Muslim attitudes in the is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, it appears that close to half of British Muslims believe in a Jewish conspiracy that dominates media and politics. The percentage of Muslim perpetrators of violent antisemitic acts is nearly ten times greater than the Muslim percentage of the general population. Muslims from have been involved in a series of high-profile cases. One leading terrorist was Omar Sheikh, the alleged mastermind of the beheading of the American J ewish journalist Daniel Pearl in
"In 2003 Abdullah al-Faisal, a black Jamaican who had converted to Islam was tried on charges of racial hatred and incitement to murder Jews in a
"Al-Faisal encouraged British Muslims to carry out bombings in . One of his cassettes was prophetic. He called upon British citizens to fly into and carry out mass murder as a contribution to the global jihad and to Allah. Not long afterward, two British Muslims executed a suicide bombing at Mike's Place, a bar on the Tel Aviv waterfront. I was the historical adviser for a British TV documentary that dealt with this topic in 2003.
"At the other extreme, the far-Right British National Party sees a climate emerging where it might do better than in the past. The fascists would frankly like to see a without Muslims. On the other hand, they also see eye to eye with many Muslim extremists on issues concerning and the Jews. These British fascists admire Osama bin Laden."
The BBC and Other Media
"Since the Second Intifada, the BBC as well as some major British newspapers have reported daily on in an often tendentious, biased, and one-sided fashion. Under no circumstances will the BBC refer to any act of Hamas or other Palestinian terrorist organizations as terrorism. These killers are always referred to as militants, which has trade-union connotations in . It is the term used when, for instance, shop stewards advocate a factory strike.
"Within the distorted BBC system, the reporting of Israeli civilian fatalities and Palestinian suicide attacks made them seem no more than minor pinpricks compared to the retaliations by , the definitive 'rogue state.' The BBC invariably disconnects jihadi terrorism from any notion that it is part of a hate culture and the result of ideological indoctrination. The explanation is that these murderous deeds are driven by the relentless, 'racist actions' of the Israeli government. It is Palestinian misery and oppression that allegedly brings about suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. I believe this is a false, simplistic, and one-sided account. Terrorism is mentioned without connection to an ideology and the issue of antisemitism in the Arab or Islamic world is virtually nonexistent."
The Jewish Lobby
"Another favorite topic of the British media is the power of the Jewish lobby. One well-publicized example occurred when the veteran Labour MP Tom Dalyell said in a 2003 interview inVanity Fair that Tony Blair was surrounded by a 'cabal' of Jewish advisers. Of the three people he mentioned, only one was Jewish, Lord Levy.
"A second exemplar, Peter Mandelson, did have a Jewish ancestor but never claimed to be a Jew; while the third was Foreign Minister Jack Straw, whom many Jews consider anti-Israeli. Straw, it turned out, did have a Jewish grandfather but had never advertised the fact. Dalyell claimed these people were linked up with the neocons in
"There are exceptions to the anti-Israeli attitude. The most important was former prime minister Tony Blair, who was as sympathetic to as one can reasonably be under the circumstances. The paradox is that, while Blair and his successor Gordon Brown have been pro-Israeli and pro-Jewish, is still one of the leaders of current European antisemitism. That is the sobering reality and it needs to be honestly addressed.
"There is much to be said for the claim that Blair's support for during the Second Lebanon War was the straw that broke the camel's back and brought him down as prime minister. He was undefeated in elections yet had to resign under pressure from his own party. Blair and Brown fit into a line of statesmen who came out of the British Christian tradition, which has a historic affinity with Zionism. These leaders include Arthur Balfour, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson, and Margaret Thatcher-individuals of vision and great political talent. In my opinion they represent the best in the British political tradition.
" can also pride itself on the publication of the Report of the All-Party Inquiry into Anti-Semitism, which did a fair and thorough-though not perfect-job of investigating the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment in the . I gave extensive evidence to that inquiry, though for some reason the recording equipment did not function properly and hence there was only a brief summary in the final document. The Report does not contradict anything I have been saying, though it was too soft on Muslim antisemitism and lacked any historical perspective."
"Among those who have contributed to the current hostile mood is Ken Livingstone, the mayor of
"A few years later he became a coeditor of the Labour Herald, the Labour Party's paper in
"Livingstone always presents himself as an antiracist. He claims to be against any form of discrimination that affects minorities and outsiders. Supposedly he was the friend of gays, lesbians, new immigrants, Afro-Caribbeans, and Muslims. Yet Livingstone has often related to Anglo-Jewry as a kind of Israeli fifth column in and as accomplices of its 'racist' policy.
"Livingstone not long ago gratuitously insulted a Jewish reporter of the Evening Standard by likening him to a concentration-camp guard. Even though then-prime minister Tony Blair asked him to apologize to the Jewish community for his offensive remarks, he consistently refused to do so. On the contrary, he insisted on attacking Ariel Sharon as a 'war criminal' and it didn't hurt him with the general public in Britain.
"Another case concerned his remarks about the Reuben brothers, who are property developers in
"On two occasions Livingstone gave red-carpet treatment to Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi whom he invited to
"What is interesting is that in , as in much of
* * *
 Sidney Sugarman, The Unrelenting Conflict: , Balfour, and Bevin (: Book Guild, 2000), 200.
 James G. McDonald, My
 See Rory Miller, Divided against
 The Times,
 Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism (
* * *
Prof. Robert Solomon Wistrich has held the Neuberger Chair for Modern European and Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for almost twenty years. Since 2002 he has been director of the
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