English dinner party antisemitism

By Rhoda Koenig in the New Statesman.  via Z Word.

30 Responses to “English dinner party antisemitism”

  1. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Sadly, reports continue that Koenig’s experience is not as uncommon as it should be. Problem is, the only way to counter this is to risk (or end/lose) good friends, let alone leaving unfinished meals all over the place.

    And it would be appear that there is a lot of genteel antisemitism around: how typically “public-school” British that is.

  2. Bill Says:

    “‘You’re Jewish? You can’t be English”

    This is nearly exactly what I heard at my previous zip code at a party where someone, with obvious European and Goy credentials, was told “You’re not a European, you’re a Jew,” for not demonizing Israel *enough* for some politically correct bigot’s satisfaction. On my leaving (I was one of a few people who defended the aforementioned “neo-Jew” when we soon after decided this wasn’t the party for us) someone asked me the origin of my surname (waspy but not common) and when I told them where it was from, I got a “sure” response.

    I’d argue that this is 90% “antisemitism without antisemites” and 10%, or similar share, cutting-out people who go off the script written by our betters since the tactic is too often applied to delegitimize the “ad-libbing” person’s opinions, be they called a Jew or “neoCon” or “contrarian” or, on campus, “uncollegial.” I’m sure that if Koening’s friend had just stuck to her role as the Good Polite Jew (who thoughtfully accepts, just as an example, that the Mossad-directing-9/11 theory is plausible!), as she is expected to be, she’d never have had her citizenship questioned.

  3. Saul Says:

    “We used to be on their side because they were the underdog, but now they’re so aggressive.”

    How interesting. Those who disagree with Koening’s article on the post at the NS seem to think the above statement is “criticism of Israel” as opposed to antisemitism.

    Looking at the quote, it has nothing to do whatsoever with what Israel or Jews have done or not done (and this is what makes it antisemitic and not criticism of Israel).

    Rather, it is an English middle-class disappointment that those nice, victim Jews are no longer nice-victim Jews but, having won their own state, are, actually, just like everyone else. All that kind English sympathy, and how do the Jews repay them?

    Koening is spot on.

  4. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    Because my name is a typical Austrian one somebody wrote. on a Neonazi website about “the old leftist and would be Jew Karl Pfeifer”, so because of my name the Nazi could not believe that I am a Jew.
    Such dinner-table antisemitism is very common in Austria. A foreign diplomat from a nordic country (blond and blue eyed) told us, that he has been all over the world, in South and Nord America in Russia and in Bulgaria. But never before did he hear such antisemitic statements coming from people belonging to the elite like in Austria.

  5. Gil Says:

    Rhoda Koenig makes some very heartfelt points. Regarding the incident with her friend visiting Syria: Israel has peace treaty with Egypt, yet the latter’s government turns a blind eye to antisemitic programs or antisemitic narratives in the media. This happens in Turkey too. So I wouldn’t hold Syria to such a high standard of behaviour unless you were going to be consistent and not visit any Muslim country.

    Regarding her dinner party companion who said ‘you are different from the rest of us’, I would have taken it as a compliment.

    Saul, you said what I wanted to say about those commenters. Utterly malevolent people.

  6. Saul Says:

    Growing up in a middle-class milleu in England, I cannot recount the number of times I was told that there were two types of Jews, those who only cared about money and the others who, apparently were “ok” (I normally was considered ok, probably because I had just shared some sweets or something).

    Nowadays, of course, there are still two types of Jews. The Zionists – pathological childkilling murdering bastards who “learnt nothing” from the attempted extermination of their people (the agressors)- and anti-Zionist Jews, who learnt so much that they positively vomit the milk of human kindness who are “ok” (the underdogs).

    The difference is, of course, in those days, those of us who were called “ok” knew the people passing judgement were antisemitic bastards whilst now, those who are deemed “ok” and agree with the distinction not only believe the verdict passed on them is correct, but believe that those so making the decision are legitimate in so doing.

    Of course, the predecessors of today’s “ok Jews” are not those of the recent past, but of those “cultured Jews” whose views of the Osjuden they shared with the “non-Jewish cultural elite”. The one’s who would, for example, who would go to the theatre and smile at the cheap and viscious parodies of “Nathan the Jew”, or at other cheap stereotypes (so different from now of course!)

    What did Marx say (or adapt) about tragedy and farce?

  7. David Says:

    I am pretty shocked that Ms. Koenig thinks that saying that Israel is no longer the underdog but is aggressive is somehow antisemitic and has a freak-out when her friend plans to visit Syria. These reactions are just bizarre to me. I’m a shul-going, English Jew living in the US. No-one could accuse me of being blind to antisemitism (or some sort of self-hater), but I’m mystified. Utterly.

