Friday, 15 August 2014

Ancient hatred stalks the land once more

I read the following letter on the Independent web site at:

I’m just an ordinary middle-aged Londoner.
I work in an office. I go to football. I like eating out. I enjoy the arts. I am a proud family man. I give up time for charity work. I try to be a decent contributing member of society. I pay my taxes honestly. But there appears to be something that sets me and my kind apart.

At park gates in East London a friend of mine gets told to f**k off for photographing a flag. At a pub in Bath my wife gets called scum when she mentions her background.  In a student hall in Manchester a friend’s son is asked to leave as the specially prepared food he chose to eat is not permitted because it carries a label written in a language used by a country that is “banned” by the student union.

In Belfast a historic blue plaque is removed to deny part of my history.  In theatres in Edinburgh and London I am told to denounce my opinions or lose the right to perform.    A sportsman in Ireland tweets if he sees my kind he’ll punch us in the face and recommends others follow suit.

Protesters across the country show no shame in shouting that my historical persecutors were right and social media is rife with vitriol towards me (even from so-called friends). And in Bradford I’m told that I am not even permitted to enter the city.

What is this? Racism.  Where is this? Britain and Ireland. When is this?  Now. Who am I? I am a Jew.

Never again, we say, never again.

Stephen Spencer Ryde
London N3

Stephen Ryde feels the issue warrants a public debate and so do I.  Since there is no 'comment' facility I felt that  I should respond with my concerns too.

Prejudice is appalling and tragic, born of ignorance and resentment.

I accept that 'anti-Semitism' may be on the rise in the UK and is illegitimate and harmful.

I feel that manipulators use religion, race and other divisions to foster prejudice for their own ends.

The Israeli right wing Zionists abuse Judaism for their own purposes including expelling (and murdering) the population of a country they illegally occupy and in that respect are indistinguishable from the Third Reich.

So I am left with the problem of what Stephen Spencer Ryde is trying to communicate in this letter.

My worry is that Stephen is putting a bias on his claims of prejudice (though I could be wrong) but the idea that students are banned because of a language on a label sounds so ignorant it beggars belief.  Was that why his friend’s son was "asked to leave" or was it because the product was made in Israel?  In what way has Bradford banned Stephen?  He says it is because he is a Jew but I have not heard of this before.  What I have heard is that Bradford has announced a policy of boycotting Israeli produce.  In what way does that affect Stephen?

So I am concerned by this letter and the underlying allusion.  Racism (a word nowadays uncomfortably used to refer more emotively to the generic phenomenon of prejudice) is entirely unacceptable.  People need to rise above judging others by the colour of their trousers, the design of their flag or the particular set of mystical ceremonies they ascribe to and understand that injustice is the enemy - institutionalised authoritarian injustice.  I have an uncomfortable feeling that Stephen is party to the whole prejudicial nonsense by writing this letter.  If he is experiencing genuine prejudice, and I have little doubt that he is, then where does he refer to the instigation of this prejudice?  Where does he clarify the source of this problem?  Why is he so quiet on the subject of Israel?

Israel claims itself to be a 'Jewish State'.  It is no more 'Jewish' than the Third Reich was 'Christian'.

Anti-Semitism should be opposed wherever it raises its ugly head.  But is Stephen fuelling division and insidiously fostering support for Israel's barbaric and unacceptable brutality?  Is Stephen being ignorant?

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