Law exists to stop the bigots

January 31st, 2011 by Dave Rich

This is a cross-post by Winston Pickett from the Jewish Chronicle

Reports of antisemitism in the UK are reminiscent of a certain vertigo that used to throw Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign into a state of heightened anticipation. Betsy Wright, Clinton’s acerbic adviser and veteran lobbyist, dubbed it waiting for the next “bimbo eruption”.

What derails the Jewish enterprise in this country may not be as titillating. It is, however, equally vexing. Witness last month’s front-page story about a dyspeptic Palestinian speaker at an esteemed British university mouthing antisemitic obscenities, spurring communal leaders to devise an effective response – and leaving the rest of us to wonder how to curb such eruptions in the future.

Small wonder our anxiety level has been ratcheted up several notches. In recent weeks, various think-tank reports show that such phenomena as Abdul Bari-Atwan’s talk at LSE of a malevolent “Jewish lobby” and his veiled accusations that Jewish students were collectively responsible for “bombing Gaza” are not only part of an ongoing effluvium of anti-Jewish, anti-Israel invective in academia, but an integral component of a UK campaign most notably on UK campuses.

Last month’s report by the Jerusalem-based Reut Institute, revealing Britain to be a “hub” of global deligitimisation efforts that unite Middle East resistance networks with allies on the liberal-left in Europe, was followed by another, by the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs (pdf), charging the British academy with becoming a key “mainstreaming agent” in the international effort to deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. This involves routine offers of platforms to Islamist ideologues who demonise and vilify Israel under the banner of academic freedom.

We should not be surprised. In 2005, the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Antisemitism flagged UK campuses as antisemtic hot spots, while in 2008 the Centre for Social Cohesion painted an equally troubling picture of the deep, ideological roots of anti-Israel activity. Such investigations dovetailed with evidence gathered for more than 20 years by the Community Security Trust in its annual antisemitic incidents reports and its more recent studies of antisemitic discourse.

CST commissioned a legal team to compile a Students Guide to Antisemitism on Campus (pdf) that was made available to Jewish societies and activists throughout the UK. Reacting to the Bari-Atwan affair, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council and the CST made a united complaint to Universities UK as well as Education Minister David Willetts, both of whom have promised to respond.

But are such interventions enough? The Reut Institute and the JCPA reports show that, underlying the current hate on campus, is an amply funded, coherently organised and multi-layered campaign with front and behind-the-scenes activity. Stemming the tide requires an equally sophisticated approach. And here, British Jews may want to take a leaf out of the American Jewish community’s book and seriously consider legal intervention.

In the USA, for example, at the end of the last Congress, legislation was introduced to protect Jews – as well as Sikhs, Muslims and other minorities – from discrimination at federally funded secular institutions. The legislation, co-sponsored by the Zionist Organisation of America and written by Kenneth Marcus, legal scholar and former director at the Office for Civil Rights in the US Department of Education, is part of a two-pronged strategy to strengthen legislation that will protect Jewish students from antisemitic harassment on campus.

Would such a strategy work in the UK? While the judicial systems of the two countries pose serious challenges in terms of jurisprudence, according to senior law lecturer Lesley Klaff, of Sheffield Hallam University, the opportunities are ripe.

In a forthcoming article in the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, Klaff argues that legal remedies for antisemitic hate speech on British campuses are already in place thanks to the new Equality Act which consolidates previous anti-discrimination legislation, imposes an “affirmative equality duty” on all universities from April 2011, and proscribes antisemitic hate speech on campus on the grounds that it constitutes “hostile environment harassment” for Jewish students.

“It’s high time we used the laws at our disposal to mount an effective fight-back strategy against campus antisemitism,” says Klaff.

Winston Pickett is the former director of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism

Iran: Marking Holocaust Memorial Day With Holocaust Denial.

January 27th, 2011 by Mark Gardner

On 27 January 1945, the largest Nazi killing camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated.

Today, 27 January 2011, is Holocaust Memorial Day.

On 25 January 2011, an excellent website entitled “The Holocaust Explained” was launched at the Foreign Office by Sir Andrew Burns (UK envoy for post-Holocaust issues) and Michael Gove MP (Secretary of State for Education). The website is managed by the London Jewish Cultural Centre. The purpose of the website is to educate schoolchildren about the Holocaust.   

