Tragedy in Toulouse shows Jew-hatred is alive and well
Is it possible, finally, for the British establishment to get its head out of the sand and admit that 21st century hatred of Jews is real? The Jew-killer of Toulouse who allegedly took the time to film the children he shot in cold blood, claimed he did so because of Israel's policies towards Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority was quick to condemn the slaughter and make the obvious point that it was no help to the Palestinian cause. But across the Arab world and among followers of Islamist or Salafist ideologies the rhetoric of antisemitism is growing stronger.
This week, President Ahmadinejad returned to one of his favorite themes when he told German channel ZDF that Israeli statehood "was a colonialist plan that resulted from a lie". It is this language that justifies the atrocity in Toulouse, along with the earlier killings of two Muslim French soldiers, apparently on the grounds that France fights in Afghanistan. For good measure a man claiming to the presumed killer told a French journalist that his deeds were also to protest against the ban on burkas adopted by the democratic parliament in France.
It would be too easy to dismiss the killer as insane. He appeared calm and rational when he talked about his crime. He is said to have been in Pakistan and Afghanistan and to have described himself as a Mujahedeen. The descendants of the men who were armed by the West and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s to attack Afghani troops and their Soviet advisers are still there being trained in camps in Pakistan. As with the July 7 bombers, the terrorist threat we still face is based here in Europe. Islamist ideology, with its constant focus on eliminating Israel, needs antisemitism as a set of beliefs that justify violence.
Antisemitism denial is now mainstream politics
Al Jazeera's English channel is watched by many and the reports and interviews that come from its Knightbridge studios conform to good journalism standards. But Al Jazeera in Arabic is openly anti-Jewish, celebrating Hizbollah and other outfits dedicated to Israel's destruction.
The rise of Islamist and Salafist activists in Egypt and Tunisia is opening a door to a more public political antisemitism. The French weekly, Nouvel Observateur, recently reported that Tunisia's university minister had denounced the decree permitting equal rights for women in Tunisia, dating from the 1960s, as the work of Jews.
But if Holocaust-denial is now passé for European politicians (sadly the biggest political beneficiary of the Toulouse tragedy may be the far right Marine Le Pen, with her fanatical Islamophobia) denial of antisemitism is now mainstream politics. Celebrations of the Third Reich or the disgraceful commemoration of the Waffen SS in Latvia last week are dismissed as foolish japes or unimportant, marginal
Ken Livingstone is rightly condemned for his approach to Sheikh Qaradawi,the theologian of suicide bombing aimed at Jews in Israel. But Qaradawi was allowed into Britain four times to preach his anti-Jewish poison before 1997 under the benevolent eye of the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard, and his special adviser, one David Cameron.
There is little media or political concern when the National Union of Journalists or the University and College Union back boycotts of Jewish journalists or Israeli academics. The NUJ or UCU would never dream of boycotting Saudi Arabia or China, where human rights and core freedoms are ruthlessly suppressed. But when it comes to Jews in Israel, the double-standard of contemporary antisemitism prevails.
Will the Toulouse massacre wake the antisemitism deniers in politics and the media? Probably not. Sadly, it will be easier to use the background of the alleged killer to drum up more xenophobic hate against European Muslims, despite the fact that, to Islamists, Muslims who serve their nation loyally in uniform are also victims of hate and violence.
Even as Ahmadinejad repeats his hate against Israel, the voices of appeasement make themselves heard. It is easier to describe Gaza as a "prison camp" than speak the truth that whatever its policy failures, Israel is the only rule of law, free media democracy in the region. Those who try and draw attention to contemporary antisemitism often feel that they cry wolf and nobody listens. The killings in Toulouse show that anti-Jewish ideology may have mutated but it remains the oldest, most deadly hate.
Denis MacShane is MP for Rotherham. He is updating his 2008 book "Globalising Hatred. The new anti-semitism" (Weidenfeld)