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Myers shows traditional antisemitism is alive and well

There are important lessons to be learned

    Kevin Myers
    Kevin Myers

    If you were looking for a perfect example of the salience of CST’s latest figures for antisemitic incidents, you could hardly have done better than Sunday Times columnist Kevin Myers.

    Opining in the paper’s Irish edition yesterday, he wrote about two of the BBC’s highest paid women, Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz. Pointing out that they are both Jewish, he observed: "Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price".

    It is – thank heavens – rare now to see such a slam dunk unambiguous repetition of a classic piece of antisemitic stereotyping in a mainstream publication. And to their credit, the Sunday Times immediately apologised and sacked Mr Myers.

    But the issue is illustrative for two key reasons.

    First, in the context of the latest CST figures. Last week they revealed a 30 per cent year-on-year increase in incidents, to a record level of 767 between January and June.

    What struck me most about the details underlying these awful headlines is the make up of the incidents. In recent years, much attention has (quite rightly) been focused on Islamist antisemitism. And certainly, some of the most dangerous and significant antisemitism does come from this source. But in terms of quantity, if you look at the 23 per cent of cases that CST classifies as “politically motivated”, it remains the case that the bulk of such antisemitism even now still comes from what one might call the more old fashioned, traditional sources.

    Of the 176 “politically motivated” incidents, 115 emanated from the far-right, and just 12 from Islamists. We should never forget this.

    I’m not suggesting that Myers falls into this category at all, rather that his was a basic repetition of a centuries-old trope of the money-obsessed Jew. In other words, no matter what new forms antisemitism may morph into, and what new sources may require attention, the old ones never die.

    But there is a second issue with this story which also needs our attention. No matter how unambiguous Myers’ words may have been, one did not need to look very far to find outright denial that they were in any way antisemitic.

    When I first tweeted a clip of the words concerned yesterday morning, the immediate responses I received were along the lines of ‘Only a Jew would take offence at this’, ‘All he’s doing is pointing out the truth’ and ‘Stop your witch hunt’.  

    Not that this was in any way surprising. The JC has had the unpleasant task in recent years of highlighting a number of antisemitic posts on social media and other forums. As surely as night follows day, the immediate response from some has always been to deny the presence of any antisemitism, either in intent or word. You probably don’t need me to point out – although I will – that I am referring to the Corbynite left, which seems almost physiologically incapable of acknowledging even the possibility that there might be antisemitism in its ranks. And so when evidence is presented it is not dealt with but denied. And when in the rare instance that the motions of dealing with it are gone through, it is effectively sanctioned.

    Look at the contrast between the fates of Kevin Myers and Ken Livingstone. One sacked within hours, the other still – well over a year on - a member of the Labour Party. And look at the respective fates of the perpetrators and the victims of antisemitic abuse at Oxford University Labour Club. The perpetrators faced no disciplinary action of any kind, despite the recommendations of the Labour Party’s own inquiry under Baroness Royall. The victims, on the other hand, were effectively told that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party held the rights of bigots to push their bigotry to be more important than the rights of the victims of that bigotry to be protected from it.

    This isn’t – or shouldn’t be – a left versus right issue. As I’ve pointed out, there are bigots on all sides and the figures show that the majority of the politically motivated antisemitism comes from the far right. And there are many fine people in the Labour Party who are disgusted by and repeatedly call out the leadership’s refusal to tackle the problem among their allies.

    No one can take any comfort from yesterday’s events. It is revolting that such words can find a home in a mainstream publication – and that no one thought to question them at any point in the production process.

    But mistakes happen. What then matters is how they are dealt with. As Labour might care to note.

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