The following day, 26 January 2011, the website of Iran English Radio, a branch of IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) denounced the launch of “The Holocaust Explained” website and explcitly denied that the Holocaust had ever occurred. This is what they wrote

The British government has officially launched a controversial website titled “The Holocaust Explained”, as part of the West’s futile efforts to depict a myth as a reality.

The triumphant powers of World War 2 allege that Nazi Germany killed six million European Jews, mostly in gas chambers, but as pointed by historian neither the number of all Jews in Europe was anywhere equal to the figures of the holocaust nor were any gas chambers found in Nazi controlled areas – similar to the current lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq contrary to US allegations for starting war and occupation.

The holocaust, on which independent research is strictly banned in the West, was nothing but a preposterous claim to settle European Jews in the Muslim land of Palestine by falsely creating a sense of oppression for the Zionists.

According to IRNA, British Envoy for what is called post-Holocaust issues, Sir Andrew Burns, launched the multimedia website, which as announced, has been developed specifically for young people with no prior knowledge of the issues of World War 2.

The launching at the British Foreign Office took place in the run-up to Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January and was attended by the country’s Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove.

“The Holocaust Explained” website has been developed by the London Jewish Cultural Centre to exaggerate the case of the so-called survivors of what historians consider as a non-event.

It has also been adopted by the National Schools Network, which is the UK collaborative network for education. Its aim is to provide schools with a learning environment and direct access to a growing range of online services and content.

This is while, no one is allowed to carry out research regarding the realities of the claimed myth of Holocaust in the West, and the historians have faced kinds of punishment in case they did so.

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in statements applauded by all independent and conscientious people of the world has proposed due research on the supposed holocaust, questioning that even if it such an event had occurred in Europe, why should the people of Palestine pay for it.

When neo-Nazis deny the Holocaust, nobody hesitates to call them antisemites. Jewish concerns about neo-Nazis are accepted; and neo-Nazis are shunned as the scum that they are. Neo-Nazi Holocaust denial is deemed just about the lowest depth to which they sink.

Iran, however, is so much more serious than a rag-bag of neo-Nazi fantasists, that the two hardly bear comparison. Iran is an intensely proud and historic nation of over 70 million people, a leading regional power in what is the most sensitive area on earth. It is run by Islamic revolutionaries who are frantically seeking to develop nuclear weapons, whilst trying to run surrrogate regimes in Gaza and Lebanon via terrorist groups; and working with agents of influence throughout the world, ranging in importance from the President of Venezuela, to London’s Press TV studios.

The Holocaust denial in the above statement is the filthy reality as to why nobody, including Ken Livingstone, should appear on any Iranian state propaganda outlets; and that includes Press TV, even though it is only that station’s Tehran-based website that has peddled outright Holocaust denial.

Furthermore, it was revealed today that Press TV’s main trading account at the Nat West Bank has been frozen; and that Livingstone does not intend to present the Press TV book-review programme, Epilogue, beyond March of this year. Nevertheless, both Livingstone, and those who have previously gone on Press TV with the very best of intentions in order to argue the case for Jews, or Zionism, or Israel, should ditch Press TV immediately. Ultimately, they all (including Livingstone) risk being inadvertently used to kosherise hatred of the very worst type.

The Holocaust denial is also the filthy reality as to why those who front up or participate in any Iranian propaganda schemes should be shunned by anybody decent; and it is why British pro-Khomenite groups such as the Islamic Human Rights Commission should be regarded with the utmost suspicion, especially when they publish a Genocide Memorial Day calendar that trivialises the Holocaust (as covered here on CST Blog) – although there is surely no way that the IHRC would ever deny the Holocaust.

The sick perversion of the graphic that accompanied the Iran English Radio article says it all.

This was it

iran radio denial 

A Google Images search shows that the Iranian graphic is cropped from this larger picture below. Note what is missing. The top: Auschwitz-Birkenau, destination of the train tracks. This was not done in order to remove the DVD logo from the top right hand corner, because the lower half of the main photograph is also missing: and that is where the victims appear. 

 Holocaust dvd

Finally, one wonders what the Iranian hate-mongers would say about the Exploring Islam Foundation’s activities this week, touring British universities with the Missing Pages campaign to tell how Albanian Muslims saved Albania’s 200 Jews from the Nazis, as well as other Jews to whom Albania had issued visas: “Zionists” would likely be the least of the slurs.

