‘Bloody Jews,’ he said. ‘Bloody Jews, bugger the Jews, I’ve no sympathy for them.’
I gazed at him, aghast. Where had this suddenly come from?
The encounter I’m here describing took place very recently, in the course of a large academic dinner at a University in another city, not my own one. It was a pleasant occasion, and the people at my table were innocuously and comfortably talking about sociological issues connected with the economic crisis, all completely harmless and (relatively) uncontentious. And then I heard the academic on my right hand side say to the person opposite him, ‘Bloody Jews.’
When he saw my appalled stare, he said impatiently, ‘Oh well, I’m sorry, but really…!’
‘I’m glad you’re sorry,’ I replied politely, collecting myself together for a fight. But then he asked, ‘Are you Jewish?’ When I nodded, this academic – whom I’d met for the first time that day – put his arm around me and said, ‘I’m sorry, but really Israel is terrible, the massacres, Plan Dalet, the ethnic cleansing, they’re like the Nazis, they’re the same as the Nazis…’