A school playground on a typical murky London lunchtime, the year 1981. One kid goes up to another to ask him why he hadn’t been at school the day before; the kid answers honestly without any thought as to why he shouldn’t: “It was a Jewish holiday called Yom Kippur and I don’t go to school”.
The questioner looks quizzically at the kid, laughs and goes off to join his little gang. From the following morning until I left primary school, my nickname was ‘Jew bag’. This moment in time is burned into my soul as if it was yesterday. It was my first, though sadly not last experience of antisemitism. Looking back, I now realise of course that 11-year-olds don’t naturally fall into any form of racist behavior, it’s a learned sickness.
I have, like most Jews, experienced antisemitism through the years, some blatant, mostly subtle, it has never scared me. I don’t hide when confronted by it, a natural disposition thankfully entrenched deep within my psyche due to a father who taught me to always fight back.
What truly worries me at this moment in time, is the apparent belief by many non-Jews, that they can identify what is or is not antisemitism better than Jewish people. Some seem to think that it’s well within their rights to dictate to Jewish people what we should or should not take offence at. Apparently we need to be “educated”.
Like many Jewish people I speak to, I have been deeply troubled by the recent expressions of antisemitism within certain areas of the Labour party. I’m not naïve enough to think it’s a new phenomenon, that it has suddenly reared its ugly head. We’ve been money-loving, government-controlling, Christian blood-drinking, world domination-seeking devils for centuries. Now though the far left’s antisemitism has found what it thinks is perfect camouflage for the sickness. It’s not a new one, it’s not even that clever, Jewish people can still spot it a mile off.
I recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Huffington Post. I was simply expressing a heartfelt viewpoint. The topic, Jeremy Corbyn and how I feel about the present situation within the Labour Party. Before it came out I was warned by a couple of friends that I might get some kind of backlash. I took their warnings as no more than almost humorous paranoia due to the fact that nothing I had written was in my mind truly inflammatory. What was for want of a better word, “enlightening”, was my email inbox over the following few days.
I should explain that you can’t leave a comment on the Huffington Post site without registering so it’s not possible to be invisible. My email address however, as I now know, is not that hard to find, and so the door was open to the cowards with their Hotmail and Gmail accounts.
“Zionist Blairite” (translation: “F****** Jew”), seemed to be the favorite subject title; a close second was “Rubbish right wing Zionist propaganda” (translation: “Lying Jew”). Not once in my piece had I mentioned Israel, not once in my piece had I mentioned I was Jewish. I had said nothing about Shami Chakrabarti’s recent so-called independent report on antisemitism within the Labour Party (don’t get me started on that one…).
Along with an email that beautifully described the meeting of my head and a baseball bat, which was a true joy to receive, about 50% had the attempted camouflage. As for the other 50%, I am always glad to have a good debate, so I happily replied to some of the emails that simply expressed their disagreement with me. I spoke with someone else who wrote a negative piece about Corbyn and she received similar emails, and she’s not Jewish.
I’m not saddened; in hindsight I shouldn’t be that surprised. I’d heard it before, I’d read it before. Mr. Livingstone and his ilk have been hard to miss over the past few months. The experience was like being transported back to that miserable school playground all those years ago, only this time I wasn’t being confronted by 11-year-old children. This time, it was their parents. What these members of the far left don’t seem to realise, is that their attempt at camouflaging their antisemitism, is for any Jew, truly transparent.
David Zeff has been in the PR industry for over 20 years, and is a creative and strategic consultant; working with and for some of the largest PR companies.