Rupert Murdoch, the “Zionist movement” and BBC Radio 5 Live

January 25th, 2011 by Dave Rich

Rupert Murdoch has long been a person of fascination to those who believe that Jews, or Zionists, run the media. You only have to put “Rupert Murdoch Jewish” into Google and scroll through the 209,000 results, many of them from neo-Nazi web forums, to marvel at the geneological detective work that has been done to try to pin him down as part of the global Zionist conspiracy.

Sometimes this subterranean world of conspiracy theory intrudes upon day-to-day mainstream public debate. This morning, BBC Radio 5 Live’s regular phone-in show, hosted by Nicky Cambell, discussed the subject: “Is Rupert Murdoch good for Britain?” This was presumably meant to focus on the proposed buyout of BSkyB by Murdoch’s News Corp; but Campbell’s first caller, “Jim from Manchester”, managed to sneak past the BBC’s filters and used his platform to expose the truth about Murdoch and the media. The exchange went something like this (from about 6:10):

Campbell: You’re a big fan [of Murdoch] aren’t you, tell me why.

Jim: …I think we’re being spoonfed, brainwashed, this constant propaganda mind control from Rupert Murdoch.

Campbell: Well the reason I thought you were going to come on and say he is a good thing is because that’s what you told the people who phoned you.

Jim: Had I come on and said that…knocking Rupert Murdoch, I would have never got on.

Campbell: Yes you would, that’s what it’s all about – we’re hearing from peole against him, we’re hearing from people for him – that’s the basic idea of this…

Jim: I’ve done it in the past Nicky and I know that, when you listen to not just Sky but if you listen to BBC, people like Charlie Wolf and these people, these are the same people [who are] part of the Zionist movement who run the media, honestly…

Campbell: Oh I see, right…

Jim: Anybody who’s listened to it Nicky, with an open mind, can tell you that we’re having this constant brainwashing where it’s the same thing, the topics, the Muslim-bashing, the same thing which is over and over again…

At this point Campell attempts to gently tease out what “Jim” is getting at, and Jim does not disappoint:

Campbell: What has Rupert Murdoch got to do with your agenda, the fact that it’s all a Zionist plot, is Rupert Murdoch part of that?

Jim: Well Rupert Murdoch is the one who is controlling the media, there is no journalism. If you speak to anybody, journalism in that organisation is dead. You look at people like Montel Williams, he got rid of him. You look at anybody, let’s say like Mel Gibson, a very intelligent guy, but because he made certain remarks…

Campbell: Antisemitic remarks! OK…

Jim: No but if you look at him in terms of his context Nicky, if you listen to him properly, rather than having every person who works in his organisation to go in there and target them people…

Campell has clearly had enough by this point and moves onto the next caller, who sums it up rather well:

Campbell: Jim, I think you’ve made your point…we’re all brainwashed. Thank you. Jimmy in Durham?

Jimmy: I’m like the other chap, I think the earth’s flat as well…

How to trivialise the Holocaust

January 24th, 2011 by Dave Rich

any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind

John Donne’s words remind us that every war, massacre, famine, natural disaster or genocide touches all of us, as human beings, whoever we are and whatever the identity of those involved. The idea of comparing different episodes of human suffering to compete for attention and political reward is a particularly distasteful one. This is especially the case when, in order to attract attention to one episode, you belittle others. This sort of exercise should not be allowed to pass without comment, despite the unease felt at having to make comparions between one example of human suffering and another.

Holocaust trivialisation is one of the many ways in which the scale, nature and meaning of the Nazi attempt to exterminate European Jewry are diminished and their memory obliterated. A lesser cousin of outright Holocaust Denial, it is a way of undermining the memory of the Holocaust by bracketing it with very different tragedies or conflicts, in the process stretching the meaning of genocide until it means nothing at all.

This abuse of Holocaust memory is become an increasingly common theme of anti-Zionist politics in recent years. It represents a misguided and immoral attempt to undermine Israel’s legitimacy by sidestepping the catastrophe that befell Europe’s Jews during the last century. One way in which this has manifested itself is in repeated assaults, both from Islamists and the far left, on mainstream Holocaust remembrance commemoration.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission, never slow to adopt the most egregious anti-Israel campaigns, now holds a ‘Genocide Memorial Day‘. It is no coincidence that this takes place shortly before the national Holocaust Memorial Day, to which it is intended to be a counterpoint. According to the IHRC, their day is meant to remember:

…all man’s inhumanity to man in the perpetration of genocides and genocidal acts.

