This is a cross post from ModernityBlog
If you ever watch the Chariots of Fire film you will see an example of upper class English antisemitism, as John Gielgud’s character (the Master of Trinity) sneers at Harold Abraham’s use of a professional coach, and makes a few snide comments about “Hebrews”.
It’s not a big part of the film, but it does set the tone of how Jews have been seen by Oxbridge types over the years. Something to sneer at, something not quite “English” and it’s all done with impeccable accents and characteristic English understatement.
I can not say if that attitude is still prevalent amongst Oxbridge types, but the recent treatment of an Israeli historian suggests to me that might be the case.
Readers will remember how Oxford and Cambridge are famous for their debates, for inviting controversial figures and debating the issues of the day.
In 2007 the Hitler loving, David Irving, mainstay of the Holocaust denying circuit was down at Oxford. A year after that the dictator loving, George Galloway, was invited to speak at Trinity College, Cambridge.
There was no question of ever stopping Galloway from speaking, despite his fondness for Saddam Hussein, questionable performance on Big Brother and defence of the Iranians theocracy on his weekly PressTV show. No question whatsoever.
I am sure if we could look through the invitations sent out by the Oxbridge colleges then we might find any number of other unsavoury individuals, including Irving and Galloway, none of whom were stopped from giving their speeches.
None, that is, except an Israeli historian, Benny Morris.
There was a Facebook campaign to coercethe Cambridge University’s Israel Society and it seems to have worked, the event was cancelled. Whether or not there were any threats or intimidation I do not know, but I would not preclude it.
What I found rather interesting was the instigator of this open attack on freedom of speech, was not a firebrand graduate or a died-in-the-wool militant, rather it was our old friend, Ben White.
Readers will remember Ben White. He’s not very keen on Jews or Israelis having an opportunity to put their point of view, if it runs counter to his own.
Some may suggest that Ben White was being spiteful, inconsistent, non-Voltairian or just a small minded bigot.
I could not possibly comment, but when I see his name and remember his activities, I always think of Chariots of Fire.
Update 1: Sorry, if it wasn’t obvious by the creator of the Cambridge protests Islamophobia on campus was Ben White.
Update 2: Over at The Heathlander an interesting argument is posed:
“Firstly – and I apologise for spelling this out, but evidently some people have genuinely failed to grasp it – the right to “free speech” does not entail the right to a platform at the University of Cambridge to spout racist garbage. It certainly does not entail the right to invite an unabashed racist to speak at the University of Cambridge without provoking serious opposition from students who have to live with the consequences of an atmosphere poisoned by racism.“
Strong points, except that’s already happened a few times and it is Jewish students that have to live with the outcome of anti-Jewish racism, which is a consequence of the continued obsession with Jewish nationalism, otherwise known as Zionism.
We shouldn’t forget that in 2006, the Cambridge Union debated the motion “This House believes that Zionism is a danger to the Jewish people”.
I somehow feel that the welfare of Jews was not the uppermost sentiment here.
Over at the Electronic Intifada Ben White gloated in a rather predictable fashion. [Warning, linked to cache copy]
Cambridge has one rule when it comes to Jews and another for everyone else.
There is not the slightest concern that these motions, attitudes and the constant drip drip of Anti-Zionism do stir up anti-Jewish racism and put Jewish students and staff in a very difficult situation. No, there is no concern for their well-being.