I was attacked by a swan the other day, as I walked along the bank of the River Stour in Kent. The creature climbed out of the water and lunged towards me, wings puffed up, making this guttural and hate-filled coughing noise. I kicked out at its stupid neck and told it to fuck off and the bird backed away towards the river, still making that demented hissing, like a badly maintained boiler.
At first I was mystified as to how I had gained its enmity. I wasn’t near its mate and still further distant from its sallow and bedraggled idiot children. Nor had I advanced towards it, or even given it a threatening glare. And then the horrible realisation dawned on me. The swan had attacked me because it believed — mistakenly — that I was Jewish. There was no other possible explanation. And as I stood, a little shaken, on that riverbank, it occurred too that all of these mysterious anti-Semitic attacks which we’ve been hearing about recently, the attacks in which the perpetrators remain a complete and utter mystery, are almost certainly the work of swans. Why had I not realised this before?
The previous day I had read a very long piece in the Guardian by Owen Jones precisely about anti-Semitism. In the course of more than 1,000 words Owen kindly cautioned us against having anti-Jewish feelings and pointed out that anti-Semitic attacks were on the rise throughout Europe and that this was a bad thing, on the whole. But nowhere did he say who was responsible for this nastiness and I was left with the impression that it could be any of us, just any of us, walking down the street one day and we’re suddenly possessed of the insuperable desire to torch a synagogue or knife a rabbi.
Puzzlingly, Owen did dwell for a paragraph or two on the anti-Semitic roots of some of Europe’s far-right parties. So there was a sort of implication that perhaps those sorts of people had been responsible, although no direct allegation. I have heard and seen much the same thing on the BBC and Channel 4 News; reports of horrible attacks upon synagogues and Jewish businesses in Europe. A huge spike in anti-Semitic attacks in this country, too — more than 200 in the last month; more in the last four weeks than the previous six months put together. But no mention, not even a hint, as to who might be responsible. A complete mystery, isn’t it? We are left to try to fathom our own explanation — and it is very difficult, isn’t it? I think the giveaway, though, is some of the graffiti which accompanies these attacks: Allahu Akbar! Jihad! Stuff like that. It’s obvious — unusually literate, fundamentalist swans.
Here’s the thing. I will bet every penny I have and more besides that virtually all of the anti-Semitic attacks in this country — and in France and Germany and Belgium — have been perpetrated by Muslims. And because they have been perpetrated by Muslims, that fact will simply not be reported, even when it is plainly obvious that the attackers were Muslim.
This is a peculiar state of affairs, to my mind. Imagine if it wasn’t Muslims or swans. Just pretend for a moment that of, say, 200 anti-Semitic attacks in the UK, a study discovered that 198 of them had been committed by Methodists. That the one thing which 99 per cent of violent UK anti-Semites had in common was membership of the Methodist church. Do you think that such a fact would not be mentioned in news reports of such incidents, or in comment pieces by juveniles warning us how horrible anti-Semitism really is? I think the journos would be falling over themselves to nail the Methodists, and to delve and investigate the roots of this sectarian hatred. I think this fact would be considered salient and significant, germane to the issue at hand. But not with Muslims. Instead, Owen and the rest will first try to disguise the fact that it is Muslims making these attacks and then secondly, when it becomes patently obvious that it is Muslims, will try to insist that this fact is irrelevant and perhaps simply an unfortunate coincidence. And that anyway, because not all Muslims are anti-Semites, the fact is not worth reporting.
But of course it would not be considered irrelevant and a coincidence if it were any other minority group on earth, would it? And of course it isn’t irrelevant, or a coincidence; there is a strain of anti-Semitism running through Islam, and a mistrust or even loathing of Jews is firmly rooted within both our Muslim communities and in Muslim countries from Turkey to the Indonesian archipelago. This does not mean for a moment that all Muslims are anti-Semites, and nor of course should that conclusion be drawn. But Islamic anti-Semitism is surely a fact — and recognised as such by plenty of the more, um, enlightened Muslim writers, such as Mehdi Hasan. Here’s what he had to say on the issue: ‘It pains me to have to admit this but anti-Semitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace. Any Muslims reading this article — if they are honest with themselves — will know instantly what I am referring to. It’s our dirty little secret. You could call it the banality of Muslim anti-Semitism.’
Remember, it is only three or four years ago that our most moderate and amenable Muslim organisation, the Muslim Council of Britain, refused to take part in Holocaust Day, so great was its animus toward Britain’s Jewish community.
To refuse to tell the truth when you know what the truth is constitutes bad journalistic practice, to my mind. But it is also deluding and utterly gutless.