CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - A leading expert documenting anti-Semitism says anti-Semitic strains throughout British history have helped make the United Kingdom Europe's leading proponent of policies against Israel.
Hebrew University Professor Robert S. Wistrich traced the history of British anti-Semitism during a lecture in Jerusalem Monday.
A look back at the ways in which anti-Jewish sentiment is woven into the very fabric of British society clarifies how the UK has become Europe's leader of anti-Israeli policy.
"Britain has become the center point for the meeting of anti-Semitic trends in Europe," said Wistrich, whose latest work addresses global anti-Semitism.
From the expulsion of the country's Jewish population in 1290 by King Edward I, the first of its kind in Europe, Jews were banned from reentering Britain until 1656, when Oliver Cromwell allowed their return.
Wistrich pointed out that classic English literature, including works by Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens, T.S. Elliot and D. H. Lawrence -- replete with stereotypical anti-Semitic characters -- has shaped the British mindset through today.
"The authors are conveying and transmitting to a future generation an embedded anti-Semitism whose influence is impossible to underestimate," he said, adding that "English literature and culture are, in fact, drenched in anti-Semitism."
Contemporary British media mirrors the country's long anti-Jewish history.
"Under no circumstances will a Palestinian act of terrorism be referred to as a terrorist," Wistrich said. "They are militants similar to the floor-shop dispute in Liverpool whose workers have decided to go on strike," he said.
"Palestinian terrorism is portrayed as a minor pin-prick compared to 'massive' retaliation of this 'rogue' state ," he said.
"You cannot read a British newspaper without encountering a variant of the libel that Zionism is racism or Zionism is Nazism," Wistrich said.
Three other realities factor into modern British anti-Semitism:
· The country's mushrooming and increasingly radical 1.6 million Muslims
· The timidity of the Jewish community, numbering about 350,000
· The growing detachment by British Christians from a biblically based faith
"The loss of Christian identity in what was the most Bible-believing culture in its day is one of the deeper layers of what has happened here," said the professor.
Biblical references by such historic British leaders as Lord Balfour and Lloyd George would be distained today.
"You cannot speak or act that way today," Wistrich said, "or you would be considered the biggest threat to civilization as American evangelicals are."
Source: The Jerusalem Post