What would you have done?

The question is, what would you have done if this happened while you were nearby:

Bloody Jews,’ he said. ‘Bloody Jews, bugger the Jews, I’ve no sympathy for them.’

I gazed at him, aghast. Where had this suddenly come from?

The encounter I’m here describing took place very recently, in the course of a large academic dinner at a University in another city, not my own one. It was a pleasant occasion, and the people at my table were innocuously and comfortably talking about sociological issues connected with the economic crisis, all completely harmless and (relatively) uncontentious. And then I heard the academic on my right hand side say to the person opposite him, ‘Bloody Jews.’

When he saw my appalled stare, he said impatiently, ‘Oh well, I’m sorry, but really…!’

‘I’m glad you’re sorry,’ I replied politely, collecting myself together for a fight. But then he asked, ‘Are you Jewish?’ When I nodded, this academic – whom I’d met for the first time that day – put his arm around me and said, ‘I’m sorry, but really Israel is terrible, the massacres, Plan Dalet, the ethnic cleansing, they’re like the Nazis, they’re the same as the Nazis…’

You. Yes, I mean you. Can you tell the difference between this illustrious academic’s hate speech and good criticism of Israel? If not, then you’re a plastic anti-racist, and if this kind of attack advances to where it seems to be leading, you’ll be useless if not complicit.

And by you, I also mean me. I don’t want to be a bystander.

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4 thoughts on “What would you have done?

  1. Adrian Windisch

    This is plain racism, and very wrong. Imagine if they had said bloody blacks/gypsies/or any other group. Apalling.

    Yes please express outrage at the actions of Israel, but to blame all Jews is racism.

    Not sure what I would have done, hopefully expressed that I would not want to be around such racist statements and left.

    Reply
  2. John

    This kind of anti-semitism in the form of “Those bloody Jews…” or “Those bloody Muslims/Arabs…” are all too common.

    I find it is very easy to object. We must object. I fhave ound it most productive to start by pointing out that the label is wrong and offensive, rather than attacking the person who used this language.

    Reply
    1. Mira Vogel Post author

      If you believe that antisemitism comprehends prejudice and discrimination against Muslims and Arabs as well as Jews, you’re going to find it difficult to get to the heart of the problem, John.

      Reply
  3. John

    I think we need to tackle each instance of racism and prejudice when we find it, and as we find it. I wouldn’t want to conflate it all.

    However these two are the ones that I find myself speaking up against the most.

    Reply

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