Antisemitism doesn’t always come doing a Hitler salute : Jonathan Freedland

When the Ukip politician Godfrey Bloom referred to “Bongo Bongo land”, there were not many who denied the remark was racist. When the same man told women who failed to clean behind the fridge that they were “sluts”, most could see the comment was sexist. Yet when the target of an insult is a Jew or Jews, there is rarely such certainty. Unless antisemitism comes dressed in an SS uniform and doing a Hitler salute, we are regularly thrown into confusion. Suddenly we are in the seminar room, calling on experts to tell us whether or not this or that sentence was anti-Jewish, the debate usually ending without clear resolution. To add to the complexity, very often Jews disagree among themselves, with just as many willing to give the disputed word or deed a free pass as to condemn it.

Read the rest of it here.

4 Responses to “Antisemitism doesn’t always come doing a Hitler salute : Jonathan Freedland”

  1. Philiph35 Says:

    “Antisemitism doesn’t always come doing a Hitler salute”. No, quite often these days it comes garbed as a Guardian Editorial or Comment. Shame Jonathan will never notice that.

  2. Absolute Observer Says:

    Philip 35, could you give an example please?

  3. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    AO, I have no idea who Philip35 is, but it’s easy enough to find examples of Guardian journalists overstepping the mark, even if the editorials don’t. Just peruse Comment is Free Watch ( and you’ll see what Philip35 means. I’m sure you already know this.

    I noted elsewhere (on Richard Millet’s blog) that the article on Ralph Miliband (including the headline and the later editorial) quite possibly isn’t antisemitic (though given the Daily Mail’s track record in misleading headlines, to say nothing of exceedingly dubious use of highly selective statistics, such an accusation needs to be carefully probed), but it was certainly a prime example of guilt by association – a McCarthyite tactic straight out of the unlovely US Senator’s 1950s playlist. It was a clear effort to label Ed Miliband with his father’s views. Whatever else he is, Ed M. is no far left-winger.

    Given that the smear effort, continued over a number of days, it’s interesting to think a bit more deeply about the diary note of the 17-year-old Ralph Miliband. Here he was, in about 1940 or 41, washed up on the shores of Britain, with his father, a Belgian refugee who happened to be Jewish, and he looks at the society around him. He is clearly already very bright if not yet fully educated. I wonder if the reporters on the Daily Mail would be happy to have their teenage scribbles published and pored over as they have pored over Ralph Miliband’s?

    As to the content of the comments, Miliband senior was exceedingly perceptive. Perhaps we should make the journalists in question read Brian Cheyette (Professor of English Literature at Reading University), “Constructions of ‘the Jew’ in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations 1875-1945”, first published in 1993, in which he notes the unconscious (and not so unconscious) attitudes towards Jews in the period in question.

    Actually, one doesn’t have to go so far: just read the Dorothy L. Sayers “Lord Peter Wimsey” novels, and the unwitting, taken-for-granted (and not so unwitting in many cases) antisemitism comes dripping off the pages: references to “greasy Levantines”, characters who are “thick-lipped”, and so forth.

    Ralph knew whereof he wrote. And anyone who “hated” Britain would hardly have joined the Navy to fight Fascism in all its guises.

    But then, it’s only Daily Mail journalists we’re talking about. Their reputation is no better (if that high) than that of politicians.

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