This article was written in 2016 – so before it became impossible to write about anti-semitism without it being used as a means of attacking Jeremy Corbyn and the left wing of the Labour Party. When it became clear that anti-semitism was being used in a factional struggle I joined the Labour Party.
I met David nearly 20 years ago. There were long gaps between us getting together but over the years we kept in touch. I enjoyed his conversation and a mutual passion for our shared profession meant that we always had something to talk about. Some time ago now, one evening in a quiet pub on Dartmoor, he startled me by saying that 9/11 was an “inside job”. Eventually, under pressure, I read some of the material he showed me – which turned out to be a rag bag of non-sequiturs mixing criticism of any statement that could be called “official” with alternative explanations for which the evidence was always insufficient.
More recently I became his friend on Facebook where he often posted conspiracy material which I didn’t read and assumed (incorrectly as it turned out) that other mutual friends also avoided. However, one evening, while I scrolled down the images that provide entertainment when you are too tired to do anything else, I noticed that he had posted some material about the holocaust. I hadn’t seen anything from him about such subject matter before I so began to read – and then realised I had made a mistake in thinking that his ideas around 9/11 were about demolition and sabotage. I should have considered the bed rock of his argument – that there is a global conspiracy which is preventing everybody from finding out the truth.
The Facebook post was about a long discredited experiment that “proved” the gas chambers of the holocaust were a myth invented by Zionist campaigners. Beneath it were extreme anti-semitic comments. David had discovered it was the Israelis who had demolished the three buildings on 9/11 and had control of the media, scientific establishment and history departments around the planet. With the sensation that I had wandered into a dreamworld I contacted him. He sent me semi-literate essays about holocaust denial by authors who were connected to white suprematist organisations. I found out who these authors were by consulting Wikipedia but according to David I was “unbelievably naive” to believe anything I read there. He said that I was a gullible liberal and “part of the problem”. He was outraged when I described him as anti-semitic.
It is the grand canyon between this crazed side of his character and the man I thought I knew that is extraordinary to me. I went from thinking of his belief in the demolition of the twin towers as a weird one-off obsession to the realisation that – of course and bloody obviously – it was part of a much larger world view. And it was only when I found out that he “knew” the Jews were behind everything that I broke off our relationship. When I thought he was blaming vague CIA/Neo conservative factions, I thought it was rubbish – but I was happy to call him a friend. There is a kind of dislocated paranoia that cannot specify who is responsible for the world’s ills but instead points towards a grey conglomerate of corporations, secret services and government cabals. This eradication of the accidental in favour of the machiavellian schemes of an invisible elite has become so commonplace that it excites little comment. I thought for a while that it was the shape such formless paranoia takes when it crystallises around Judaism that made it so toxic but now I’m not so sure. In retrospect I’m amazed that I didn’t end our friendship when he told me that the world is manipulated and controlled by the CIA.
Anti-semitic conspiracy theories have a long history and at their core remain the same – from Jews killing children in black magic rituals during the middle ages to Zionists planting explosives in the twin towers. The Jews have quasi magical powers which not only make them enormously powerful but also prevent everybody else (apart from a select few) from seeing the extent of their domination. It is the spectral aspect of anti-semitism that makes it seem less like racism and more like believing in witches and black magic. This supernatural quality makes Zionist conspiracy theories impervious to argument; in the believer’s eyes, the ability of the Jews to destroy and manufacture evidence is limitless. It is sometimes said that the internet breeds conspiracy theories but arguably the nature of anti-semitism has been unaffected by new technology. The effect of the publication of the forged document “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” before the 1st World War, which laid out fictional plans for Jewish world domination, cultivated hysteria more efficiently than any internet conspiracy theory.
The reason for writing this piece is not just to talk about David but about people’s reactions to him – while many people thought he was talking nonsense, surprisingly few recognised his views as anti-semitic. If you state that Zionists control both America and the global media then you are repeating the views set down in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. There is a difference between analysing the historical and current reasons why America supports Israel (alongside other allies in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia) and stating that America is secretly ruled by Zionists. There is a difference between critiquing coverage of Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinians and stating that the news media is under the thumb of the Israelis. And if you doubt the existence of the gas chambers you are not engaged, as David thought he was, in an open minded questioning of history, but ignoring evidence and explaining the extensive documentation that now exists by arguing that researchers and academics from around the world have been and continue to be engaged in a systematic fabrication of history.
The current difficulties within some discreet sections of the labour party seem to stem from legitimate criticism of Israel that has been spliced into an essentially racist standpoint which uses stereotypes of powerful Jews engaged in a hidden quasi-magical quest for world domination. And I find it odd to discover this confusion entering everyday conversation in my own backyard. However, Zionism is spliced onto global finance today with the same ease as it always has been and once more the world’s troubles are dissected then explained – even among the gently rustling leaves of Devon lanes – by Jewish control of capital.