View from Netanya

ELKAN’S VIEW 4th February 2015

I belong to the Jerusalem branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England. This has some very good and extremely interesting lectures, and last week we were treated to an address by the well-known columnist Melanie Phillips. Her subject dealt with the breakdown of relations between British Jews and the Left Wing in politics, and in a wide ranging survey she traced how the left had gradually begun to make common cause with the extreme Islamic movement. As she put it quite succinctly a group that supported gay rights, women’s rights, human rights and freedom of speech has become closely associated with a group that violently opposes all of these things.

Both groups look forward to the creation of a utopian world and it does not occur to them, especially to the left-wing who are prepared to be used by Muslim extremists, that the two versions of Utopia are diametrically opposed.

There is in the left-wing, despite its theoretical embracing of religious tolerance, a deep vein of anti-Semitism. This comes out in unexpected ways. Melanie Phillips disclosed that when she was a leader writer for the Guardian Newspaper (and how far that newspaper has travelled – when it was the Manchester Guardian under the legendary C P Scott it was the main protagonist of political Zionism) she was not a Zionist, had never been to Israel, and had no desire to do so. A number of things clearly shook her badly including a view that since the Jews claimed to be morally superior they could be judged by impossibly high standards, and that any considerations of logic or factual accuracy were not important. When one of the editors described an Israeli incursion into Lebanon as “your little war” she realised how deep this is, and her political position gradually moved to the right.