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Dinner party anti-Semitism

Even otherwise intelligent and normal people will often reveal their hatred over a few glasses of wine

14 June 2014

9:00 AM

14 June 2014

9:00 AM

‘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.’

‘Thank God.’

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Show comments
  • Sam Chafe

    I haven’t had quite the same experience as Rowan Dean, as the friends I associate
    with are much less overt in their predilections. However, I suspect what their
    sentiment is by the occasional oblique statement and, of course, if they are
    left wing, by their defense of the Palestinians and the criticism of Israeli
    ‘expansionism”. It does no good to defend Israel as the only democracy in the
    Middle East, nor present the obvious fact that the Jews, despite their
    comparatively small numbers, have made disproportionately large contributions to
    the Arts, Science and Business, and are, as a whole, truly productive members of
    western society. The puzzle as to why they are reviled by some has existed
    throughout the ages, and as far as I know, no one has gotten close to the
    reason. The best we can do is defend them as a tenaciously committed people and
    celebrate the enormous contributions they have made.

  • Richard Samulis

    Tenaciousness is the right word. I did business for many years in Israel, and found Jews to be highly intelligent and always seeking the extract the max from any situation. It was the continual ‘yes but’ that sent many of my colleagues crazy. But it was this tenaciousness that led to superior business outcomes for all parties involved, and often in very unexpected (by me) ways. As a people, I found them to be the ultimate rationalists, highly honorable, and with the greatest respect for all parties including their opponents, and they earned my deepest respect and affection. Their ability to achieve and make progress is second to none, and way above most. In my experience prejudice against Jews is often rooted in resentment at uncomprehended success.

  • Shimon

    Re the Masters student at Sydney Uni, one might have responded: “There must be something wrong with women; why else would men keep raping them, beating them and denying them positions of authority?”

  • Linda Fisher

    This is actually an ettiquette problem. Dinner guests shouldn’t discuss religion or politics and the host or hostess should pay attention when a guest shouts at another guest.

    The suggestion that antisemitism (a phenomenon which is defined in the dictionary) is either logical or acceptable can receive the response, “There’s really no reason to justify antisemitism. Tell me more about your classes at University.” Don’t let anyone define the issue for you. When hatred of Jews (or others) is expressed be prepared with a reply. Then change the subject. You can’t win a debate during the length of one dinner and it will ruin your appetite.

    In addition, a friend who cares more for the feelings of anonymous Palestinians than he does for his “friend” is not a friend.

    • cba

      I think your response is worth trying* but I don’t know how successful it would be; Jew-haters are remarkably single-minded.

      *I would just suggest a small amendment: use “Jew-hatred” or “anti-Jewish bigotry” instead of “antisemitism” because in many cases the haters will say something like “Arabs are Semites too” (and there’s NO point explaining to them the etymology).

  • whs1954

    ‘‘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!)

    A retort, rather than an answer: “You’ve just spent the evening telling me how beastly the Jews are to the Palestinians. By the same token there must be something wrong with the Arabs, or why would the Jews be so awful towards them as you claim?”

  • Hard Little Machine

    My response is to call their bluff and do them one better with a simple “Oh yes I agree with you we should exterminate them all everywhere like the cockroaches they are…”

    And then watch them either agree, stare at their shoes or splutter.

  • harry freedman

    great article
    I attended a dinner party some years ago with some close friends around the time that the terrorists were firing hundreds of rockets into southern Israel. one of the dinner guests ( whom I would define as a left wing jew self hater) commented that it was inappropriate for the Israelis to go into gaza and after all no one was harmed and Israeli targets ought to just put up with it.
    I was so outraged and unable to gather my thoughts, that all I could do was to pick up a bread roll, and tear off little pieces and throw them at this woman.
    her reaction was unsurprisingly predictable; ” how dare you do that!!!!”, you have no right, stop it, you are committing an assault etc etc
    I responded by saying, ” you have up set me”, its not hurting you, why should I stop?
    after her husband started to threaten me, and my lovely host and hostess had no idea what to do or say, of course I stopped, having felt I had made my point.
    havent been invited back since tho….what can you do?

    • La Fold

      Good work fella.
      Along similar lines someone I know put up on facebook some of those pictures of “dead palestinian” children which turned out to be faked (again) with the following lines “These are the pictures the Americans and the Jews dont want you to see!!!”
      Which I replied to with “Which you have just posted on an website based in America…. and owned by a guy called Zuckerberg!”

