Rabbit Hole square

“Why aren’t more non-Jews rallying to our side?”

AS ALICE PLUMMETED down the rabbit-hole in Lewis Carroll’s famous 1865 novel, she mused ‘Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end!…how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?’

Tumbling down the rabbit-hole has become synonymous with getting deep into something, or ending up somewhere strange. As English vernacular for distraction, getting lost and losing track, the idiom perfectly fits the current tragedy of our moment.

Recent weeks have witnessed a tragedy of untold proportions unfolding in the Levant, as 1,300+ mostly Jews were slaughtered. A calamity which has loosened the always-present danger of the timetable for punch and counter-punch in what is apocryphally known as the Holy Land.

But the seemingly endless ‘peace marches for Palestine’ indicate that it isn’t just in Israel where a lurking danger has been loosened. There’s something very wrong closer to home.

Perhaps my readiness to recognise the malevolent undertones of Jew-hatred in Blighty derives from my time having experienced an interfaith or inter-cultural relationship? It changes you, in all sorts of ways. It’s a bit like ecdysis – where the old dead cells fall away to reveal the new – it’s all part of a growing process. In my own case, spending a long time in a relationship with a Jewish partner resulted in fundamental alterations in my understanding, perceptions and worldviews.

Over time old preconceptions gave way to a deep and genuine appreciation for Jewish traditions, values, and way of life. Respect for Jewish traditions, involvement in Jewish community life, cultural awareness and a desire to be supportive of my partner’s faith all cajoled me toward a process of self-discovery which has made me a better person. Had I not ended up moving to lecture in China, I assuredly would have completed converting.

But not everyone has this sort of experience and insight to draw upon. When last weekend I was talking with my now former partner (we’re still quite close) he asked me

 “Why aren’t more non-Jews rallying to our side?”

The question floored me and to answer it requires that British society undertake a serious reckoning. We have witnessed a tidal wave of anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli rhetoric barely disguising obscene anti-Semitism.

In Manchester, the World Socialist Website helpfully interviewed ‘peace protesters’ from across the UK. In one case, student Myra explains “It’s not an invasion by Hamas, it’s a rightful resistance to a brutal occupation by a racist, apartheid regime. It’s genocide—the people can’t evacuate.”

Denying a real attempted genocide by inventing a fictitious one is more than strange in the passing. It underscores that something is going wrong in the UK.

Then there is the unhinged keyboard anti-Semite who insisted on tweeting me to say that “the Jew will have his day again” and that I was “a murderous Jew”. I didn’t waste time pointing out that technically I never completed converting. Why bother? I’m Jew enough to merit his hate; especially when he ominously told me “jew is gonny [sic] we have to stop them”

The same thought crosses my mind as did Alice as she tumbled down the rabbit-hole, how many miles have we fallen this time?

During the fifth ‘Peace march for Palestine’ jack-booting its way across London the other week all manner of disturbing episodes played out. One case was a pro-Corbyn former Labour activist and trained therapist Kate Varnfield. Hers was a face of the ideologically possessed, so convinced of her own virtue she felt no qualms carrying a swastika interwoven into a Jewish star of David. I suppose if you’re going to reach for ways calculated to maximally wound Jews, what better way than to describe them as Nazis?

Jewish schoolchildren in our cities must hide their uniforms and yarmulkes – or have their schools closed if they happen to live in a wonderfully diverse multicultural city. Yes, British children being told to hide their school uniforms, lest strangers succeed in identifying them as Jews and open them up to assault.

We’ve fallen that far this time.

Thank goodness we have a police force you might be thinking – but do we?

As the various hate-marches continue on – with a former Hamas commander behind them – the Metropolitan Police unveiled their crack Quran interpretation squad, announcing “The word jihad has a number of meanings. We have specialist counterterrorism officers here in the operations room who have particular knowledge in this area.” So, when British Jews are confronted by a furiously angry bearded man screaming about jihad on London streets, just generally take it to mean he’s wrestling with an inner theological struggle.

Welcome to the tumbling rabbit-hole of hate

This myopic world of casual Jew hatred permeating a purblind British society has a number of underpinning factors. In a previous piece for Think Scotland I attempted to explain the rancid philosophical underpinnings driving anti-Semitism, especially on the left.

For brevity’s sakes I’ll keep it brief; we have a generation on the left who have been inculcated by illiberal post-modern ideas:

Foucault’s insistence that all knowledge is merely the result of ideology and power imposing itself is widespread. A land where objective truths don’t exist, merely games of power.

