It may be thought from previous Posts that I have it in for Lord Sachs, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain. I don’t. He seems a fundamentally decent man, vocally somewhat furrowed with caring for his wayward flock; perhaps a bit soapy in manner. He is obviously a man of great learning and wisdom, so I’m sure he won’t mind me apprehending him, although I have absolutely no credentials or qualifications for doing so.
In his three-minute Thought for Today slot on BBC radio this morning, the Chief Rabbi returned to a familiar theme, that of warning against rising antisemitism in Europe, and urging Jews to show fortitude, as they had done conspicuously in Warsaw in 1943.
I wanted to make just three points about this.
The first is to note that, like violence in Northern Ireland, antisemitism seems to increase and decrease very much in line with economic indicators, such as the unemployment figures. It seems to be a symptom of insecurity in the general population and has very little to do with religion, which most people now do not practise or understand.
Secondly, antisemitism when it is on the rise tends to be only one part of a wider picture of periodic anti-ism against all sorts of social groups, including all foreigners, people of African, Afro-Caribbean or Asian ethnic origin, and families without wage earners living on state handouts. It is a sign of human frailty to envy those who are worse off than yourself what little they may have, that you perceive they have only at your expense.
And thirdly, I believe you are wrong when you say, as you did three times in your short broadcast, that antisemitism is caused by hatred of Jews. It’s not hatred, it’s fear. Fear of the Other, fear of people who have often arrogated a special status to themselves, based on an apparently documented connection with the Almighty; fear of people who think they are superior, ‘chosen’, and who tend at the ultra-orthodox end of the religious spectrum to distance themselves by thought, conduct and, above all, dress from the rest of suffering humanity. How else are we goyim supposed to respond? To paraphrase Woody Allen, Jews can’t function without feeling themselves to be a perpetually persecuted minority. But as we see in Israel-Palestine, the boot is sometimes worn on the other foot.
If I may sneak in a fourth point, Dr Sachs, why in your view is it honourable for young men to sacrifice their lives in the name of freedom and life itself, when they are Jews rebelling against oppression by overwhelming force in the Warsaw ghetto, but not when they are young Arabs resisting being walled-in in the Gaza strip, their homeland purloined, their mothers and sisters killed in punitive strikes by supersonic aircraft they do not themselves possess, and by artillery firing phosphorus shells banned in international law?
PS Missing letters
I apologise, by the way, for any letters missing from my Posts recently. They have been stolen by a misfunctioning keypad on my expensive Asus laptop. I try to put in new ones, but my eyesight at close range is rapidly failing. Do your best.