  • Robert

    @Sam Chafe: “The puzzle as to why they are reviled by some has existed
    throughout the ages, and as far as I know, no one has gotten close to the
    reason.” I think there is a reasonable explanation. But in order to find it, we must go back to the 1st and 2nd century of the C.E. The history of Judaism is awfully complicated and it is easy to get lost in details and learned arguments not relevant to this current and ardent question. The University of Jabne and the Rabbinic Judaism which was created there is a start in an attempt to explain the modern antisemitism. Here is a super-simplified version:

    The University, under the leadership of Gamaliel, accepted the Roman request to cease proselytizing in exchange for safe practice of the other tenets of the Judaic religion. The new Sekt calling themselves Mineans and also Christians considered this compromise a betrayal of the “true” religion and opposed it vehemently, showing themselves prepared to die for their belief. The Jewish establishment, much less prepared for sacrifice, practically excommunicated the Mineans, facilitating their persecution by the Romans as enemies of the Empire’s internal order. They attracted thus the hatred of the Christian Sekt which one can consider the preservers of the traditional Jewish beliefs. As it happens, the Christian Sekt grew and by the 4th century became the official Religion of the Empire. They preserved the hatred for their former religion fellows, a hatred which was by now codified in the Gospels, raised to the level of legendary righteousness and constituted a fundamental tenet of the new faith. It is this hatred, spurred on by the various Christian denominations for a variety of changing economic and political reasons that has maintained, reinforced and spread antisemitism well beyond its initial understandable roots.
    There is not much literature spelling this out and I suspect that there are powerful interests which suppress any such thinking. Lyon Feuchtwanger’s Josephus Flavius trilogy is one of the rare examples. It is incumbent upon the various Christian denominations to start dispelling this harmful belief. But how can they do it without rattling the very foundations of their religion? Not easy, for sure. Nevertheless some enlightened popes started the process. Let us see where that will lead and how much more persecution the Jews will have to suffer before the absurdity of the charge of killing Jesus and its application as a collective guilt subsides. I am not holding my breath.

    • Sam Chafe

      thanks to 1077 for his/her erudite explanation, but it really is astonishing
      that an expulsion of a small sect of Christian precursors has produced the
      enmity which has lasted some two millennia and flourishes yet today.
      Regrettably, I share 1077’s doubt that we will see it end soon. Although
      rationality doesn’t seem to make much progress, perhaps widely publicising the
      ancient causes of anti-semitism may allay the concerns and biases of

      • 1077

        Yes, small events can have very big consequences when circumstances are right. It is a natural phenomenon which has been studied extensively as the “butterfly effect” in chaos theory. Much as this can be construed as heresy, the success of Christianity is a result of randomness in a true Darwinian sense. There were many sects at the time and there have been even more since then. A few persisted, most did not. Just think of Islam or of the Latter Day Saints to name only two that have been successful.

        Wide publicity of ideas like the one I am espousing here is unlikely to happen because of very strongly entrenched interests to preserve the status-quo in this respect. It would take real selfless idealism by individuals who have attained a high level of success to do it. Very few of those are thus inclined… assuming that they are intelligent or caring enough to even think of such issues.

        Thanks for the compliment Sam but erudite is a bit over-the-top. Somewhat well read and willing to use a modest amount of personal judgment may be more appropriate.

  • David Michaels

    When you order a cab on such occasions, you should order it in the name of the DPAS!

  • sasboy

    How sad and ironic is it that many Jewish people complain about hostility towards their people while glossing over Israeli crimes against the Palestinians people and banalise the suffering of Palestinians over the past sixty years as a result of Israeli oppression.

    The use of Palestinian suffering as plight in inverted commas is a case in point. If you want people to show sensitivity towards your sentiments, you sometimes have to show sensitivity towards the suffering and sentiments of other people, something that is lost on Zionists.

    • La Fold

      You are aware that not all Israelis are Jews not all Israelis are Jews dont you? What about all the Israeli Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Atheists? Do their counterparts in other countries have to put up with abuse because of Israel as well?

    • RaymondDance

      This is an interesting example of anti-semitism at work. Sasboy probably knows that the ‘Israeli crimes against the Palestinians’ fade into total insignificance when set against what was done to Jews in the Arab world during the fifty years prior to the foundation of the state of Israel and since. But of course, those mass murders and dispossessions don’t count, do they, because the victims were Jews. And Jews are worth less than other people, eh sasboy?

  • andrewalcock

    Anti-Semitism is not okay at a dinner party or elsewhere. Stigmatising a person because s/he is a Jew by ethnic or religious background, in my opinion, is not acceptable behaviour.
    However, some people who have entered this discussion, make the mistake that if one is critical of the way the state of Israel has treated the Palestinians, then they are being anti-Semitic is incorrect.
    In fact, there are Jewish religious groups that were started solely for the purpose of recognising the human rights of the Palestinians to have their own state without having illegal settlement on their land; the huge dividing wall being erected across their territory; military checkpoints, harassment and attacks; the blockade of Gaza etc
    This is an issue of basic human rights and one that many “Righteous Jews” recognise – just as during WW2, there were many “Righteous Gentiles” – ie courageous non Jewish people who risked their lives to save Jews, gypsies, unionists and other victims from the Nazis.
    This is not a right or left issue; it is a matter of humanity.

  • Apple Orchard

    I got exactly this in a history tutorial when I was at Macquarie Uni. A sour-faced girl who had never had anything to contribute to anything till that moment pipes up sullenly, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. There must be something wrong with the Jews if everyone hates them so much”… inviting the agreement of all right-minded people…. I was too gobsmacked to retort with the obvious “Try this idea: There must be something terrible and cruel and vicious about Christians that they keep trying to exterminate other less powerful peoples. Now do you know how it feels”. The gutless wonder of a lecturer who was supposed to be a doyen of anti-racism let her comment go straight to the keeper. O Macquari Uni in the 90’s – a rats nest of trendy left antisemitism.