    Even more weird is all that Saul reads into it, where he conveniently flips Jew and Israel and goes on to talk about some sort of implication of how “the Jews repay” the nice Middle Class English. Where does this come from? I see no such implication and can draw no such inference. Maybe the “friend” was the sneering antisemitic type, but I don’t see it in anything Ms. Koenig has written.

    There are many cases where the British think they “always support the underdog,” as ridiculous as that may be for a country with such a history of racist and colonialist brutality. But applying such thinking to Israel is not antisemitic. I don’t know what Saul &Co. are smoking, but I certainly don’t want any. I believe this kind of nonsense does a total disservice to those of us who worry about real antisemitism.

  8. Shmuel Says:

    Philip Roth does polite British antisemitism very well in The Counterlife.

  9. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    Marx adapted a saying of Hegel.
    “Hegel remarks somewhere[*] that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”
    The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Karl Marx 1852
    “Hegel bemerkt irgendwo, daß alle großen weltge-
    schichtlichen Tatsachen und Personen sich sozusagen
    zweimal ereignen. Er hat vergessen hinzuzufügen: das
    eine Mal als Tragödie, das andere Mal als Farce.
    [Marx: Der achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte, S. 9. MEW Bd. 8, S. 115)]”

  10. Susan Says:

    Rhoda Koenig did not mention Israel once in her post. Notice that the comments quickly descends into a debate about whether Israel has a right to exist. It nearly always does.

    I discovered while listening to The Strand on the BBC World Service that Jewish American writers are not authentically American. This is an example of how this thinking permeates evey aspect of British thought.

  11. Susan Says:

    Gil, Syria supports and funds Hamas. It offers Hamas a comfortable sanctuary. Egypt and Turkey do not.

    David, “Isreal is not longer the underdog is antisemitic, because it denies the basic humanity of Jews. Jews are put on an impossibly high pedestal for the purpose of knocking them off. The British may have a fondness for underdogs, but Jews are the only people who are either underdogs or murders of children. The Holocaust becomes a cudgel to beat Jews up with.

  12. Bialik Says:

    I’ve had: “You’re half-English and half-Iraqi? But I thought you said you were Jewish?”

    I’ve also had it with a friend who has been, for the most part, anti-American and increasingly annoying. It was when he asserted that it wasn’t possible to know who the IDF was fighting who in Gaza when the BBC reported ‘fierce fighting was going on’ because ‘the media weren’t allowed in’, but what did it matter, he asked, since it Gazans were ‘being slaughtered’. I asked him how he could be sure of that, given his earlier statement. Of course, he simply preferred a particular version of what was going on and no evidence was required.

  13. Bialik Says:

    Sorry about the typos in the post above.

  14. Saul Says:

    It was not a mere “convenient” flipping between Israel and Jew.
    The point I was making is that the idea of good Jew/bad Jew; good Israel/bad Israel has been a constant trope in the oh so English narrative of Jews.
    As to “where I get it from”?. The idea of “disappointment” and its consequences is inherent within the English notion of “tolerance” and “toleration” as opposed to continental notions of emancipation and rights.
    Toleration is always conditional. Jews/Israel is tolerated; i.e. conditional on their being “good Jews” (or “underdogs”) or “bad Jews” (“aggressors’).
    As Koening suggests, it is a peculiarly English thing.

  15. David Says:

    Saul, while you may have a point about various attitudes of the English towards the Jews, reading all those attitudes into Rhoda Koenig’s experiences as written requires a considerable jump from fact into pure speculation.

    And Susan posts that merely stating “Israel is no longer the underdog” is antisemitic. This is absolutely ridiculous. Israel once was the underdog, and now it is the strongest regional power in the Middle East. This has NOTHING to do with Jews, the Holocaust, antisemitism, murdering children, high pedestals or any other such ludicrous hyperbole. It is purely a statement of fact, the same way that China is no longer the underdog in Asia, or perhaps one day England will no longer be the underdog in international football, and in countless other examples.

    What are you on?

  16. David Says:

    Rhoda ignores it when her friend refers to 9/11 as a conspiracy by Israel, and yet has a freak-out when he says he’s interested in traveling to Syria? What is wrong with this picture?

  17. Saul Says:

    Positivism v speculation. How very quaint.

  18. Bill Says:

    Yeah, the 9/11 theory not being the last straw pushes my credibility button as well. I heard similar chattering class theories about the planes being on autopilot from an allegedly “certified smart person” (fellow university professor) after OBL gladly took credit for it (“wait there’s more” after the first strike) and I tore them a new one.

  19. David Says:

    Saul, your silly comment doesn’t allow you to jump from fact into fantasy as you please. If you’re in the business of making sh.t up, then say so instead of lamely trying to make a clever clever comment. The guy didn’t say any of the things you infer, and it is a very long stretch from what Ms. Koenig reports to the narrative you have built around it.

  20. Saul Says:

    Grow up! Your tone is becoming tedious.

