Thursday, December 23, 2010

Can a Jew be racist about another Jew?

A British journalist you've never heard of called Christina Patterson has written a piece expressing outrage that she has ended up on the Wiesenthal Centre's list of Top 10 Anti-Semitic Slurs of 2010, for an article she wrote in late July complaining that her Chassidic neighbours in the London neighbourhood of Stamford Hill weren't nice to her. I'm not sure why she's so surprise, because her piece was one of the nastiest things I've read all year.

You can read what I thought at the time here and - considering her main accusation of Jewish racism - here. And for effective responses to Patterson's column today, try Oy Va Goy and Robyn Rosen at the JC. There's not much to add, other than that I think the Wiesenthal Centre was extremely generous to include an Independent hack amongst its list of mostly genuinely important people. Really, she should be flattered.

But there is one point on which I would like to set Ms Patterson straight. Her main defence in her piece today seems to be that Jews -- or as she actually put it, "people called Solomon, Symons or Greenfeld" (!!) -- have written in supporting her. First of all, I'd love to know exactly what they were supporting. They may have had a think or two to say about Charedi manners, but did they also support her comments on, for example, not subjecting children to the "crazed whims" of their parents, who want to teach their children about their Jewish heritage and the Bible? Or is she just assuming they supported every word she wrote?

But even if they did, the fact is that even had a Jew actually written Ms Patterson's original article, that would not make it any less intolerant, biased or nasty. In the Jewish community as well, there is plenty of ignorance, hatred and fear of the Charedim. They are as alien to most Jews as to anyone else, and more threatening - because some of their practices and habits have the potential to impact the rest of us. And so it is not unusual to hear nasty, biased and yes - racist - comments directed at Charedim coming from the Jewish community itself.

So, Ms Patterson, please take note. Just because some Jews agree with you does not mean that the Wiesenthal Centre has it wrong. Maybe you should go back and re-read your column.

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