Derrida’s lazy deconstructionism has primed young student activists to feel entitled to dismiss intended meanings. Why bother worrying about authors intent or identifying the main idea when you can simply pull evidence apart and piece back together in any way which best accommodates your ‘own personal truth’?

Never forget this is now the land of the blind, where the one-eyed man is the bloke who can claim the most intersections of victimhood in his Crenshawe Venn-diagram of oppressed.

Taking all this together it occurs to me that I’ve left something else out. Despite the derangement of these illiberal philosophies, isn’t there an element of the conspiracy of silence playing out?

The Rutgers University Sociology Professor Eviatar Zerubavel’s book ‘The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life’ gives us a clue.

Zerubavel examines “the denial of social realities – whether incest, alcoholism, corruption or even genocide”. He contends that conspiracies of silence are widespread in all human societies, and the refusal to acknowledge an obvious truth is multifaceted, growing out of social and political underpinnings.

From small family groups, whole communities to politicians and corporations “open secrets” exist and are routinely perpetuated.

It comes in part from childhood, where we grow up learning ‘etiquette’ (Zerubavel contends etiquette produces ‘tact’ which can often function as a soft form of taboo making). From childhood we are inculcated with a need to practice rehearsed indifference, and learn to ignore. This extends to the rules of irrelevance

“There is a considerable difference between merely seeing or hearing something (that is, perceiving) and actually noticing (that is, paying attention to) it, as not everything we experience through our senses always captures attention.”

Thus, perhaps when the young leftie radical is in London marching for Palestine and sees the swastika posters or the shrieking calls for Jihad against Israel he is practicing the rules of denial? Learn to ignore, practice rehearsed indifference…

Yet Zerubavel expands on all of this. He emphasises that all too often we aren’t simply failing to notice something, “indeed, it is, quite often the result of some pressure to actively disregard it”.

This is where a cultural norm, reinforced by etiquette’s ‘tact’ as a soft form of taboo making enters to reinforce the “open secrets” all around us. Institutional hierarchies and norms serve as enforcers of the unspoken rules. As we all grow up inculcated on where the red lines are and where the eggshells we need to gingerly walk silently over lurk.

Perhaps students like Myra that I previously referenced suffers from the institutional hierarchies playing out in universities? Places where all too often new more profoundly illiberal post-modern norms have manufactured new eggshells which us ‘older’ generations are blind to?  Might that explain why so much of what is changing around us does not make sense or appear remotely sane?

But the intellectual traditions of the post-modern ‘new left’ intermingles with cultural narratives all to ensure that nobody dares to become a “silence breaker”.

Robert E. Pittenger said “It only takes one person to produce speech, but it requires the cooperation of all to produce silence” If we consider what drives people to insist on denying an obvious reality we need to move away from the mere psychological and instead take a sociological perspective. Once we do so, we can see that it takes more than one person to maintain the silence in a society. Co-denial is essential and measures must be practiced to ensure few dare to be a “silence breaker”.

In this sense there is a double wall of silence in our societies. The psychologist Dan Bar-On theorised in relation to the Nazi perpetrators and their children in the aftermath of WW2. As Zerubavel puts it, “by collectively seeing and showing, or hearing and speaking no evil we thus construct a “double wall” of silence”.

What this means, to attempt to put it simply, is that there is a symbiotic relationship between the twin acts of not speaking and not hearing. A relation perfectly captured by the subtle yet profound relationship between secrecy and tact.

This symbiotic relationship is best seen in Bill Clinton being able to keep his affair with Monica Lewinsky a secret, this was only possible in the hustle and bustle of the Presidency on the proviso that people around the former President knew – at least publicly – not to be too curious. I’m reminded of Bettie Currie (his personal secretary) explained once that she tried studiously hard to “avoid learning the details”.

We can see this occurring in Britain right now, inevitably facilitating the sea of Jew-hatred flowing in response to Israel’s legitimate defence of its people. The man who would have been Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn waxed lyrical that, “Today, as we wave the Palestinian flag, let’s hear it for the people of the West Bank, for the people of Gaza, for the people of the refugee camps.”

There was nothing from ‘Oh Jeremy’, nor the clapping crowds in attendance saying, ‘Let’s hear it for the people of Israel, who have suffered the worst pogrom since the Holocaust’.

Of course not. After all, for many giving it up for Gaza they – like Bettie Currie – knew to “avoid learning the details”. Details like there already was a ceasefire on 6 October and it was Hamas – not Israel – that broke it. Details such as how Gaza’s Palestinians are reduced to such penury because the Hamas terrorists steal, commandeer and thieve the world’s refugee aid sent their way. All are treated with internal walls of silence.

