John Galliano – the two cultural issues

John Galliano – the two cultural issues


norman lebrecht

March 02, 2011

I went on BBC Breakfast this morning to discuss Christian Dior’s sacking of the designer John Galliano for alleged anti-semitic abuse, some of which was captured on video.

In my view, there are parallel issues at play. The fashion world cultivates transgression and excess. Galliano’s conduct was a product of that culture. In normal circumstances it would have been a three-day wonder, eclipsed by the display of his collection this Friday. However, condemnation by the Oscar-winning Natalie Portman, a Dior face, led to his summary dismissal.
This is no more than celebrity business as usual, a blip on the public attention.

My concern is that Galliano’s alleged comment reflect a wider phenomenon. It suggests something I have observed elsewhere, namely the increasing acceptability of anti-semitic abuse so long it is couched within an Israel-Palestine context. Jews are open to attack as presumed extensions of Israeli occupation policy in a way that, for example, overseas Chinese are not held responsible for Beijing’s occupation of Tibet.
That is anti-semitism, 2011 style.
Linda Grant’s reasoned and well-informed Guardian article on Galliano was pursued by a shoal of reader comment many of which were imbued with this acceptable form of racism. The Guardian, with its obsessive focus on Palestine (to the exclusion of, for instance, Tibet) has  helped foster this phenomenon. 
For the first time in my life, I am forced to recognise that anti-semitism is a living, breeding organism within supposedly multi-cultural Britain


  • Love Brandish says:

    Galliano was drunk and was ranting using words as weapons. Who knows what happened before the outburst, we were not there. He is not well and now needs our support. Time to stop kicking him. He is broken and needs help.
    NL: That’s a specious argument. If he had killed someone while driving drunk or drugged, his condition would be no excuse. It is no excuse here, either.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    “Ranting” would not havebeen considered an acceptable excuse if this were directed at Africans, for instance, and quite rightly. But it is obviously OK as regards anti-Semites.

  • Denis MacShane says:

    Ditto Julian Assange, Thilo Sarrazin, Karel de Gucht, EU Trade Commissioner. It is now OK across police European society to make antisemitic remarks as long as set in a context about Jews in Israel and their government’s policy. Talking about this in Leeds Sunday morning. My book “Globalising Hatred: the New Antisemitism” now available at low, low prices on Amazon

  • Its not just Britain. My son Daniel Taghioff lived in Sweden for some years. He eventually left and vowed never to return because of the racial prejudice he encountered there. IMHO anti-semitism is cyclic. It disappears for a while, but always returns. Re Tibet — not fair to dismiss The Guardian in this respect. I have written several Tibet-related items for The Guardian, as have others. Personally I am much more interested in Tibetan Buddhism than I am in Tibetan politics. They are a snakepit. Re Jews and Palestine. IMHO the Palestine issue is relatively close to home for Europeans. I support Israel’s right to exist, but am 100% against the settlements.

  • Tony says:

    I think it is essential to differentiate anti-semitism from expressing reasonable concern about the actions of more extreme Zionists towards Palestinians. If I find Zionists’ behaviour towards Palestinians in the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza morally unacceptable, that does not make me anti-semitic. My sentiments are shared by many Jewish friends. Apart from any other consideration, the Palestinians are also Semites.
    Far too often the Israeli government chooses to play the anti-semitic joker card in order to attempt to neutralise and silence fair-minded criticism of their belligerence towards neighbours.
    Galliano’s rant was of the anti-Jew variety and for me he deserved the punishment he received. Whether he was drunk or not he should have known much better.

  • Mark Elf says:

    Norman Lebrecht writes of “the increasing acceptability of anti-semitic abuse so long it is couched within an Israel-Palestine context”.
    And yet Galliano’s antisemitic outburst didn’t mention Israel or the Palestinians.
    I am extremely suspicious of the motive of those who try to link antisemitism to criticism of the State of Israel, especially when they don’t offer any evidence.
    Also, Norman Lebrecht says “For the first time in my life, I am forced to recognise that anti-semitism is a living, breeding organism within supposedly multi-cultural Britain”. He might not have used those words before but this is not the first time he has complained of antisemitism being widespread in the UK. He expressed surprise once that a book he wrote on a Jewish subject was well received (it may have even won a prize) “in the current climate”. What was that supposed to mean?

  • Mark Elf says:

    I should have mentioned further that Galliano’s antisemitic outburst was not considered acceptable – far from it. He got the sack and has been pilloried in the media. Good thing, I reckon.