Saturday, April 05, 2008

The International People

Aaro has to do a bit of barrel-scraping to find a column for the Jewish Chronicle The new polite antisemitism.

By minor serendipity these two things happened on Tuesday of last week. First there was the laconic posting in the comments section accompanying my column in the online edition of The Times. I’d written about the row over the oath. Anyway, in amongst the “I am British and they’ll have to force me to take an oath over my cold, dead body” stuff, was this from “Edward” of Lincoln. Repeating a line that I’d used, Edward simply appended: “Ah the international people. Don’t you just love them?”

The comments moderator didn’t see it, and nor would many of the readers. But Edward knew and I knew who “the international people” were; his opening “ah” was one of confirmation (yes, this is what they are like) — and “don’t you just love them?” meant more or less the opposite. The International Jew, the rootless cosmopolitan, the eternal outsider, the underminer of nations, don’t you just hate them? And there it was, slipped in there, as it couldn’t have been for anyone else.

The line that Edward quoted was from Dave's defence of the oath, My oath to the Land of No:

Well, if a bint on a rock with a stick can be a vital British symbol of togetherness, then why can we not have an oath?

It's an odd line - 'bint' is much more a Jeremy Clarkson word than an Aaronovitch word. As far as I know Britannia went out as a symbol of Britain about the same time the German army stopped wearing spikes on their helmets. And she's now gone from our coins. The argument seems to go, "We have a silly symbol already, so why not do something equally silly, but 21st century silly rather than 19th century silly?" Immanuel Kant it is not.

This isn't to defend Edward, who's plainly barking: he's accusing our man of being an internationalist (I read that comment as code for 'Trot', but DA is sadly probably correct in his interpretation) because he's arguing for national solidarity.

I've called DA's column 'barrel-scraping' not because I've any desire to defend the anti-semite who writes to the Times, but because lunacy is rife among comment-leavers. Going by the Guardian's 'Comment is Free' you'd think half the country had a shape shifting alien as an imaginary friend. The Telegraph blog the other day on What is the nature of Tony Blair's faith? attracted a commenter with the moniker 'yes2faith' who said:

...he [Blair] has also recently joined the counterfeit church so he should be completely at home.

Trust me on this, there isn't anything 'new' about idiots who read the right-wing press being rabid racists, and the Jews are not uniquely singled out.

He may have a point that 'a soft antisemitism is waxing' but where he does almost support this, he wavers.

Then we got enmired in definitional stuff. Was one particular Guardian columnist — who I recognise from my old street-fighting, caucusing days as a Stalinist throwback to the anti-imperialist alliance — invoking blood-libel imagery in a description of the IDF in Gaza? Heads were shaken, positions occupied. In fact, I was as sure he’d have said it about any army he didn’t like — Israeli, American or British — as that he wouldn’t have said it about the Russians, the Al Aqsa Brigades or the People’s Liberation Army.

Indeed, a lot of the anti-Israeli stuff could be said about any army the speaker doesn't like. That does not make it anti-Semitic.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

britannia was more a symbol of empire at large i feel -- generally she's depicted ruling some waves, anyway, with a fleet of royal navy gunboats implicitly just off-camera and the globe busily being painted three-quarters red

(speaking of empire, "bint" of course comes back into street english from the arabic word for "daughter", adopted, courtesy coarse encounter, by the unruly and/or unwilling imperial soldier serving in egypt and elsewhere, for not-that-charming usage at home...)

4/05/2008 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

To add to your point, I don't think it's helpful to illustate "the new polite antisemitism" with a story about someone who sits up at night poring over the Protocols and Mein Kampf.

On the "antisemitism denial" thing, he may have a point. But there is water-muddying flipside, namely that there's a whole Bollard/Mad Mel school of punditry which paints the UK as the Warsaw ghetto, and flings serious accusations around left, right, and center (including as you noted at Aaro himself). When faced with this sort of hysterical witch-hunt, a certain amount of downplaying is required. That's not to say that antisemitism isn't a genuine problem.

4/05/2008 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Martin Wisse said...

Might that "bint" line actually be a flubbed reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail and it's "watery tart" line?

4/06/2008 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, the "Stalinist throwback to the anti-imperialist alliance" is likely to be Seamus Milne. Fair comment in my view.

4/06/2008 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I thought so too, although I'd be keen to know when David thinks he had any "streetfighting days" and what precisely they consisted of. I thought the Eurcommunists always steered clear of that sort of thing.

4/06/2008 03:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'barrel-scraping' not because I've any desire to defend the anti-semite who writes to the Times, but because lunacy is rife among comment-leavers

I genuinely believe that one of the main reasons why the Decents get so many journalistic gigs is because of the upsurge in 'comment-leaving' opportunities in the media since Decency began.

As all the Decents, but especially Oliver Kamm and Andrew Anthony show, it allows then to paint even the most moderate dissenters with their most 'controversial' points as stupid, lunatic anti-semites, because one person anynomously writing a response to one of their awful pieces on the guardian website said something loopy and anitsemitic.

If the only option to reply was through, say, the guardian letters page, their opponents could never be as routinely smeared in the manner the Decents love.

What I find funniest is that on their own websites, they either don't allow comments or filter them; this despite the fact that the only reason they get so many writing gigs is because 'controversy' = web hits. look at how many replies a typical Andrew Anthony piece gets compared with, say, Simon Jenkins...

4/07/2008 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

the only option to reply was through, say, the guardian letters page, their opponents could never be as routinely smeared in the manner the Decents love.

I bet they could, you know.

4/07/2008 02:57:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home