When some pro-Palestine ceasefire demanders read all of this, it will undoubtedly  cause them much upset. Not least because I am insisting on violating a fundamental rule if their denial of the open secret that the politics of anti-Zionism, ceasefires ‘free Palestine’ is really merely cover for anti-Semitism.

After all, I put it to all of you that it is obviously much easier to continue to hear no evil, when others speak no evil, and also it’s far easier to see no evil when the others around you “show no evil”. In this way the double wall of silence as described by Dan Bar-On is maintained.

Ultimately, however, we shouldn’t leave out the final piece in our analysis of what is deranging this ‘new left’ into such a trothing fury of Jew-hatred. There is what I like to call the phenomenon of ‘bystanders and enablers’.

When the Metropolitan Police crack squad of Quran interpreters hear extremists of Hizb ut-Tahrir call for “Muslim armies” to “liberate Palestine” in Belgravia, they muse about the multiple possible meanings of ‘Jihad’ and wring their hands reflexively about ‘community tensions’ preventing robust action.

What is really going on is the old canard about not being ‘in the know’. PC Plod is basically saying the truth is tightly held by a small guarded circle of folk who really understand the truth. So, you, I and Britain’s Jews should just zip it.

It’s always easier to deny something when you can imagine distance between yourself and the elephant. To quote Zerubavel once more, “silent bystanders act as enablers because watching others ignore something encourages one to deny its presence”.

With anti-Semitic hate crimes spiking in London by over 1,350 per cent I for one insist on breaking this vital rule. I refused to ignore this elephant called anti-Semitism; so obvious across parts of the British left. And as I do so I am preventing all of the useful idiots, radicalised illiberal student activists, fellow travellers and casual observers from having the ‘distance’ by declining to join them (and the Met Police) in ignoring it.

Remember, silence and denial only functions when it’s a collaborative effort.

It’s high time we arrested our fall down any deeper into this rabbit-hole of hate. I for one have precious little desire to join Alice in whatever wonderland lurks at the end of this drop.

In Han Christian Andersen’s book ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, there is a very good reason the author gave the role of silence-breaker to a small child.

“But he doesn’t have anything on!” cried a little child. “Listen to the innocent one,” said the proud father. And the people whispered among each other and repeated what the child had said. “He doesn’t have anything on. There’s a little child who says that he has nothing on.” “He has nothing on!” shouted all the people at last.”

As this elephant of anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli hatred grows, so too the conspiracy to silence gets larger. But there is always hope, so too grow the opportunities to end it too.

Sure, the pressures on these would-be whistle-blowers is intense, as Andersen’s story demonstrates, a silence-breaker requires a seconder. These vicious cultural conspiracies to silence and deny truths and realities can only end if there is no longer anyone engaging in the conspiracy to silence.

Andersen’s story has the initial role be a small child as this “innocent one” is still too young to have learnt to ignore, to be practicing rehearsed indifference or to even understand the confines of social etiquette as taboo making.

In this sense the innocence of a child corresponds to an unrestrained spontaneous sincerity determinedly grappling with the obvious reality before his young eyes. He has not become captured by the intellectual rot of cynical professors in ivory towers, nor is he yet subject to fears of social opprobrium or cynicism that comes with age.

In our case here, the elephant lurking in this room is the reality of an ingrained racism against Jews widespread across the post-modern identity left. Their visceral hatred of Israel is sincere, it dared to have the temerity to defend the Jewish people. Israel exists as a reminder that Zionism is the real anti-colonial success story, and the microaggression-addled, bed-wetting ‘new left’ detests this reality. After 3,000 years the Jewish people have obtained self-determination in the homeland, with international sanction. And oh don’t the usual suspects just hate it.

I for one intend to defy this ‘new left’ and their rotten eggshells. Watch me stomp loudly on them and make one hell of a noise as I do it. I can honestly say I have absolutely no intention of humouring any of this silence and denial in British contemporary political, media or cultural life. When I spot anti-Jewish racism on the left (or anywhere else) this mensch shall call it out.

Otherwise, how could I possibly look the loved ones in my life who are practicing Jews in the eye? How could I look my ex-partner in the eye when he seeks some comfort from me as he inquires why aren’t more non-Jews rallying to show support?

And to my critics who can’t abide this? Take a long run off of a vanishingly short pier, as I shan’t ever relent in breaking your silences and denials.

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Image: Alice’s “rabbit hole” as presented by Disney. The rabbit hole of hate ain’t so alluring.

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