The question I had hoped to pose this week was this: ‘Do people dislike Diane Abbott because she is black and a woman, or because she is useless?’ But then I worried that we would come to a fairly definitive conclusion a long time before my allotted 1,000 words had been used up. ‘The latter, I think,’ is the response I have heard time and time again both from Labour supporters and Tories.
For the entire day before Ms Abbott’s appearance on Question Time, in which she thinks she was treated badly on account of the colour of her skin and her gender, my wife had been bouncing around the house in a state of enormous excitement, looking forward to the car crash which would inevitably occur that evening on the TV. It always does with Diane. I have never heard Kemi Badenoch, the excellent Conservative MP for Saffron Walden, complain that she was victimised for her race and gender by the BBC, for example. Nor Priti Patel. Not all of our judgments devolve from hard-wired prejudice: just occasionally we reach conclusions based on the pristine examination of the evidence before us.
On one point, though, Abbott was right to complain — and it should serve as a warning to the rest of us. Labour is not six points behind in the polls. It is level-pegging — and if there were an election tomorrow I suspect it would win handsomely. There is a lot of wishful thinking on the right. And so it might well be that one day soon we wake up to a government led by people who despise everything about this country’s history and revere, instead, fascistic foreign maniacs such as Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, Hamas and even Kim Jong-un. And possess anti-Semitic views that are either ingrained or have been acquired in the hate-filled, paranoiac, conspiracy theory-obsessed anterooms of the far left.
It was comforting at least to see the Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, take a firm stand against the Malaysian government for its decision to ban Israeli paralympic swimmers from taking part in a Paralympic Games qualifying tournament in the country. Watson said the tournament should be removed from the grasp of the Malaysians and held elsewhere. I would go further and suggest that the UK team refuse to compete in the next Paralympic Games unless all countries are afforded a fair chance to qualify. Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has of course insisted that his injunction is not remotely anti-Semitic, but he has form, as does his country. Mohamad has previously delivered himself of the opinion that ‘Jews rule the world’ and has banned Jewish — not just Israeli — cultural events from taking place in Malaysia. He has described Jews as ‘hook-nosed’ and commented that they understand money instinctively, meanwhile denying that six million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust and insisting that Israel should have no right to exist. Nor does he have much time for the concept of anti-Semitism, per se. He told a BBC journalist: ‘Anti-Semitic is a term that is invented to prevent people from criticising the Jews for doing wrong things.’ He said Jews, you will note — not Israel.
But then the country, with its Muslim majority population, is steeped in anti-Semitism. A few years ago I wandered around the little bookshop in Langkawi airport, killing time before a flight. There were the usual rafts of tomes on how to make money, how to keep it, how to succeed in business, etc, aimed at Chinese customers. And then I came to the Jewish section. The Perfidious Jew was one, followed by Henry Ford’s deranged and virulently anti-Semitic four-part series on the ‘International Jew’ and what a complete bastard he was. In the same bookshop I picked up a very brief Bahasa Malay-English phrase book, which told me how to say good morning, thank you (terima kasih), where is the nearest hospital and stuff like that. It also had a chapter so unintentionally hilarious — and a little chilling — that I remember it to this day. Or at least I remember the English phrases it translated:
‘Look at that man over there.’
‘He looks slightly strange.’
‘I think he is Jewish.’
‘We should run away from him!’
Malaysia is what we consider to be a moderate Islamic country — a nice one, then. And within Malaysia, Mohamad represents a very moderate strand of Muslim opinion. He is the chairman of the centre-leftish coalition Pakatan Harapan, which professes itself to be socially liberal, progressive and multiracial. In his previous incarnation as prime minister, he represented the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which was also moderate, if centre-rightish (and corrupt). If you’re looking for primitive Islamist nutters in Malaysia, you want the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which has close ties to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and has controlled a handful of states in peninsular Malaysia.
My point is this, though. You can search for as long as you like through the 50-odd countries of the world governed by Islamic parties and you will not find one as moderate and amenable as Pakatan Harapan in Malaysia. And yet even here we find a rich and vibrant core of energetic Jew-hating. Not just Israel-hating, although of course the two dispositions sometimes merge imperceptibly. But Jew-hating. And remember, the Malays have no cause to hate Israel, other than one which is devolved from the religious basis which underpins the country and society. No Malays were displaced from what we have come to call ‘Palestine’ in 1948. Jerusalem is 4,490 miles distant from that hideous bookshop at Langkawi airport.
The hatred, then, is not contingent. It is truly an article of faith and you will find it in all Islamic countries, and now in those countries where Islamic immigrants have made their home. The left will tell you it ain’t so. It’s time the left woke up.