Anti-Semitism Within British Literary Circles

David Pryce-Jones, a senior editor at National Review, writes about his early life and some experiences as the literary editor for The Spectator. Even as a boy, he found that his Jewish heritage was the greatest stumbling block for those around him.

Hannah Arendt’s reportage on the Eichmann trial was published in October 1963, and Iain Hamilton agreed that I should review it. It took a very special type of intellectual to hold that banality was a word applicable to this man’s commitment to mass-murder. Cross-questioning had brought out his singular and sinister absence of human feelings. When she blamed Jewish officials for carrying out orders given by Eichmann and his staff, she revealed her inability to imagine the reality of Nazism. She excelled in passing moral judgments about events too frightful to be so simplified, and which in any case she had not lived through herself.

The Spectator’s owner, Ian Gilmour, had been in Oliver Van Oss’s house at Eton, though he had left before I arrived. A member of parliament, he was supposed to be an open-minded progressive Conservative, eventually earning the sobriquet “wet” when he was in Mrs. Thatcher’s cabinet. His resentment of Jews was obsessive, ignorant, and snobbish. I heard him inveighing against the Gaon of Vilna about whom he knew nothing, and he had an obsessive wish to attack the writings of James Parkes, a clergyman with a scholarly interest in Judaism and Israel. Jews, Gilmour believed like any Blackshirt or Islamist, by their nature conspire to do harm to other people, and to Palestinian Arabs in particular. A day was to come when he would post bail for two Palestinians who had tried to blow up the Israeli embassy. The strain of talking to me drained the blood from his face, tightening muscular striations and grimaces in his cheeks that became suddenly chalk-white.

This low-level distaste runs down many channels, poisoning writers and readers alike, calling for an adequate answer. Why do so many dislike, if not openly hate, the Jews? I can only think of a theological answer, that mankind, having been born in a state of rebellion against God, naturally rejects the mark of God still apparent on the Jewish people.

Anti-Semitism, like racism and other forms of hatred for our fellow men, never go away completely. Pryce-Jones asks, “Who knows how many millions like [Harold Pinter] did not have the information or the intelligence to realize that they were caught by propaganda, repeating smears that other more artful people wanted them to repeat?” (via Prufrock News)

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