British film director Ken Loach says that a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe since the Gaza crisis is "not surprising and understandable".
He was responding to a report earlier this week by the Vienna-based agency for fundamental rights (FRA) which said cases of anti-Semitism had risen across Europe since last December.
"There does seem to be a relationship between the rise of anti-Semitism in the EU and the situation in the Middle East," said Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, one of the paper's authors.
But, speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, Loach said, "If there has been a rise I am not surprised. In fact, it is perfectly understandable because Israel feeds feelings of anti-Semitism."
Loach, famous for films like Kes, Cathy Come Home and Riff Raff, stressed that "no-one can condone violence".
Understandable, eh? Here’s a sentence. “Kate chucked a plate at Brian. Her fury was understandable, since he had called her a big fat pig, and said he was embarrassed to be seen with her in public.”
We don’t condone Kate’s violence – Brian has a bruise on his face, and it’s not a good look for a customer facing sales consultant - but her anger is understandable.
Here’s another:- “Brian broke Kate’s jaw and put her into hospital. His anger was understandable, because she had put the dinner on the table ten minutes later than the usual time.”
See the difference? If you say some action is “understandable” you half way condone it as a reasonable response to someone’s actions. You may not condone the full expression of that response but the response itself is fine.
Here’s another. “Brian went and kicked Wendy Brown who’s a friend of Kate’s. This was understandable, as Kate had been flirting in an unseemly way with blokes down at the pub.”
After 9/11 a mosque and a Pakistani community centre were fire bombed in Edinburgh. I’d dreaded something like that so like Ken Loach I wasn’t surprised. And I understood it because I know racist thugs will be racist thugs. But I didn’t think, it is understandable that random British Muslims (and Hindus and Sikhs who look like them) get grief because of the activities of some Saudis based in Hamburg. Disgraceful and totally crappy were the adjectives that sprang to my mind. Something understandable is not something understood. Something understandable is something excused.
I thought this kind of softness towards anti-semitism was a new phenomenon on the anti-imperialist left, and possibly an infection they had picked up from their new comrades, the islamists, whose ideology contains anti-semitism of Mein Kampf proportions. But in fact it has been around for a long time. Steve Cohen’s pamphlet, That's funny, you don't look anti-Semitic, written in 1984, gives a good potted history of the socialism of fools. You can read it here.
But the director, who has spoken out against Israel in the past, branded the report as a "red herring" designed to "distract attention" from Israel's recent military actions.
So Jews can get kicked in Golders Green without an indignant squeak from anyone in case it “distracts” from Israel’s recent military actions? I can’t see the distraction myself – all the time it was happening the war in Gaza was the only thing you heard or read about on the news. The chances of Israel coming off the radar are highly remote.
We can expect more anti-semitism, but no investigation into what is perfectly understandable after all and anyway concern about which distracts from what all attention should be totally concentrated on, i.e. the misdeeds of Israel.
I would not recommend anyone punching Ken Loach. He’s an old man, and so shouldn’t be punched. But it would be understandable if someone did so. Though I wouldn’t condone it, of course.