Two years on from the genocidal acts in Gaza, this event combines the past with the present so that this day is a call not just to commemorate the past but also the present genocidal tendencies together with building a resolve to stop genocides from ever happening again.

This event consists of a variety of short presentations on the world’s many victims. This year we will be covering a number of atrocities including the heart rending plight of the peoples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the suffering of the genocide in Cambodia and accounts from the victims of the Jewish Holocaust.

To accompany their event, the IHRC have produced a ‘Genocide Memorial Day Calendar‘, each month providing an opportunity to remember a different example of man’s inhumanity to man. Their choice of which acts of genocide to include in the calendar gives plenty of food for thought.


The calendar has an introductory page, which explains:

Genocide Memorial Day is an annual event that was inaugurated in January 2010. It is a day given to remember man’s inhumanity to man in the perpetration of genocides and genocidal acts. Its foundation is based on the argument by various thinkers that several genocides underpin the modern era. Such genocides include the genocide of slavery, the near eradication of Native Americans, the extermination of populations in the Congo, and India, the Nazi Holocaust as well as more recent genocides and genocidal acts including against Palestinians, Bosnians, Indiegnous [sic] peoples in Australia and Central America, Chechens, Darfurians and in Rwanda to name but a few.

Then comes the monthly list, with the IHRC’s description of each genocide in italics:

January – Gaza: During the Israeli assault on Gaza during the 22 Day war (2008 – 09), 1,434 Palestinians were killed of which 288 were children and 181 were women. A further 5,303 Palestinians were injured in the assault, including 1,606 children and 828 women.

February – Sarajevo: The siege of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina by Serb forces lasted from April 1992 until February 1996. According to the UN, it is estimated that nearly 10,000 people were killed or went missing in the city, including over 1,500 children. An additional 56,000 people were wounded, including nearly 15,000 children.

March – Rwanda: In 1994, almost 1 million people, mainly Tutsis, were killed by Hutu attackers in Rwanda.

April – Auschwitz: Estimates of numbers of Roma and Sinti people killed by the Nazis in the second world war range from 200,000 to 500,000.

May – Australia: The Stolen Generation refers to those Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders Children who were affected by the forced removal policy of the Australian government. This was an official policy that operated between 1909 and 1969 and aimed to assimmilate aboriginal peoples into wider society, eventually eradicating all indigenous peoples as a result. An estimated 100,000 people were affected by this policy.

June – Ireland: The Irish Famine (An Gorta Mor) of 1845 – 1850 is thought to have taken between one and four million lives, with a further one to two million people emigrating from Ireland as a result. The famine was brought about by a set of catastrophic social policies instigated under British rule, as well as an abysmal failure at famine relief by the British authorities.

July – Srebrenica: In July 1995, Dutch UN peacekeepers in the so-called UN safe have of Srebrenica in Bosnia, allowed in Serb forces, who subsequently killed some 8,000 Bosnians.

August – Chechnya: In 1944 upon a trumped up charge of collaboration the entire Chechen nation of 400,000 along with some 100,000 Ingush were deported en masse on the orders of Josef Stalin from their homeland in the Caucasus. It is thought that one third of the population was exterminated as a result.

September – Chile: It is estimated that between 2,000 and 3,500 people were killed or disappeared under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet; up to 100,000 tortured and some 200,000 forced into exile. Two thirds of those killed or disappeared date from 1973, when on September 11, Pinochet led a US backed coup against the elected government of Salvador Allende.

October – Treblinka: The Treblinka concentration camp was set up by the Nazis in Occupied Poland. Between July 1942 and October 1943, 800,000 people were killed there, the majority of whom were Jewish, and a substantial number of whom were Roma.

November – Palestine: The Nakba (The Catastrophe) refers to the events of 1948 when Israel was created. That year saw the mass deportation of a million Palestinians from their cities and villages, massacres of civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of Palestinian villages.

December – America: In 1890, American soldiers killed 300 Sioux Indians in a massacre that symbolised the plight of Native Americans. Estimated to have numbered 12 million when Columbus arrived in the 15th Century, by the time of the Wounded Knee Massacre, Native Americans were though to number only 120,000. Tools to exterminate the Native Americans, included the introduction of diseases like small pox as US policy.

