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Aaronovitch and Mo Ansar [UPDATED]

In an excellent recent post (£) on his experiences of antisemitism, David Aaronovitch makes a cryptic allusion to an unnamed Muslim commentator:

There is a Muslim commentator I know, have once had lunch with, he’s often on the telly exuding moderation. He’s very worried about Islamophobia. During my appearance two weeks ago on Question Time he tweeted on the programme’s hashtag (ie, very publicly): “Oh goodness, don’t ask David Aaronovitch [if] we should attack a country in the Middle East which will serve an Israeli national interest.”

To decrypt – this is a reference to Mo Ansar, who has been busy justifying his remarks in the face of challenges from Hugo Rifkind and others. But Ansar has plenty of form when it comes to having (to put it generously) a cloth ear  for antisemitic discourse.  Here you can read how he retweeted from a group called ‘IsraelTheNazis’. Here he defends a very iffy piece by Joanna Francis.  When he has this drawn to his attention he refuses to engage with the problem. By contrast he is all too quick to denounce as Islamophobic anyone who disagrees with him – or simply to insinuate the charge in a damaging way.

The Radio 4 programme Beyond Belief certainly lived up to its name when Mo Ansar proposed Qaradawi as an example to follow when dealing with the problem of antisemitism:

“We have somebody who’s been considered a very controversial Muslim scholar in the West, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who goes to great lengths to ensure that people have a nuanced understanding and saying if you have difficulty with Israeli foreign policy, if you have difficulty with military occupation, this is something distinct from Judaism and Jews. And so regardless of many of his other statements, I think it’s really important that wherever we work we continue to make this distinction.”

Now Qaradawi does sometimes adopt a moderate tone, but Mo’s ‘regardless of his many other statements’ and ‘very controversial’ strongly imply that he is perfectly familiar with Qaradawi’s more inflammatory comments about Jews and the Holocaust.

If you claim (as Qaradawi does) that the Holocaust was God’s punishment on Jews – it’s pretty difficult to explain that with reference to Israel’s foreign policy. In fact Qaradawi’s comments are just one further piece of evidence supporting one of David Aaronovitch’s key points – that antisemitism won’t magically vanish whatever the result of the current peace talks.

Update: We’ve established we can reproduce part of David’s post.  Here are a couple of extracts. After some discussion of casual antisemitism, particularly in relation to Israel, he continues:

Oh goodness! Most of these people would be indignant to be told that their observations are in no way different from those of Mr Millard with his Jewish lobby clique. Since it is demonstrably the case that I have argued for intervention in, say, Kosovo and Sierra Leone — where even the most inventive Jew-finder would be hard-pressed to discern an Israeli interest, the accusation has little to do with reality. If I did not have an exotic surname (given that I am irreligious) I don’t think the suggestion I have an unstated loyalty to the Jewish state rather than to the British would ever have been made.

Yet it is made. Again and again and again. The Times comment editor, Tim Montgomerie, asked me two questions when I told him about this piece yesterday. The first was if I thought this kind of thing was getting worse. All I could say is that I am far more aware of it now than I was, say, 20 years ago. Some of this is clearly down to social media making it far easier for people to communicate with me and me with them.

He then discusses earlier distrust of Jews, a distrust (well before 1948) premised on the idea of dual loyalties, and how this hostility gave rise to Zionism:

An Austrian Jewish journalist called Theodore Herzl, attending the show trial in Paris of the framed Captain Alfred Dreyfus, concluded that the Jews were not safe in non-Jewish countries. Herzl is widely regarded as the founder of Zionism. And when it came to most of the countries of Europe, by 1945 his deepest misgivings were discovered to have been hopelessly optimistic.

So all the things said about Jews when they were “stateless” is now said about them — about us, about me — in relation to Israel. Only now you say “Zionist” not “Jew”. But you apply it in exactly the same way. Divided loyalties, unwonted use of money and influence (beyond that exerted by any other group, natch).

There was an extraordinary moment in Schama’s fourth programme when, sitting in an old synagogue he told the viewers: “I am a Zionist.” Straight out. Just like that. I thought that for many of today’s viewers he might as well have said he was a drinking buddy of Jimmy Savile’s. So many out there these days are anti-Zionist and thus anti-Schama.

As for me, I have never been a Zionist. Nor committed to Israel. But I can tell you this. Every time I get one of those comments, or those e-mails, or those tweets or hear those insinuations, I begin to think, why not, David, why not? Why not wear the cap that so many are so keen to fit you out with?

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