Friday, October 22, 2004


That the numbers killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau are open to dispute is beyond dispute, but the idea is not to arrive at the smallest number possible. It is now thought that a minimum of 1.1 million died, 90% of them Jewish. In Communist times, the figure was put at 4 million, with the proportion of Jewish deaths being smaller, 1.3 non-Jews being said to have died.

Via Harry's Place and Jonathan Derbyshire , Carol Gould, An American scapegoat in London
, in The Guardian.

This prompted a tirade from the Englishwoman - let's call her Lady E. "I rejoice every time I hear of another American soldier dying! You people are destroying the world". ...  I jumped up... prompting Lady E to come over and grab me. "Another bloody American! You are scum."

I have lived in Europe for all of my adult life, and from the day I arrived I have been aware not only of an oft-blatant anti-semitism but also a resentment of Americans ...

Here is what I perceive as the explanation: Europe has always been a seething hotbed of anti-semitism. England, sadly, has the distinction of being the very first country to expel its Jews and initiate the blood libel. The Jews were not allowed back into England until the time of Cromwell, and feel to this day that they worship by the grace of the sovereign.
...Anti-Americanism is not a result of Abu Ghraib or of a Rumsfeldian pronouncement. It is a disturbing and hurtful form of psychosis that is rapidly eroding the all-important special relationship.

I would not claim that England was immune from anti-semitism, but I feel that it is a function of anti-Americanism, rather than the other way round.

One thing I noticed from a recent poll is that opposition to the Iraq War is even stronger amongst older age groups than among younger people. Which is a way of giving statistical backing to the following anecdote.

On my recent trip, I got involved in a dinner-table argument about the killing of the British hostage with a man in his sixties, who had previously expressed his admiration for General Franco. From Iraq, to a general tirade against the US system, I found myself asking ironically 'I suppose the Jews are in control of everything ?' He neither confirmed nor denied.

Another point occurred to me later, however. This man, a Catholic, had also previously shown his sympathy for the faction that opposed Vatican II (the reforms of the Catholic church in the 1960s). On the face of it, this is about wanting to keep older forms of worship, the latin mass and so on. However, there is a deeper point. One of the results of Vatican II was, in James Carrroll's account,

... to affirm two very important things, which in a sense are offensive, but they needed to be affirmed. One, the Jewish people living in the time of Jesus and living afterwards, can never be held guilty for the death of Jesus. An important affirmation. Why? Because for 1500,1800 years, that was the basis of Christian attacks. Secondly, that document renounced the idea that Christianity had replaced Judaism as a favorite religion of God's. Judaism had its own ongoing integrity.
One who spoke of "the Church's responsibility to change its relationship to Jews" was that young bishop from Poland...


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