There are a few things to say about this list. The first is that it is hard to imagine how a description of Auschwitz – even a one-line summary – that does not mention Jews can count as anything other than Holocaust Denial. Auschwitz was the centre of the Nazi programme to exterminate the Jews, and over 1 million Jews died there. It has come to symbolize the uniquely industrial nature of the Holocaust. To commemorate Auschwitz without mentioning its Jewish victims is extraordinary.

The Nazi extermination of the Jews is mentioned in the entry for October, but only in relation to Treblinka. Even here, the Jewish story is mitigated somewhat. I do not wish to minimise in any way the Nazi genocide of the Roma and Sinti people, who still suffer terrible discrimination in many parts of modern Europe. Consider, though, the IHRC’s words regarding Treblinka: “800,000 people were killed there, the majority of whom were Jewish, and a substantial number of whom were Roma.” As David Cesarani explains in this week’s New Statesman, Treblinka was constructed “with the sole purpose of exterminating Polish Jews“. Estimates of the number of Roma and Sinti murdered at Treblinka stand at around 2,000 (many more were killed at Auschwitz), out of a total death toll at the camp of around 800,000, the rest of whom were Jewish. The IHRC’s description gives quite a different impression, which (intentionally or not) obscures the true purpose of the camp, and therefore the true nature of the Holocaust.

Nowhere does the calendar mention that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Nor do they find space to tell of the Nazi gas chambers – the unique symbol of the Holocaust.

Then there is the question of what else qualifies, for the IHRC, as a genocide. Any term which can encompass the Gaza conflict of January 2009, political killings in Chile after the 1973 coup and the Holocaust must be so broad of meaning as to be effectively meaningless. This, for anti-Zionists, is the point: if you submerge the Holocaust in history’s long and terrible record of other genocides, ethnic cleansing, bloody political conflicts and civil wars – especially those involving dead or displaced Palestinians – then, so the logic goes, the Holocaust loses its uniqueness, and Israel loses its legitimacy.

The problem for the IHRC is that if you trivialise, distort and abuse the memory of the Holocaust, then even if you are not an out-and-out Holocaust Denier yourself, you tend to attract them. Which might explain why Britain’s most active Holocaust Denier, Michele Renouf, having attended Iran’s Holocaust Denial conference in 2006, was at the IHRC’s Genocide Memorial Day meeting last week. They may not have invited her or been pleased to see her; but she obviously looked at what they say about the Holocaust, and thought she would be welcome.

Westminster Hall debate on antisemitism

January 21st, 2011 by Dave Rich

Yesterday saw Parliament’s Westminster Hall host a debate on the current state of antisemitism, and efforts to counter it, both in the UK and worldwide.

The debate was moved by John Mann MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, and Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green. The response was given by Andrew Stunell MP, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

CST would like to thank all those MPs who took part in the debate and expressed their support for the Jewish community and for CST.

You can watch a full video of the debate below, or read the transcript from Hansard here.

Lincoln’s blood libel and Seven Jewish Children

January 20th, 2011 by Dave Rich

In February 2009, the playwright Caryl Churchill wrote a short play, called Seven Jewish Children, as her “response to the situation in Gaza” the previous month. The play is explicitly about Jewish parents and children (Jews are mentioned in the title and the text, whereas the word “Israeli” does not appear once in the play); but in attempting to explore Jewish attitudes towards children, both Jewish and Palestinian, Churchill achieved little more than to reflect the febrile atmosphere of the time, in which antisemitic incidents in this country reached an all-time high and public demonstrations against Israel regularly became violent.

If Churchill’s play was her response to events in Gaza, she was not the only writer to be so inspired: Howard Jacobson wrote his Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The Finkler Question, in part as a response to the response to Gaza. While the period of the Gaza conflict has now passed and tempers cooled somewhat, Seven Jewish Children is still regularly put on by pro-Palestinian groups, refuelling their activism and providing a literary basis for their ongoing anti-Israel politics. One of the most eye-catching locations for an upcoming production of the play is Lincoln, the location of one of the most notorious episodes in English antisemitism; an episode which provided one of the earliest works in the canon of English literary antisemitism.

