A friend and I were having a lovely time at a house party after the First Night of the Proms when a young man in a baseball hat sauntered over to me and said: "I have some questions for you." He started with, "So, what do you do?" and I explained that I have in the past been on tough panels discussing Israel and the USA. He gave me "the look", as I like to call it. I thought he was going to strike me. He sputtered, "So, why do you people always have to say, Look at me! I'm a Jew?"
I was stunned. Attempting to defend my identity I said, "This will be the 5,771st Jewish New Year, of which I am as proud as would be a person of Egyptian, Indian, Chinese or Persian descent," but he launched into the obligatory, "So, what was this Zionist lark anyway - why did they have to nick the Palestinians' land?"
When I tried to explain Herzl, the pogroms and the Dreyfus trial, he said, "There you go again - look at us, the Jews! The Jews!" He proceeded to spend what seemed an eternity traducing f***ing Americans, Jews, Zionism and Israel, until I began to suspect he was a neo-Nazi. When I tried to explain that Rabin did try to make peace during Oslo, out came the invective again: "Yeah, but they control f***ing everything anyway.' He then turned to the American Jewish lobby, moaning about the "f***ing banks", so I reminded him that many American banks are Protestant-run. Of the good that Jews do, like discovering the polio vaccine and writing virtually every Broadway show, this had the exact opposite effect. He erupted, saying I was "self-obsessed". "It's always me, me, the Jews!", he shouted. I wanted to leave but was hemmed in. I suddenly found myself screaming at the top of my lungs, "Listen, I am damned proud of the Jews and burst with pride at being an American." To this he replied, "Why do you people always have to be proclaiming all this f***ing stuff about yourselves?" Meanwhile, his little girl sat down across his lap and glowered at me as he ranted in an endless stream of f-words. Had she not been there, at that precise moment I would have thrown his glass of red wine in his face.
I have never been this stunned. So young but consumed with hatred. He never let me finish a sentence, interrupting me with "Here comes the f***ing Jewish thing again." I expect he missed my saying his views were "alarming". When I got home I took an aspirin. I truly thought I would have a heart attack.
So, you may ask, what does he do for a living? He is creative director of one of the main British television networks! The anti-Jewish and anti-American abuse I nobly tolerated was astonishing given that he is in charge of output for a channel watched by millions. Had I been a shareholder, advertiser or financial partner subjected to this ordeal I would have withdrawn support first thing Monday morning.
One accusation he hurled at me - ironically, in the weeks following the Cumbria and Raoul Moat shootings - was this: "F***ing Americans, you run about shooting each other." I tried to explain to him that we have a gang problem in London and that if knives became guns we would be a sad rival of the USA, but of course he interrupted with: "You're all f***ing idiots." I mention this because the front page headline of the July 16 issue of West End Extra newspaper was: "Gangs fight like a scene from a war".
In the August 13 edition of the JC, Josephine Bacon said she now felt an "unwelcome guest" despite her family having been in the UK for 300 years.
I have been here 34 years. "Unwelcome guest" is an understatement.