Cambridge blues

By Jenni Frazer
March 24, 2009

Yesterday I was the guest of an Anglican ministry in Cambridge which invited me to participate in their programme of Lent lectures.

I was asked to speak on the, these days touchy, subject of Judaism and Israel in the media. My kind hosts were somewhat anxious that I was going to be given a hard time, though in fact, as it turned out, I probably got an easier ride than I might have done because term was effectively over and there were no Palestinian Soc students knocking around to harass and yell.

That having been said, the audience was an eye-opener. This was England, red in tooth and tweed. Largely elderly, and swathed in good sturdy layers accompanied by solid shoes, the doughty men and women lobbed difficult questions at me like cricketing hand grenades.

One man wanted to know why — he said with a sigh — English Jews didn't simply go public and denounce Israel and its foreign policies, thus allowing nice English men and women to stay friends with them rather than be antisemitic. He even said, I think, that he had many Jewish friends. I don't suppose he was terribly pleased with my answer when I asked him if that meant that there were two sorts of Jews, "good" Jews and bad ones; most of us, I reckon, despite our own private feelings about Israeli foreign policy, would do anything rather than give succour to this kind of pernicious approach.

Another complained bitterly about the "Jewish lobby" in America giving unfair advantage to US policy towards Israel. I did try and tell him that there really wasn't a world Jewish conspiracy, rather just a handful of people in a handful of offices in New York and Washington, but I don't suppose he believed me. Most of my audience will, I suspect, go away with all their prejudices about Jews reinforced.

And that, of course, was before today's shocking-to-read headlines about the IDF's alleged behaviour and the Guardian's almost gleeful coverage of Israel's alleged war crimes. Had my top tweedies read those stories, I think it might have been doubly unpleasant.


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