The furore over Kevin Myers’ article in the Irish edition of the ‘Sunday Times’ on 30 July 2017 (Sorry ladies, equal pay has to be earned) has split the UK Jewish community in half.
Because so many people found it objectionable the Sunday Times has withdrawn it from their website. It achieved the twin goals of being insulting to both women and Jews: but from a Jewish perspective this was the salient passage:
“I note that two of the best paid women presenters in the BBC – Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, with whose, no doubt, sterling work I am tragically unacquainted – are Jewish. Good for them. Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate, lost-with-all-hands stupidity.”
Lest there be any doubt that Myers likes to sail as close to the wind as possible in his remarks about Jews, he wrote a deliberately provocative clever-silly piece about the Holocaust for the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ on 6 March 2009. This too has been pulled, but fortunately captured by another website:
The salient extracts:
“There was no holocaust…six million Jews were not murdered by the Third Reich…For efficient though the Nazis were, they were not so clinically precise as to kill six million Jews — not a Jew more, or not a Jew less…Moreover, there certainly was no holocaust. For if the word is to have any literal validity at all, it must be related to its actual meaning, which comes from the Greek words holos, ‘whole’, and caust, ‘fire’…Any one of us should be able to declare any old counter-factual and even offensive nonsense, without being sent to jail, provided we preach hatred for no one…[but] imams regularly preach hatred for Jews, and where the holocaust is routinely denied. Which member-state of the EU will pursue such conveyors of hate, or seek the extradition of an imam who says that the holocaust was a Zionist hoax? None of them…If Bishop [Richard] Williamson has an agenda, it is so bonkers as to rank alongside that of The Lunar Cheese Society.”
Vanessa Feltz has said on BBC Radio London that the Sunday Times article was “so obviously racist it’s surprisingly hurtful”. The Sunday Times responded by sacking Kevin Myers, who made a fashionably half-arsed apology: “I am issuing an apology for no other reason than contrition of the hurt I have caused them.” Jaw-droppingly, he continued: “I didn’t know Jews were living human beings. I thought they belonged to the Bible.”
One might have thought that this would be the end of it. But surprisingly, a number of Jews – three of whom, including a dear family member, I know to be among the bravest and staunchest supporters of Israel in Britain today, constantly putting themselves in real physical danger to counter antisemitic lies – have spoken out in defence of Myers. Here is what a past President of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland had to say:
“It is an awful pity that you all had to jump in without first consulting the Irish-Jewish community. The Jewish Representative of Council of Ireland are well able to look after our own local affairs without the interference of the so-called “do-gooders” from the UK and elsewhere….I know Kevin Myers, and I, among others, have personally offered him support. He is suffering from what he wrote. He has never been anything other than supportive to Judaism and Israel…” Another senior figure: “Try being a leader of a small community in a hostile environment.” “In the Irish media there were only about six writers sympathetic to Jews and Israel. Now there are only five.”
We have been here before. The ten thousand or so Jews of Iran have one seat in the Majlis reserved for their representative. Siamak Morsadegh has held that seat since 2008, and last year said in an interview with ‘The Independent’: “The fact is, Iran is a place where Jews feel secure and we are happy to be here…no one forces the Jews to stay here…the actions of Netanyahu and his government, the way they behave towards the Palestinians, cause problems for Jews everywhere.”
Are you really saying that Ireland is as anti-Zionist – even as antisemitic – as Iran? If so, isn’t it about time you got the hell out and made aliya while you still can?
So how are we to judge Kevin Myers – for judge him we must? As so often, to my mind the most useful parallel is with the Black community. People make the mistake of thinking that being Jewish is mainly a matter of religion. It is not. It is most particularly nothing like being Muslim. Are there atheist Muslims? There are not. Atheist ex-Muslims, many under sentence of death – yes indeed. But rid our synagogues of the atheist Jews and you’d never get a minyan. Being Jewish is something you’re stuck with, no matter what you believe in. Like your skin colour.
When I was a child one of the most popular TV programmes was ‘The Black and White Minstrel Show’. Fifty years ago, it was quite normal – though already a bit dated – for white people to black up. Fifty years before that, they were unashamedly called ‘Nigger Minstrels’ and at the heart of popular culture. Now if you asked any of the people who blacked up whether they were bigots, they would have been horrified. They would have said that they liked black people, they loved their culture, and they admired their musical and athletic talents. Are you getting echoes of anything here, Kevin Myers?
Before WWII, before the establishment of the State of Israel, there was a sound argument to be made for Jews not to make a fuss about gentiles who pointed out the supposed Jewish qualities of being good with money, musical and endowed with a native shrewdness. At least, so the argument went, they weren’t accusing us of murdering Jesus and baking matzohs with Christian children’s blood, and anyway those comments were a small price to pay for them not siding with Hitler. In Romain Gary’s ‘The Oldest Story Ever Told’ (1965) a Jew helps and conceals the Nazi who tortured him in the camps, because “He’s promised to treat me better the next time!”
It is long past time for Jews to stop being careful and precious about charges of antisemitism. That should have ended in 1945. We are no longer trembling Israelites. On the contrary, it is the Kevin Myers of this world who should be nervous about singling out Jews for special attention. The gentile world – and Europe in particular – has over two millennia of arrears of apologies due to the Jewish people. We Jews, of all people, have a right – even, I would argue, a duty to our children – to stand tall and proud and apologise to no-one. Arrogant? Try saying that to a brigade of the IDF.