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Britain, infected with anti-Semitism

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The infection of anti-Semitism is spreading in England, writes Howard Jacobson in The New Republic:

In the tone of the debate, in the spirit of the national conversation about Israel, in the slow seepage of familiar anti-Semitic calumnies into the conversation–there, it seems to me, one can find growing reason for English Jews to be concerned. Mindless acts of vandalism come and go; but what takes root in the intellectual life of a nation is harder to identify and remove.

Was it anti-Semitic of the Labour politician Tam Dalyell to talk of Jewish advisers excessively influencing Tony Blair’s foreign policy? Was it anti-Semitic of the Liberal Democrat Baroness Tonge to refer to the "financial grips" that the pro-Israel lobby exerts on the world? Such allusions to a pro-Israel conspiracy of influence and wealth, usually accompanied by protestations of innocence in regard to Jews themselves–"I am sick of being accused of anti-Semitism," Baroness Tonge has said, "when what I am doing is criticizing Israel"–have become the commonplaces of anti-Israel discourse…

Whatever their intention, their gradual effect has been to normalize, under cover of criticism of Israel, assumptions that 50 years ago would have been exclusively the property of overt Jew-haters. The peculiarly immoderate Israel-loathing that [Philip] Roth remarked upon in 1987 is now a deranged revulsion, intemperate and unconcealed, which nothing Israel itself has done could justify or explain were it ten times the barbaric apartheid state it figures as in the English imagination.

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