According to the website of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Seven Jewish Children will be performed in Lincoln on 11th April, at the University of Lincoln’s Performing Arts Centre. Not only is the University providing the venue: according to PSC, the play is organised by the University of Lincoln’s School of Performing Arts and School of Humanities. The play is not advertised on the website of the Performing Arts Centre, but it may be connected to a symposium on Caryl Churchill’s work being held at the University five days later.

It is fair to say that Seven Jewish Children divided opinion, and continues to do so. John Nathan, reviewing it in the Jewish Chronicle, wrote that, “For the first time in my career as a critic, I am moved to say about a work at a major production house that this is an antisemitic play.” Christoper Hart in the Sunday Times described it as “straitjacketed political orthodoxy. No surprises, no challenges, no risks. Only the enclosed, fetid, smug, self-congratulating and entirely irrelevant little world of contemporary political theatre.” His stablemate at The Times, Dominic Maxwell, on the other hand, considered the play “an impassioned response to the events in Gaza that is elliptical, empathetic and illuminating.”

The Guardian published a positive review of the play by Susannah Clapp, two by Michael Billington and even produced its own video version of the play which is still available to view on the Guardian website. But to their credit, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free blog also published an article by me and my CST colleague Mark Gardner, arguing that the play (and particularly the Guardian’s production of it) evoked, in contemporary terms, the medieval blood libel, which accused Jews of having a particular bloodlust for the murder and mutilation of non-Jewish children.

We were certainly not the only people to feel that Churchill’s play carried echoes of this most vicious of antisemitic slurs. As its title suggests, the play talks only of Jews, not of Israelis; it traces Israeli behaviour to an unbroken line of Jewish attitudes and behaviour stretching back before Israel even existed; most of the Palestinians who die in the play are children, whereas the only Jews who die are adults; and the play ends with a monologue of genocidal racial hatred, culminating in that noxious mixture of Jews, children, death and blood:

…tell her I laughed when I saw the dead policemen, tell her they’re animals living in rubble now, tell her I wouldnt care if we wiped them out, the world would hate us is the only thing, tell her I dont care if the world hates us, tell her we’re better haters, tell her we’re chosen people, tell her I look at one of their children covered in blood and what do I feel? tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her.

As Howard Jacobson wrote in The Independent:

Caryl Churchill will argue that her play is about Israelis not Jews, but once you venture on to “chosen people” territory – feeding all the ancient prejudice against that miscomprehended phrase – once you repeat in another form the medieval blood-libel of Jews rejoicing in the murder of little children, you have crossed over.

Anthony Julius’s magisterial Trials of the Disapora includes a compelling chapter on English literary antisemitism, which identifies the way in which the blood libel and associated antisemitic tropes have framed how Jews have been treated by many of the greatest English authors, poets and playwrights. This is no fringe phenomenon, as Julius explains:

The literary canon is made up of those texts that have become central to the imagination of successive generations of writers, are taught in schools and universities, and contribute to a certain national self-understanding. They comprise an authoritative tradition. The pre-eminent authors of the English literary canon are Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens. Anti-Semites take pleasure in the fact they are also the pre-eminent authors of the English literary anti-Semitic canon.

Julius is referring to Chaucer’s The Prioress’s Tale, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Dickens’s Oliver Twist. He traces the English literary antisemitic canon from the first tellings of the blood libel in medieval English literature to the “contemporary moment”. The chapter concludes with Seven Jewish Children; but one of the earliest episodes explored by Julius comes from Lincoln.

The popular English ballad, Sir Hugh, or the Jew’s Daughter, was based on the 1255 Lincoln blood libel, one of the best-known and most enduring of the medieval English blood libels against Jews. The actual story of the blood libel began in July 1255, when an eight or nine year old boy called Hugh disappeared in Lincoln. When his body was discovered a month later near the property of a Jewish resident of Lincoln named Jopin, the Jews of Lincoln were collectively accused of having kidnapped, tortured, crucified, killed and disembowelled him. Jopin was executed; 91 of the town’s Jews were then put on trial, 18 of whom were also executed. “Henry III”, writes Julius, “was the first monarch to have had Jews executed for ritual murder.” As with much medieval English antisemitism, the persecution came with economic benefits for the King and others. Lincoln Cathedral built a shrine to Hugh, which drew pilgrims for centuries afterwards.

