I have never written for the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph and I don't share much of its politics. But if, like me, you have always been fascinated by the news, and remember yourself reading newspapers from the time you learned to read, then you'll also share fond memories of the daily paper your parents bought.
That first newspaper where, in the pre-Internet era, you leafed through to check the football scores, followed the earliest election campaign you can remember, and where, for the first time, you deciphered a headline. In my case, I was five, and it was the report of the signing of the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt.
If you didn't grow up in a Telegraph-reading home, you may not understand why after all these years, I still feel something vaguely reassuring whenever I'm in Britain to pick up a copy of its ridiculously massive broadsheet edition. It still has those small-c conservative values, the "glamour" photos of beauties in demure summer frocks and the obituaries of RAF squadron-leaders who flew in the Battle of Britain.
Yes, I know it's hopelessly out of step with today's Britain and probably already was all those years ago when I first read it, but it's harmless nostalgia, interspersed with the occasional specimen of first-class journalism. Or so I thought until Thursday morning, when the Daily Telegraph ran an anti-Semitic main headline.
To understand what was anti-Semitic about it, first bear in mind that it had nothing to do with the Jews as a collective or with Israel. It dealt with an individual Jew, the financier George Soros, and didn't identify him as such.
But two words in the headline - "Secret Plot" - said it all. Mr Soros is, of course, the Hungarian-born 87 year-old American billionaire whose philanthropic foundation has funded various political causes around the world. The Telegraph was taking him to task for donating 400,000 euros to a campaign trying to prevent Britain from leaving the European Union.
The problem with the piece wasn't anything actually written in it. It was a collection of facts, most of them already well known, about Soros and his support for the anti-Brexit cause.
However, there is no secret plot, and Soros is not the only, or even the largest, funder of what is a very public campaign to try and reverse, by legal and democratic means, the result of Britain's EU referendum.
There is no reason to accuse the authors of the piece or the editors of the Daily Telegraph of having anything against Jews themselves, save for the fact that they just echoed in a blaring headline at the top of their front page the very essence of anti-Semitism: That powerful global forces are conspiring behind the scenes to undermine the national will of sovereign nations, and those directing these forces are almost always members of a specific tribe.
The lead Telegraph story, jointly penned by Theresa May's ex-chief of staff, alleges a conspiracy led by George Soros against Brexit. It uses a smear campaign by Hungary's dictatorship as evidence.— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) February 7, 2018
Call it out for what it is: dog-whistle anti-Semitism.https://t.co/KcRGS6ErCW pic.twitter.com/bfxfCMOQGJ
This is not about Soros. He is just the current hate-figure. It's not about the Daily Telegraph, which is only the latest once proud institution to be infected by the latest strain of the virus. It's not even about Brexit, though the resentment which motivated 52 percent of the British electorate to carry out a national act of self-harm and the furies it is still unleashing, are important. But yesterday's headline is a worrying indication of just how far the epidemic is spreading.
I'm not an anti-Semitism alarmist. The periodical reports on a rise in verbal and physical attacks on Jews should not be dismissed out of hand, but even their authors, if they're responsible, will admit that the rising statistics are to a large degree the result of better reporting, more awareness and the fact that most anti-Semitism today is the kind you see magnified online.
At no time in history have the Jews been as strong, prosperous and better-positioned to confront their haters. Neither have we ever had so many allies willing to stand by us. The sewer of hatred on Facebook and Twitter is not new by any means, and we shouldn't be shocked just because the underground stream of poison has been exposed for public viewing on social media. It was always there, and in the past was much worse. The Cossacks aren't coming to burn our homes and if they ever do come again, we'll be ready, and this time we won't run.
This is not about the Jews. The anti-Semitic tone invading Western political discourse is a sign of the illness in political movements and entire societies. It may end up directly harming Jews, but not necessarily. In this case the illness manifested in a right-wing publication, but in British politics it is evident in the last couple of years more widely on the left; in Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, which has attracted all manner of Judeophobes.
And the same is true today of most Western political cultures. The conspiracy theories of globalist bankers utilizing mainstream media and corrupt neoliberal politicians to serve their selfish sinister purposes, rather than those of ordinary people, are identical whether from left or right.
And on either side, most of the theorists will never admit to being anti-Semitic. They are just "anti-racist" or "anti-imperialist" if on the left, or "pro-Israel" on the right. And most of them really believe they have nothing against Jews, even while parroting themes straight out of the Protocols.
Glad we are finally talking about the influence of George Soros. Time to wake up. https://t.co/2yxrJP7Lxd— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) February 8, 2018
The sickness is so pervasive that it has infected many Jews as well. Benjamin Netanyahu joined the anti-Soros chorus this week when, on Sunday he blamed him, baselessly, for funding the campaign against the deportation of African refugees from Israel.
But why blame just Netanyahu? Jews are immune nowhere. From the Jewish supporters of Corbyn, who are shielding their Holocaust-denying colleagues, to the Jewish officials in Trump's White House, and the Jewish writers and editors at Breitbart. And of course there many Jewish Brexiteers rushing to defend The Daily Telegraph.
One of the main hubs propagating the conspiracy myths is the Kremlin, under Vladimir Putin, who is without a doubt the most philosemitic leader in Russian history. Putin is a great admirer and friend of many Jews and there is no shortage of sycophantic Chabad rabbis and radical Jewish journalists eager to lionize him and join in with the conspiracists.
After all, anti-Semitism does not have to be about hating all Jews, very often it is about hating just the wrong sort of Jews, be they Zionists, progressives or globalists. You just have to choose your conspiracy.
Sure, there are still some good old-fashioned anti-Semites who hate all the Jews. You can easily spot them from afar, feverishly tweeting away in their parents’ basements. But we live in egalitarian times: Jews, too, are more than welcome to join in the "enlightened" anti-Semitism of the 21st century.