“Tunbridge Wells has a Drugs and Murder Problem”
by Gwydion M. Williams
Suppose my article title were a newspaper headline? But it turned out that both drug abuse and murder rates were lower in Tunbridge Wells than in the rest of Britain. Wouldn’t you call that dishonest?
Exactly the same dishonesty – or perhaps confusion or ignorance – is show by those who say that Labour has an anti-Semitism problem.
For those not familiar with Britain, Tunbridge Wells is famous as the archetype of respectable English identity:
“This respectable, attractive Kent town is surrounded by beautiful countryside and continues to have an air of exclusivity.”[A]
A 1963 BBC show had a comic episode called ‘Tunbridge Wells Fargo’:[B] the joke being that it was as far from the USA’s Wild West as you could find among English-speakers.
But English ‘respectability’ is not what it was. It included a silly guilt-ridden view of sex, which needed to be scrapped. Sadly, the tricky task of defining an entire new social morality that accepts homosexuality and sex outside of marriage has been slow and messy. Most people chose the quick-and-dirty option of saying that all morality was false, or at least should not be imposed against individual whims or wishes. This was a bad error. It left society way open to Thatcher’s ignorant attack on British basics that she imagined she was rescuing. Britain’s seaside towns were among those that slipped, particularly since most of the Working Mainstream can afford foreign holidays.
Being always ready to question my own assumptions, I checked whether inland Tunbridge Wells still merited its old reputation.[C] I found it was indeed low-crime compared with Kent as a whole. No separate figures for murder, but well below the Kent average for violent and sexual offences. Slightly below for drugs.
It was also easy enough to find a few shocking crimes if you Google ‘murder’ and ‘Tunbridge Wells’:
- Rough sleeper ‘set on fire and murdered’ in Tunbridge Wells
- A Tunbridge Wells man has been found guilty of murder following ‘batty boy’ argument
But you could get the same or worse, for any city or town you might wish to pick on.
It is just as untrue to say ‘Labour has an anti-Semitism problem’. It’s an example of a common media trick: create a massively false impression by selective use of facts that are not in themselves false. Murders happen in Tunbridge Wells, but it has a mild outbreak of a general British problem. Britain’s murder rate is also low globally: 183rd out of 219, 0.92 per 100,000. (Russia is 38th, 12 times the rate in Britain, so it is unreasonable to accuse its government when Russian citizens are murdered.)
Britain also has a steady decline in both murder and crime in general, quite different from the impression the media gives you.[F]
Deception by dishonest selection of facts is a clever method, and needs a special name to nail it. I’d suggest ‘Bliaring’, in honour of Tony Blair and his notorious claim that Iraq could launch ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in 15 minutes. He didn’t mention that this was battlefield poison gas, which Saddam’s Iraq had been using for years, with a deafening silence from Blair and others in the days when Saddam was a useful Cold War ally. George Galloway kept raising it and being ignored. He mended fences with Saddam to try to prevent the various Gulf Wars, from a sensible understanding that Saddam could not be removed without enormous suffering for ordinary Iraqis.
There is anti-Semitism throughout British society: but not high by global standard.
There is less of it on the left and in the Labour Party than on the right.
“A survey of anti-Semitic attitudes in Britain, published last September by the respected Institute for Jewish Policy Research — an organization with no ties to any political party — contains several findings that are worth considering amid this uproar. First: Levels of anti-Semitism in Britain are among the lowest in the world. Second: Supporters across the political spectrum manifest anti-Semitic ideas. Third: Far from this being an issue for the left, the prejudice gets worse the farther right you look. And yet, at the same time, British Jews now generally believe anti-Semitism to be a large and growing problem and have come to associate it with Labour in particular.”[G]
Labour is of course much more inclined to be anti-Zionist. People intentionally confuse the two. They are easy enough to distinguish:
- Anti-Zionism is a rejection of the creation and expansion of a Jewish state in Palestine, either in principle or as now being carried out.
- Anti-Semitism is hostility to Jews living somewhere other than Palestine. Either not wanting them in your own country, or being suspicious of them wherever they are.
Jews up to 1914 were mostly against Zionism. But World War One led to much more hostility to Jews, as nationalism everywhere got more intense. Britain also boosted it by the ambiguous promises of the Balfour Declaration. This was naturally intensified by the mass killing of Jews by Nazi Germany, a racist aim pursued at the expense of the war effort. But there were always some Jews who doubted it.
Isaac Bashevis Singer was of Polish-Jewish origin but moved to the USA in 1935, correctly fearing the rise of Nazism even though he lived in Poland. But he also noted that Polish Christians were becoming more hostile to Jews. That this was actually getting worse as people got more educated and prosperous. He wrote in Yiddish, but his works have been translated extensively into English. His 1967 work The Estate is an historic novel about late 19th Century Polish Jews. A young man wants to settle in Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire. His father disagrees.
“‘The Turks are no better than the Poles or Russians. Don’t be fooled.’
“‘I know, Papa. But it’s our country, our earth’
“‘How is it ours? Because Jews lived there two thousand years ago. Do you know how many nations have perished and assimilated since that time? If we changed the map to what it was two thousand years ago, three-quarters of mankind would have to be moved. And how does it follow that we actually come from these Israelites? The ancient Hebrews were all dark…
“‘Take American, for example, a thousand nationalities. You can become an American too. All you need is boat ticket.’
“‘All Jews cannot become Americans’.
“‘Why worry about all Jews?’”
Jews found that in practice they did need to worry about all Jews, because rising nationalism caused them to be lumped together. A publicity campaign putting more emphasis on the difference would have been useful, and still is useful. As a man of purely Welsh and West Country, and also a left-wing thinker, I found a lot of common interests with many Jews, though certainly not all Jews. Individual Jews are found in most forms of radicalism: science, art, culture, business and politics. This does not mean they are conspiring, or even particularly agree with each other. Jews in politics are mostly on the left in Continental Europe and the USA. Rather less so in Britain, where the Tory elite early on admitted some rich Jews, while prejudices lingered among the rank-and-file.
Since no one else was doing it, I’ve been writing to emphasis the differences. And how genocide was a 19th century pattern in which the British Empire was the main culprit, before it came home to Europe and Jews became a major target. (See Britain’s Exterminating Sea Empire.[H]) I’m now planning a work to be called Jews Like Boris Pasternak, Isaac Asimov and Ayn Rand: all three were of Russian-Jewish origin, but had very different outlooks.
The USA could and should have absorbed all displaced Jews. It gained in wealth, science and culture from those Jews it did let in. But it also diluted a US identity that was always an issue. The new USA began in the late 18th century with a population that was mostly of British origin, mostly Protestant and with non-whites largely excluded from citizenship. In the 1850s, the was a strong ‘Know-Nothing’ movement hostile to the arrival of large numbers of Irish and German Catholics. Kennedy as US President was the first and only Roman Catholic to occupy the office, and his religion was an issue.[I] Jews in the 1850s were not much of an issue: they became so when large numbers of East European and Russian Jews began arriving later in the 19th century. Quite a lot of them were shut out, and after World War Two the US helped create Israel as an alternative. Soviet Jews, whose right to emigrate had been demanded by the USA, were then shunted to Israel, encouraging more land to be taken from Palestinians. It is looking like a massive historic error, and a tragedy.
Copyright © Gwydion M. Williams
[G] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/06/opinion/anti-semitism-britain-labour-party.html. The study can be found at http://www.jpr.org.uk/documents/JPR.2017.Antisemitism_in_contemporary_Great_Britain.pdf
Notes [E], [F] and [H] from the printed articled now have a direct web link.