Is Britain Anti-Semitic? By Soren Kern, writing at Hudson New York.
Britain’s political class is debating its attitudes towards Jews and the Jewish state.
Consider British Prime Minister David Cameron, who recently jumped on the anti-Israel bandwagon by declaring that Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into a “prison camp.” Or consider Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who has a long history of bashing the Jewish state. Or consider many British opinion shapers, whether on the political left of right, in government, the media or academia, who have for years exhibited an unhealthy obsession with Israel.
Or consider Queen Elizabeth. Although she has been on the British throne for almost 60 years, during which she has made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries, she has never made an official visit to Israel. (Nor, for that matter, has a single member of the British royal family.)
The row started after Israeli President Shimon Peres told Tablet Magazine, a Jewish online publication, that Britain has a Jewish problem. In an interview with Israeli historian Benny Morris, Peres said there that has always been something “deeply pro-Arab” and “anti-Israel” in the British establishment. Asked whether this was due to anti-Semitism, Peres replied, “Yes, there is also anti-Semitism. There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary.” He added: “There are several million Muslim voters [in Britain], and for many members of parliament, that is the difference between getting elected and not getting elected.”
In the face of a media storm, Peres later clarified his remarks, saying that his comments were taken out of context, and that he “never accused the British people of anti-Semitism.” Nevertheless, his comments hit a raw nerve and unleashed an angry wave of denials from all sides of Britain’s political spectrum.
On the Left, for example, Labour MP Denis MacShane, who chaired a parliamentary inquiry into British anti-Semitism in 2005, said Peres was mistaken: “While there has certainly been a growth of anti-Semitic attacks in the UK and too many MPs and civil servants refuse to acknowledge the growth of neo-anti-Semitism, I do not consider Britain to be an anti-Semitic nation any more than it is an Islamophobic nation, despite some ugly words and actions against both Jews and Muslims.”