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The new "I'm not racist but"

First off, I apologise. I hate things being described as "the new...", such as Melbourne, where black is the new black, or a uni student thinking themselves clever or ironic or something for describing "arse as the new tit". Anyway, something which has started to pass thresholds of tolerance is a new form of I'm not racist but...

We've all heard the old forms. Y'know, you're at a party and someone starts off a racist diatribe with "I'm not racist but..." We all know that the "I'm not racist but" is more an attempt to convince themselves that they aren't racist than anything else. Everyone else already knows that they are.

Now, however, modern, sophisticated (generally left-wing self-appointed elite - the right rarely concern themselves with appearing/being racist, they just do it - although certain leaders of religious groups tend to do it as well) people tend to incorporate the mandatory "but whenever you say something like this you are accused of being anti-semitic..." style-lines. This has no more effect on the anti-semitism of the statement than "I'm not... but..." has on the ...ness of your statement.

Now, before I'm accused of over-reacting (sad I should have to go on the defensive over this, but anyway), criticism of Israel's policies is legitimate. As long as you take into account a balanced and accurate view of both the past and the present. For example, a statement such as "Israel must withdraw to..." really has to take into account that no democratic state can do so when the withdrawal will be followed with Qassams (or Katyushas), and no non-democratic state as any real reason to do so. A statement such as "Israel should make peace with..." needs to examine whether said ...s actually want peace (or even recognise Israel's right to exist). However, questioning Israel's right to exist is not legitimate. It really isn't. Not unless you are going to ask the same questions of every other country in a similar position in the world. I don't say that Israel can't be singled out for criticism - I just say that Israel can't be singled out for eradication without being anti-semitic.

Anyway, even without anti-semitic intent, the danger of anti-Israeli comment is that it is too easy to take as anti-semitic comment. Why? Because if you take the side of people with a negative attribute, you get associated with it. Whatever your motives. Many anti-immigration people avoided standing with Hanson because they didn't want to be associated with her anti-Asian statements. If you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with an anti-semite, guess what... one brush, one lot of tar.

This morning, a report was released announcing that anti-semitic incidents have been on the rise recently. Markedly. I was going to link to the story off the Today Programme this morning. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be up. Anyway, I generally like the Today Programme - they generally give everyone a hard time and ask tough questions, usually with two people from opposite sides of an argument. One of these interviewees, presumably a "Muslim leader", as he was asked questions about what Muslim leaders should do, calmly announced that there was no need for solidarity with Jews over holocaust memorial days because other people suffered genocide and these should be commemorated too.

Let's examine this point for a second: Arguably the worst case of genocide the world has ever seen, and the victims don't deserve solidarity because other groups have also been victims of genocide. What next? Sorry, but we won't comfort you at your funeral because other people have died, too. If you think a separate "Genocide awareness" day is necessary, by all means, set one up. It may be trite to say, but genocide is bad - you could make a claim for a general day as well without diminishing the feelings surrounding holocaust memorials.

And, of course, when asked about Israel, the obligatory statement...

For what it is worth, assuming sides need to be taken, I can't think of a single politico-philosophical reason why Britain, or Australia, or USA should side against Israel in any conflict with her neighbours. If anyone has any ideas, I'm sure you can work out how to send them as comments.

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