This article was published on the Dale&Co. website
The Beast is Back
30 November 2011
It just won’t go away will it? Next year Verso will publish a book by the French intellectual Alain Badiou, a professor at the heart of the Paris intellectual establishment in the École Normale, which argues that anti-semitism is an invented concept created by Zionists to justify oppression of Palestinians.
But what would he make of the statement by a prominent British pro-Palestinian activist, Stuart Littlewood, who has just written of Britain’s Ambassador in Israel, Matthew Gould, that “Many will feel it is intolerable for a Christian country like Britain to be represented by a Jew.” I first came across Mr Gould when he was the preferred wordsmith of Robin Cook, no mean scribbler himself. Cook recognised a good writer which are far more rare in the Foreign Office and in Whitehall than might be thought.
I did not know that Gould was Jewish because when you work with people you do not start, at least in the England I grew up in, by checking a person’s religion. I don’t ask if a British friend who clearly comes from the sub-continent is Muslim or Hindu, and unless he is wearing a turban, I cannot work out if someone is a Sikh.
But Mr Littlewood clearly believes that his (Christian) Britain should not have a Jew as an Ambassador. Gould is Ambassador to Israel just as the excellent diplomat Francis Campbell who didn’t quite finish training as a priest was a first-rate Ambassador to the Vatican. In 2011 are we really saying Jews cannot be diplomats in Israel or Catholics diplomats at the Holy See or, as in the case of Sir Michael Pakenham, a brilliant ambassador to catholic Poland.
I was proud to see the first Muslim ambassador appointed to a European country when I was Minister for Europe. I am tempted to say that some of my best friends are Ambassadors and I have no idea which of them are Jewish. I can think of one or two I know to be Jews and one of two I think may be Jewish but I don’t care and don’t want to care.
But it appears to matter to Mr Littlewood and he seems to believe that “Many will feel it is intolerable” that Jews can be Ambassadors. It mattered to Oliver Miles, himself a former Ambassador to Libya, who protested that a Jew, Sir Martin Gilbert, was sitting on the Chilcott inquiry. Sir Martin is one of our greatest historians and his account of the Dardenelles inquiry into that first world war folly, more than justifies his presence on the Chilcott inquiry.
At the Oxford University Conservative Association last month a student sang a ditty about killing Jews in the Holocaust. At St Andrews University earlier this year two members of the Palestine Solidarity campaign burst into the room of a Jewish student from New York, called him a “Nazi”, urinated in his sink and ripped a Star of David off the wall to wipe their genitals.
For M Badiou, these are just exuberant expressions of solidarity with the suffering Palestinians. I think that is rot. Anti-semitism is here, there and where you would never expect it. I hope the FCO appoints its Ambassadors because they can serve the nation well. If they wear, a kippur, go to mass, or take their prayer mats with them is none of our business.