Robert Wistrich: Demonising Israel is now the norm

From a lecture by the Hebrew University professor of European History, given in London

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Great Britain, unlike Germany, France, Russia or Poland, has not been a major stronghold of anti-Semitism in modern times. Yet its liberal tradition is more ambivalent towards Jews than is often assumed.

Great Britain, unlike Germany, France, Russia or Poland, has not been a major stronghold of anti-Semitism in modern times. Yet its liberal tradition is more ambivalent towards Jews than is often assumed.

A recent survey has revealed a troubling rise in anti-Jewish prejudice in Britain. One in five believes the Holocaust was "exaggerated". A similar number believe Jews have too much influence and say they do not want a Jewish Prime Minister. In the last two years, assaults against Jews have increased by 75 per cent and the number of synagogue desecrations by 400 per cent.

There is no doubt that there is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Britain. It is not the kind of hatred that prevailed in Europe 60 years ago; it is much more in tune with the zeitgeist of the new millennium.

It comes packaged in the beatific and radiant glow of human rights, citing compassion, peace, justice and solidarity with the oppressed. Unfortunately, this has been accompanied by the gratuitous criminalisation of the state of Israel.

The Israeli government is routinely referred to by many journalists as a "racist-apartheid", "crypto-fascist" and "Nazi-like" regime.

The sensational reports of mass murders, summary executions and "war crimes" after the battle of Jenin in 2002 exposed the media bias against a country engaged in a battle to defend the lives of its citizens.

Little attention is paid within this anti-Israel narrative to the crazed ideology, the poisoned culture of martyrdom or the anti-Semitic hatred endemic in contemporary Islamism.

The demonisation of Israel is no longer merely a phenomenon of the margins. It is now firmly entrenched in the mainstream political culture.

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