Most Jews, like most people, want a quiet life. We want to relax around our non-Jewish friends. We don't want to be permanently blue in the face, confronted again and again with instances of vicious antisemitism.
In short, we are exhausted.
Yet to many in the world at large, including the great and the good, it is we – the Jews – who are being tiresome. People are tired of Jews protesting antisemitism. It makes them uniquely irritated, and as the Corbyn years drift further away, they’re getting bolder with expressing this annoyance.
One gripe is our crybaby hypocrisy. A number of us, they point out, particularly on the right, are outspoken opponents of cancel culture, the no-platforming of speakers accused of wrong-think, particularly on gender and race. The fact that we now object to the Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson’s woefully offensive depiction of outgoing chairman Richard Sharp – which appeared to draw on old-fashioned antisemitic stereotypes – is apparently an example of double-dealing.
"Repellent explicitly racist cartoon": The Guardian has apologised for its depiction of Jewish former BBC chairman Richard Sharp (Photo: The Guardian)
All false, and frankly antisemitic in itself, as anyone familiar with the way the oldest hatred operates will know. In the first place, nobody wanted Rowson "cancelled": they wanted his cartoon removed, as it has been, and they wished they’d never had to see it at all. They also wondered how its flagrant problems weren’t spotted. True, some have also called for him to be sacked – which to me goes too far. Even so, getting fired for not doing your job with due care is not the same as being cancelled because of your unfashionable views.
There are a number of devious falsehoods in the allegation that we are crybabies only when it suits us. One is that we don’t really care about the difference between free and offensive speech; we only decry the cancellation of people speaking freely on things that don’t affect us or that we think are over-egged. We care about free speech only when the hit is taken by others, and we don't really care about racism or transphobia. But with a home hit, we show our true colours.
Another is that we don’t really care about free speech, either. The only racism we care about is that which is levelled against us. Moreover, the antisemitism we object to so manipulatively is just as trumped-up as the so-called racism and transphobia that we claim are manufactured to cancel others.
The simple truth is that most Jews who oppose cancel culture also deplore racism and antisemitism. We always have and we always will. This is why when we encounter explicit instances of racism or antisemitism, such as the Guardian cartoon, we react.
By contrast, the most avowed antiracists rarely care about antisemitism because they simply don’t understand it. The logic is different from other racisms. Jews are often seen as white and, thanks to hard graft, appear to do well, as do other British minorities, like British Indians.
But the irony that truly makes my blood boil is that Jews and only Jews are accused of exaggerating the racism they face. They are the only victims that are told to stop complaining; yet they are far more likely to be true victims, with Jews five times more likely to face racism than other faith groups, according to Home Office figures.
Indeed, far from being exaggerated, antisemitism is the most under-reported racism in the Western world. But I imagine the people tying themselves in knots to defend the use of a squid in a basket of money under the word ‘Gold’ held by a man with a giant nose and grotesque lips would disagree.
I have been truly amazed in recent days by these knots, and how vicious they are. Some of the cartoonist’s defenders have even drawn an equivalence between the current backlash and the response in 2015 to the Charlie Hebdo cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, which included the murder by masked Muslim gunmen of 12 people in the Hebdo offices in Paris, including cartoonists and editorial staff.
The suggestion that there is any comparison to be made between the Hebdo terrorists and the ensuing threat to cartoonists the world over, and the Jews upset at depictions that echo those used in the organs of a party that went on to commit genocide against them in Europe 80 years ago, is heinous.
Finally, the protestation that nobody knew Sharp was Jewish is pretty weak. Having never been the slightest bit interested in the man, I found out he was Jewish by reading his Wikipedia page two weeks ago. It was right there. Next time a Guardian cartoonist finds himself doodling a squid, a big pot of gold and a fat Jewish-looking grotesque, maybe he’ll bother to Google him first. But I won’t get my hopes up.