  21. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    David has the unmitigated gall to complain of my “rude and insulting” response to him on the thread a couple above this (the discussion about Lerman) – following _his_ rude and insulting response to my first comment on Lerman – then goes on insulting people: to whit “What are you on?” to Susan, and then “If you’re in the business of making sh.t up…” to Saul.

    David, you hand it out like insults are free samples. Fine, that’s the way you comment. However, don’t have the chutzpah to complain when those you insult, insult you right back. Or, as the late great Harry S. Truman put it “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. I’m still here, are you?

  22. Saul Says:

    Your tone is becoming tedious
    Please don’t lower the tone with your eschatological references.
    And, finally, until you learn some manners you have lost the privilege of my engaging with you.
    I can assue you, the loss is entirely yours.

  23. Saul Says:

    should be scatelogical and not “eschatelogical”!!

  24. Nora Says:

    “Rhoda ignores it when her friend refers to 9/11 as a conspiracy by Israel, and yet has a freak-out when he says he’s interested in traveling to Syria? What is wrong with this picture?”

    There is nothing wrong with this picture.

    Blaming Israel (Jews) for 9/11 while disgusting could be ignored by Rhoda because it didn’t affect her immediately.

    Rhoda took a stand on Syria because she was asked to go on the trip which meant exposing herself directly to at best antisemitic suspicion.

    While I would have reacted to the 9/11 slur I can understand Rhoda’s reaction, David.

  25. David Says:

    Saul, I have repeatedly stated that you have jumped from what Ms. Koenig reported into the realm of imagination, hoping for some sort of reasoned reply. Your only answer was “Positivism v speculation. How very quaint.” Perhaps you would care to provide more by way of debate than that attempt at a put-down, otherwise I cannot see how the loss is mine.

    Where I live, “making sh.t up” is not regarded as scatological. Rather, it is a common turn of phrase in widespread use in professional and social circles of people who have a somewhat relaxed frame of mind. I find it hard to believe that anyone participating in this blog is genuinely offended by it (particularly someone as contemptuous of British middle class mores as you claim to be), but if you were then I apologize.

    As for Brian – Jeez, you’re coming after me in other discussion threads? Seems I have a stalker! But I have no intention of being drawn into your ad hominem mode of discussion here, thank you very much.

    Quite frankly, I am now dealing with 2 people who dish out the personal attacks like no-one’s business, questioning the motives (and “qualifications” noch!) of people they know little or nothing about, but who start whining about how rude others are the minute someone calls them on it. Let me assure you, it is no fun to be punched by someone who, when you kick them back, goes crying to Mommy about what a bully you are.

  26. Bill Says:

    “Blaming Israel (Jews) for 9/11 while disgusting could be ignored by Rhoda because it didn’t affect her immediately.”

    In fairness wasn’t “ignored” according to Koenig:

    “That remark, however, passed me by in an I-didn’t-hear-that moment because I was already reeling from the reactions of the “America deserved it” crowd, and couldn’t take in anything more.”

    Translation, she was too friggin numb like so many of us were from not only the shock of 9/1,1 but from all the morons rationalizing it or coming up with alternative theories, including those politically correct racists who couldn’t comprehend that AQ/OBL could execute such an attack (such as the Mossad and CIA theories). We all heard “smart” people saying incredibly stupid and wicked things once we realized what was going on that day (my favorite was the composer who likened it to performance art). These rotten comments when on and on well after 9/11. For many of us it was too much to handle, especially when, as smart people, we were expected not to break these people’s noses like they deserved but rather to nod and agree with them thoughtfully lest be accused of being W’s minion. Turning off was the only defense for many. I can feel for Rhoda.

    Dollars to Doughnuts she didn’t do all the math about her “friend” till the Syria comment at which point she likely slapped herself silly for not doing it earlier. Antisemitism aside, she wouldn’t be the first person who has dropped a friend after “one little thing” after realizing all the big things that were earlier blown off.

    While I have issues with her umpiring after the fact (that’s one hell of a strike “two” you gotta admit!), I’ve seen to many other examples of everything else discussed in the piece to argue with the central thesis of her article, especially the title.

  27. Duncan Says:

    I may have misunderstood the article here but is Rhoda Koenig seriously suggesting that someone agreeing that Israel is acting ‘aggressively’ and ‘unpleasantly’ is probably anti-Semitic?

  28. David Says:

    As far as I can see, Duncan, you are reading this correctly. And anyone who dares to suggest otherwise, as I have found to my considerable shock and dismay, is not welcome to say so here.

  29. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    So, David, perhaps you’d like to tell us exactly why “anyone who dares to suggest otherwise…is not welcome to say so here”? And, please, don’t tell me that I’ve just been rude and insulting and mounted an ad hominem attack on you. Just tell us unelightened idiots (_my_ words, not yours) here on Engage, why Duncan is right and Koenig is wrong.
    Evidence would be nice, too.

  30. modernityblog Says:

    personally, I find that Engage threads are often too polite 🙂

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