By Rod Liddle
I feel personally indebted to the owner of Wigan Athletic, Mr Dave Whelan, for reminding me that it is not only Muslims and a scattering of neo-Nazi mental-cases who are, these days, possessed of anti-Semitic opinions.
I had assumed, complacently enough, that among normal, white, Christian folk that sort of thing had long gone. For sure, there is the politically expedient anti-Semitism of the European and American liberal left, a consequence of its naïve and infantile allegiance to the full-blooded and hard-wired Jew-hating of modern Islam.
I do not quite believe the lefties – the educationally-challenged, shrill and fascistic academics, the air-headed luvvies, the radical-chic attitudinalising politicians – when they insist that their loathing is directed solely at Israel, rather than at Jews; everyone likes someone to hate and for the liberal left anti-Semitism and its marginally better-dressed younger brother, anti-Zionism, merge imperceptibly until the boundaries, if ever there were any, are entirely absent.
But I always assumed that this was an anti-Semitism of a rather different order – a sort of casual acquisition, something simply attendant upon their idiotic, kindergarten world-view, rather than the very bedrock of it. But I shall have to think again about this. Perhaps I have got that wrong, too.
With Mr Whelan, though, I had forgotten something else – the age thing, the old people thing. And maybe the Tory and British establishment thing. The question to be answered, then, by people like me at the end of all this is how these various subsets of anti-Semitism fit together. Are they part of a whole, or are they more or less mutually exclusive? I had always – complacently again – assumed the latter, but I think that this assumption of mine needs re-examining.
Dave Whelan is 78 years old – born in the very year my mother told people she was born in and three years after she actually was. The Wigan chairman’s considered observations about Jewish people – you lot “chase money”, apparently – reminded me immediately of my late mum’s casual identification of Jewish people with rapacious financial greed and a sort of underhand cunning.
It wasn’t a hatred, per se, simply an insuperable fact – much as it was also a fact that black people were cheerful but thick, Japanese people cruel, Italians lascivious and cowardly, Americans arrogant and Belgians duplicitous and slightly pathetic.
While I was apt to dismiss my mum’s convictions as harmless, a mere wagging of the vestigial tail of British imperialism and empire, mixed with an understandable, if inflated, pride in our country’s behaviour in World War Two, it seems to me now that these memes persist.
They are not confined to my mum’s generation, nor her class (which was resolutely blue-collar). Even as a kid, back in the 1970s, I picked up echoes of it in popular culture.
When I was 12 I read a lot of books by an author who was then very popular – Dennis Wheatley. An extremely right-wing Roman Catholic who made his dosh by writing salaciously about the Occult, Wheatley’s books were riven with a quite visceral anti-Semitism which, even at my young age, I found troubling and frankly mystifying.
But the same tropes could be found in more upmarket fiction of the time and were also deeply embedded within the British establishment. The Foreign Office, it was reported, was notoriously “Arabist”. Why, I wondered?
A decade or so later I clearly remember reading in a respectable morning newspaper that Nigel Lawson could never be leader of the Conservative Party because he was Jewish, and the top of the party wasn’t keen on Jews. But he could be Chancellor of the Exchequer because they’re good at that.
Both in the 1970s and 1980s I tended to dismiss anti-Semitism as something hideous which we had long gotten over. There were other, more pressing, issues of racial equality to be addressed, I reckoned – and yet anti-Semitism was still there, still very present, still potent and toxic. It only appeared to be less potent and toxic because our Jewish communities were well integrated, in the main, and successful and peaceable. And I suppose it’s still there now.
Dave Whelan made his comments in defence of the man he had appointed as manager of his football club, Malky Mackay. Mr Mackay, you see, had made exactly the same insinuation about Jews: they chase money.
Mr Mackay is not, like Mr Whelan, a big businessman and Tory donor. Nor is he 78 years old. He is just 42 years old. This stuff persists. It has purchase somewhere inside our minds. Whelan attempted to excuse his comments about Jewish people “chasing money” by saying he meant it in a nice way, a good way.
I don’t think so, Dave. I think you meant it in roughly the same way as Hitler meant it in Mein Kampf – albeit you were more succinct and less possessed of genocidal intent. And my suspicion is that inside the minds of the idiots, the left liberal idiots, the dolts and nutjobs with their Palestinian flags and their fatuous, spiteful, boycotts and sickening cheerleading for the murderous racists of Hamas, this meme has a purchase too.
It may not be the main reason why they are anti-Semitic, but it is there in the background as a subconscious, or maybe subcutaneous additional justification; something lurking just beneath the skin. The Jews and their money, the Jews and their control of the world, the Jews with friends in high places.
The equation of Capitalism and Imperialism with Jews – just as, all those decades before, we had the equation of Bolshevism with Jews. Yes, you’re responsible for everything. I am unhappily aware that you have probably come to the same conclusions, long before me. My only excuse is that I became derailed by Islam’s more – shall we say? – vigorous version of anti-Semitism. Too many Muslims believe that either the Holocaust didn’t happen – you lot made it all up – or it did happen and it was a bloody good thing.
Dave Whelan, my mum, Dennis Wheatley and all those modern left liberals would undoubtedly flinch at either sentiment. But this does not mean that they are devoid of anti-Semitism. It’s still there, inside of them, pernicious and alive.
Read more: FA charge Wigan boss over claim: “Jews chase money” – click here