Tuesday, October 12, 2004

An American in London Wow. This is pretty horrifying about anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism in England. The point is it didn't start with Bush.

The paradox is that we have Islamic extremists in our midst in Britain preaching all manner of mayhem and holding ‘festivals’ to celebrate the ‘magnificent nineteen of September 11th.’ In 1998, when I was producing a documentary about the three monotheistic faiths, I filmed with ease at the local church and synagogue. When it came time to film at the mosque, my cameraman, a Libyan, beseeched me to stay at home, as I would be ‘killed’ if I came to the London central mosque on a Friday. He explained that ‘the crazies’ came out in force on the Sabbath and that if they realized I was American there would be an incident that would reverberate as strongly as the killing of Yvonne Fletcher in April, 1984 outside the Libyan Embassy. He begged me to stay away and I did. It was the first time I had ever stayed away from my own production shoot. Throw your minds back, dear reader, to that date: 1998. There was no wall in Israel and no Intifada. Bill Clinton was President and there were no neo-cons to blame for the Gulf’s ills. But event then, the hatred of America and of Jews was already a palpable force in British life.

There are some 260,000 Jews in Britain and more than two million Muslims, but at dinner parties all one hears about is the ‘birthplace of terror, Menachem Begin’s Israel’ and the ‘world’s number one terrorist state, the United States.’ Last November when President Bush visited the United Kingdom and London’s Mayor, Ken Livingstone, boycotted the State Banquet, ordinary folk gathered in Trafalgar Square to burn and stomp on the Stars and Stripes.

Here is what I perceive as the explanation: Europe has always been a seething hotbed of anti-Semitism. England, sadly, has the distinction of being the very first country to expel its Jews and initiate the Blood Libel. The Jews were not allowed back into England until the time of Cromwell and feel to this day that they worship by the grace of the Sovereign. It is impossible to convey to Americans inside the United States, or to American Jews, the open loathing of both groups that dominates daily life outside the United States today. What is so disturbing to me is that I am no longer accepted at face value in my daily encounters. If the media set out some years ago -- even before Bush 43 -- to turn the public against America and Israel, they have done a magnificent job. I have stopped counting the number of unfair accusations hurled at both nations in the course of a day on the airwaves or in the print media. Long ago I stopped wearing a flag pin (how wonderful to be able to wear one as I walk down a Philadelphia street without fearing for my life). Just the other day I had a tongue-lashing from an old acquaintance about the ‘appalling flags the Americans put outside their homes, like Nazis all over again.’

UPDATE: A lot of people are calling bullshit on this story, or at least claiming she exaggerates the situation. I don't know. It could be since she is in theater she runs into a different sort of person who is more likely to be anti-American but most people say they haven't seen what she describes.


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