In the version of the story told in the ballad of Sir Hugh, or the Jew’s Daughter, the boy accidentally kicks a ball through the window of a Jew’s house, and goes to ask for it back. The Jew’s daughter entices him into the house, then stabs him to death and disposes of the body. The child bleeds to death, as described in these terms:

And first came out the thick, thick blood,
And syne came out the thin;
And syne came out the bonny heart’s blood;
There was nae mair within.

When Hugh fails to return home and his mother goes to look for him, his dead body miraculously calls out to alert her to its location.

Versions of the ballad endured as popular oral tradition well into the 2oth century. Contemporary versions – without the Jewish aspect – were put to music by Benjamin Britten and Steeleye Span. It is mentioned in Chaucer’s The Prioress’s Tale – “O yonge Hugh of Lyncoln, slayn also / With cursed Jewes, as it is notable” – itself a blood libel story. For Julius, the ballad “may be regarded both as an initial episode and as a continuing episode, because by its longevity it continuously accompanies the development of English literary anti-Semitism.” It was only in the 1950s that the shrine to Hugh was removed from Lincoln Cathedral and replaced with this notice:

St Hugh

By the remains of the shrine of “Little St. Hugh”

Trumped up stories of ‘ritual murders’ of Christian boys by Jewish communities were common throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and even much later. These fictions cost many innocent Jews their lives. Lincoln had its own legend and the alleged victim was buried in the Cathedral in the year 1255.

Such stories do not redound to the credit of Christendom, and so we pray:

Lord, forgive what we have been, amend what we are, and direct what we shall be.

It is not possible to know whether the staff or students at the University of Lincoln know the history of Lincoln’s blood libel, or the role it played in creating and sustaining a tradition of English literary antisemitism. It is possible that they are familiar with that history  but do not consider it relevant to Seven Jewish Children, even though Seven Jewish Children, like Sir Hugh, or the Jew’s Daughter, is based on the juxtaposition of Jewish and non-Jewish children, with the latter left covered in their own blood.

A symposium in Lincoln on Caryl Churchill’s work, with an associated performance of Seven Jewish Children, could provide the perfect opportunity to explore the idea that Seven Jewish Children falls into a tradition of antisemitic literature that found one of its earliest expressions in a story about events in Lincoln some 750 years ago. We do not know what papers have been submitted to the symposium, nor what the keynote speaker, Professor Elaine Aston of Lancaster University, plans to say. But its organiser, Dr Sian Adiseshiah, did touch on this argument in her recent work, Churchill’s Socialism: Political Resistance in the Plays of Caryl Churchill. And what did Adiseshiah have to say about the idea that Seven Jewish Children evokes the master myth of English antisemitism, the blood libel, a myth that has framed an entire tradition of antisemitic English literature, which stretches back to the twelfth century and encompasses some of England’s greatest writers?

Of course, the play was accused by some of being anti-semitic, an accusation seemingly difficult to avoid for those campaigning against Israeli occupation and expressing Palestinian solidarity.

Update. Article amended at Comment is Free

January 18th, 2011 by Mark Gardner

On 12 January 2011, CST Blog expressed its concerns with an article by John Whitbeck, posted by the Guardian on its Comment is Free website on 29 December 2010. This followed my emailing initial concerns about the article to the Guardian Readers’ Editor on 30 December.   

The CST blog article is here. It began by stating

The myth of Jewish power dominates antisemitism.

The myth finds its strongest mainstream resonance in grotesquely overblown claims about Zionists, or Israel, controlling America.

Now, following direct conversation between CST and the Guardian Readers’ Editor, Comment is Free has amended Whitbeck’s original piece. The word “slavish” has been removed from “slavish subservience to Israel”; and the phrase “Israeli-American global domination” has been entirely removed. The new Comment is Free piece is here and carries this at its end

This article was amended on 17 January 2011. Language that is inconsistent with the Guardian’s editorial policy has been removed.

It remains CST’s opinion that the words “subservience” and “subservient” should also have been deleted. Nevertheless, this has been a worthwhile and constructive discussion between CST and the Guardian Readers’ Editor; in which he has shown a sincere desire to grapple with the complexity of old Jewish conspiracy theories and contemporary anti-Israel slurs, in particular the relatively widespread (and therefore deeply worrying) notion at the heart of this issue – whereby Israel is somehow deemed to run America.

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