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Hugo Rifkind

Gerald Scarfe isn’t anti-Semitic – but David Ward is

2 February 2013

9:00 AM

2 February 2013

9:00 AM

I’m turning into a Holobore. I can feel it happening, and it’s sapping at my soul.

What a week. It started with David Ward, the Lib Dem MP and anti-Semite. No, shut up. Yes he is. If you say ‘the Jews’ should have ‘learned the lessons of the Holocaust’ and that they clearly haven’t because of their ‘inflicting atrocities on Palestinians’ then you’re ticking every box. And he did say these things. So he is.

It’s ‘the Jews’ that rankles first, obviously. I’m a Jew. Am I inflicting atrocities on Palestinians? Me and Lenny Kravitz and Woody Allen? Oh, you cretin. But as bad, if not worse, is the shameless appropriating of the deaths and the displacement and the piles of shoes and hair for his own shabby political ends.

‘Actually, maybe Israel has learned the lessons of the Holocaust,’ you half want to say to the man, ‘which is why they don’t seek to wipe the Palestinians from the Earth, turning their teeth into jewellery and their skin into wastepaper bins, you hateful bloody dunce, you.’ But you can’t really, because that’s an insane thing to say, and you’d be down in the gutter with him and nobody wins. Nobody wins. I mean, Christ, what did he think he was doing? Does he think the Israelis have never thought about the Holocaust before? Does he think they’re going to read his horrid, eager little website and go, ‘Oh hell! I’ve just realised! That happened to us!’

Although the most depressing thing, probably, is the question of whether he actually knew exactly what he was doing, this man with a marginal seat and a large number of Muslim voters. Whether he was, you know, Speaking Out On Israel and Ending The Silence. And if he was, then the more you shout at him and the more his party tries to censure him (not that the Lib Dems seem particularly bothered), the more successfully he’s done it.

Where it leads, all this, is an environment where poor Gerald Scarfe gets pilloried for anti-Semitism over a cartoon which wasn’t, even. I mean, sure, any cartoon about Israel on Holocaust Memorial Day is a slip, but when you have an election in the same week… well, who knows? But I’ve seen true anti-Semitism in cartoons, more often than I care to think about, and this wasn’t it. No hooked nose, no Nazi imagery, no Jewish imagery, even. No sense of a shady power broker behind the scenes. Just a man building a wall, with blood in place of mortar.

Sure, you might ask whether Benjamin Netanyahu deserves such depiction, or whether a belief that he does is dodgy in itself. But that caveat aside, a small-nosed Jew doing manual labour is fine in my book.

You just get so used to shouting, that’s the thing. You become the opposite of the boy who cried wolf. More a boy surrounded by wolves, who shouts whenever he sees one coming, and gets so horrified and frightened by the way that nobody seems to care that he starts shouting just the same at anything that vaguely looks like one. You feel yourself grow shrill, and your credibility on such things ebb away. ‘Well he would say that,’ you sense people say, and you want to clarify what you are saying and what you aren’t, and it only makes it worse, because they only end up wishing that just for once you could bloody talk about something else. Instead of Holoboring. Right now, I’m Holoboring. What a week.

Segue to the banal. I’ve always been in awe of that whole genre of sexy -economists. You know the ones. They’re the guys who link a fall in crime to a change in abortion law 20 years earlier, or map out the reasons why, if you call your child Nigel, he’s 17 per cent more likely to be a geography teacher. I admire their brains. They’re like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. They see the code.

This week, I’d like to see one of them unleashed on this moobs business. You know moobs? Male boobs. You can’t just call them ‘boobs’, even though this is what they are, because the Bible says that only women have boobs and if men could have them too then that would devalue the whole concept of boobs in our society and they’d effectively cease to exist. Yes, I think you see what I’m doing there. But anyway, moobs. According to numerous reports, this last year has seen a marked decline in moob operations.

Moob operations are, of course, quite different from boob operations, because whereas women want bigger boobs, men want smaller moobs. Or they did. Between last year and the one before, though, it appears moob ops are down by a fifth. Why?

First theory: mooby men have less money. The double-dip recession is being felt in their double dips. Second theory: in the past year, society has grown a fifth less judgmental and body-conscious. Third theory: there are a limited number of mooby men who care about the situation enough to seek surgery. We’re running out of motivated moobs.

Theory one doesn’t really work for me. We had a recession last year, and we’ve got one this year. Move on. Theory two excites me, but I don’t think it’s true. So, I’m going to go with theory three. Moob surgery looked like a trend, but it was in fact a group. Maybe all weird trends are. Now where’s my book deal?

Hugo Rifkind is a writer for the Times.

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