‘I hate f-—ing Jews!’ screeched one dinner guest, his face contorted in rage only millimetres in front of mine. It was quite an unexpected spray; delivered with the added impetus of several large droplets of beer-flavoured spittle landing on my face. I instinctively recoiled, from the phlegm as much as the intensity of the sentiment. I’ve always believed that free speech means you may permit such vile comments to be expressed, but if you do not share them it is your duty to counter them, or at least to attempt to, no matter how belligerent the tone of your interlocutor.
But beware. The cost of tackling such prejudice will not only ruin the evening, it often destroys the friendship as well.
Greg Sheridan recently identified the sickening rise of anti-Semitism throughout the world, and broke it down into three distinct strands; official Arab denigration of Jews and Israel, the re-emergence of old-fashioned Nazi anti-Semitism in Europe and the modern Left’s energetic attempts to delegitimise all things Jewish/Israeli. As Sheridan pointed out: ‘Several currents of this noxious, moral poison are operating simultaneously.’
With respect to Mr Sheridan, I’d like to add a fourth stream to his list: dinner party anti-Semitism.
Dinner party anti-Semitism crosses all political boundaries, age groups, geographical and socio-economic divides, and is just as likely to occur in a trendy inner-city restaurant, at a western suburbs barbeque or within the elegant confines of a plush North Shore dining room.
Here is a brief guide on how to spot it, and how to be prepared.
Firstly, don’t be Jewish. The typical Dinner Party Anti-Semite (DPAS) has an uncanny knack for spotting Jews (I met an extremely creepy bloke in Turkey once who boasted he could ‘smell’ Jews) and will hesitate to reveal his or her true colours if, for instance, one of the dinner party guests recently returned from a trip to Tel Aviv. Often, if the DPAS isn’t quite sure as to the genealogical and ethnic make-up of fellow diners, they will set a few booby traps to check. ‘Can you believe it? George Brandis declaring Australia won’t call East Jerusalem “occupied”? What a disgrace,’ is the sort of burley that can be tossed onto conversational waters to see if there are any Jews present. Or: ‘Wasn’t it despicable how as soon as the Pope leaves the Middle East they start building more settlements?’
Note the canny use of the word ‘they’; a dead give-away of the presence of a DPAS. ‘They’? Does your guest mean Zionists? Jews? Israelis? Settlers? Reform? Orthodox? Ultra-Orthodox? Lubavitch? Kibbutzniks? Successful dinner party anti-Semitism relies on the ability to discreetly blend these diverse groups into one unpalatable whole.
Secondly, check how much grog has already been consumed. The typical DPAS is pretty good at keeping their thoughts in check during the sober parts of the evening, but as inhibitions slowly fall away, the desire to tell the world what they really think of the Jews increases diametrically.
Thirdly, be prepared to commit. Once you have shown that you do not share your fellow diner’s disdain for Jews, he or she will redouble their efforts to convince you of the iniquity of this race/tribe/people/cabal/government/religion/conspiracy.
A typical discussion with a DPAS involves a bizarre dance of seven veils, where as soon as you think you have revealed what is really troubling them, that particular prejudice is whisked away and replaced with another. Always, the hatred tries to dress itself in prettier clothes.
Concern for the ‘plight’ of the Palestinians is a fave, although no such concern, apparently, is necessary for those whose lives are a living hell in the rest of the Arab world. Contempt for the ‘apartheid’ of the West Bank and Gaza is another, allowing the DPAS to draw fatuous comparisons with South Africa. A sickening and utterly false moral comparison between the Nazis and modern Israeli soldiering techniques is another. Even circumcision gets thrown into the mix.
Don’t even bother trying to point out that successive Israeli governments have offered virtually the entire West Bank back to the Palestinians if only — is it really such a big ask? — they remove the bits in their charter calling for the annihilation of the Jews. Your DPAS isn’t remotely interested.
Mercifully, these days you rarely hear intelligent people rant on about ‘abos’, ‘niggers’ or ‘slopes’ during a polite dinner, but I’ve lost count of the number of times a perfectly pleasant social occasion has seen some idiot launch into an equally irrational attack on Jews. I normally respond by attempting to engage in some form of debate, on the basis that it is best to counter such beliefs with argument and persuasion. Sadly, the deeper one wades into such rants, the more treacherous Mr Sheridan’s currents become, and the conviviality of the evening gets swept away in a tide of bile.
Invariably, there reaches a point where the DPAS comes out with something that is so ludicrous, so grotesque or so wrong-headed that it’s time to call for a cab.
Intelligence is irrelevant. One such conversation I was a party to, with a woman who was completing her Masters at Sydney University, concluded on her absurd claim that: ‘There must be something wrong with the Jews. Otherwise why would so many civilisations have tried to wipe them out?’
This concept defied any rational response. (If you can think of a good one, let me know!) The conversation had begun quite innocently, as they always do. But then comes the inevitable muttered comment, heavy sigh or rolling of eyeballs, usually at some innocuous mention of Israel, the Middle East or something (or somebody) Jewish.
Another dinner party debate, at a friend’s birthday in a restaurant, turned ugly when it descended into a lengthy and passionate debate by an otherwise engaging and intelligent bloke in which — forgive me if I don’t get this quite right, but I think I’ve got the gist of it — the Jews engineered the GFC in order to drive up the price of gold in order to cover up the fact that they brought down the twin towers in order to bankrupt America in order to create a banking monopoly in order to bring on an attack on Iran in order to fulfil the Old Test…
‘Your cab’s here, sir.’
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