A US conductor faces down rising English anti-semitism

A US conductor faces down rising English anti-semitism


norman lebrecht

February 12, 2019

Joshua Weilerstein, artisti director of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, lives in London and can see the changes that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has permitted in its attitude to one particular minority. Here’s his impression:

I’ve lived in the UK now for one year. A year in which the occurrence of Anti-Semitic hate crimes rose by 16%. Not entirely coincidentally, it was a year where the leader of one of the two major political parties refused again and again to condemn openly anti-Semitic statements from within his own party.

Don’t forget that the Jewish people in your life are a minority as well. Don’t forget that we live with our own traumas, having been chased around the world for 2000 years and nearly annihilated just 75 years ago. It often starts with tropes and stereotypes about Jews and money.

I have no love for the Israeli government and I’m hoping against hope that the election this April will end the reign of Netanyahu. The Israeli government, AIPAC, and the cynical use of Israel by the religious right in the US is all open for criticism, but please notice when that criticism slips into anti-semitism, whether intentional or not.

Over the last few years, a remarkable transformation has taken place where the voices of minorities are being heard in a way that they haven’t in decades. Everyone has been challenged to listen, to learn, and to understand the perspectives and traumas that minority groups live with every day. Don’t forget that Jewish people live with traumas as well, and please listen if they tell you that anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism.

Obviously Jews don’t speak as a bloc – and I bet there will be many disagreements with specific instances where anti-Semitism has been alleged. And too often, ANY criticism of the Israeli government is immediately accused of being anti-Semitic, which is obviously not the case. But language matters, and if anti-Semitic dogwhistles and tropes are mainstreamed, then we are in big trouble, with no chance of moving forward and finding solutions together.


  • Jessica says:

    Kudos to Weilerstein for saying what needs to be said, by as many voices as possible.

    • Luigi Nonono says:

      No one but an Israeli has any right to criticize Israel. Look after your own community.

      • V.Lind says:

        Absolute tosh. No government is beyond criticism. Those that can’t be criticised have a long history of nastiness. The fact that Israel’s can be — and critics are not always right, any more than they are always wrong — shows it is still operating in the world community, even if some do not agree with its every move.

        Most of us have plenty to criticise in our own communities, and we do so, and they sometimes do things better as a result.

      • Others have the right to criticize Israel, but when they do, it would be nice if they did so in an informed, fact-based manner, instead of basing their criticism on what “everyone knows,” or on what they’re certain *must* be so.

  • Tom Moore says:

    thanks for publishing this.

  • Alan K says:

    What a fool. So confessing his dislike of the current Israeli government is going to appease the likes of viscous anti-Semites like Corbyn? Not bloody likely!

  • FS60103 says:

    A headline that would be greatly improved by use of the word “British” rather than “English”. Corbynite racism is equally virulent in Wales and Scotland. It’s intrinsic to his particular brand of socialism, wherever it takes root.

  • Adrienne says:

    “A year in which the occurrence of Anti-Semitic hate crimes rose by 16%.”

    Elephant in the room?

  • James says:

    I agree with the gist of what he says, but since he makes political comments I will just say that the demonising of AIPAC is also beloved of anti-Semites. They are a powerful lobby group but not the most powerful – according to Sir Christopher Meyer’s book about his stint as Britain’s ambassador to Washington, the most powerful lobby group by far is the Irish. Yet nobody whispers about ‘the Irish conspiracy’, do they? Nor should they. Lobby groups are part of government – AIPAC does nothing shady that I have ever seen. It doesn’t endorse political candidates and it doesn’t fund their campaigns etc. It strives to be a-party political (their last conference was all about reaching out to both Dems and Repubs). If it looks out for Israel’s interests and its continuing good relationship with the US, well, that’s what it’s there for.

    • MacroV says:

      A key difference with the Irish lobby – which is unquestionably strong – is that there is no U.S. organization I am aware of that claims to be the primary – perhaps even the only “legitimate” – voice for American supporters of Ireland.

  • Adrian says:

    The current rise of virulent anti-Semitism is appearing in many places throughout Europe and in North America. The UK has not been spared, but it is still far from being the worst of the lot.
    Are people aware that in France anti-Semitic acts increased by 74% in 2018? While the 16% increase in the UK is reason for concern, the French situation is extremely worrying. Hardly a day goes by in France without some brutal anti-Semitic attack or comment by well-known and popular French personalities. Couple this with the horrible situation in France concerning the ‘yellow vest’ movement and the violence that has wreaked havoc week after week in French cities everywhere and one can quickly see that France is a nation in very big trouble. France has always been an anti-Semitic country and a country where racism and hate of the “other” have long been obvious, but it has now reached dangerous levels. It is a society that is imploding and nobody can say with any assurance where this will lead the country. It doesn’t look good. France has become a tragic and sad place that only gets worse and worse.

  • Dennis says:

    So long as self-hating Western Europe persists in turning a blind-eye to creeping Islamisation and continues to import unassimilable Muslim populations, anti-Semitism will continue to rise, as it has been for many years now.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    Once again, a “well-meaning” Jew sabotages his own people, perpetuating the false notion that Israel is open to constant attack by criticism, and pretending it’s government is indefensible. He should keep his mouth shut. We don’t need another Barenboim.

  • Donna Perlmutter says:


  • Donna Perlmutter says:


  • Bruckner says:

    Unfortunately antisemitism is deeply rooted in British society but even more so now with Corbyn taking over the Labor party. Anyone who spent some time in SOAS university of London even in the early 90’s would recognize that. Nowadays an Israeli cannot probably enter the building and remain unscathed. In addition to the extreme unrealstic leftist perceptions of the Corbynites, British antisemitism akso derives from the romantic fascination with the orient and the class system. But Corbyn obviously set new records.

  • Bravo Josh for speaking out on this! It is of course also a problem in America

  • Mark says:

    I just love it how desperate he is to establish his credentials as a card-carrying member of the “enlightened left” – he finds this pesky Israeli government so distasteful, and these evil AIPAC machinators and their right-wing enablers are positively yuckie.
    “I am one of the good, well-behaved, oh-so-liberal Hebrews, I celebrate diversity, believe in 12 genders and 25 sexual orientations, and am willing to throw climate change deniers off the nearest cliff (because burinng them would definitely contribute to global warming). SO WHY, OH WHY DO THEY HATE MEEEEEEEE !”

    Here is the general idea, “maestro” – they hate you for being a Jew, liberal or conservative, tall or short, fat or thin, Zionist or anti-Zionist.

    When the same hypocrites who are completely blind to the terrible outrages perpetrated by the Muslim countries, or China, or Russia, put every decision made by the Israeli government under a microscope, can’t you really guess what their motivation is ?
    Furthermore, have you actually bothered informing yourself about the actions of the Israeli government and the daily challenges faced by Israel, and not just lazily swallowing the biased drivel served up by the New York Times ?

    And if you think that should (G-D forbid !!!) Israel be replaced with “Palestine” tomorrow, these Jew-hating animals would fall in love with you, I have a couple of bridges to offer you at a substantial discount.

    It’s not about “finding solutions together”, it’s about fighting for your people. It’s a war, not an academic dispute, and Jews don’t have the luxury of internal discord.

    • Robert Groen says:

      Which leaves one question unanswered: Why do YOU think there are peope who hate all Jews, thin, fat, ugly or pretty, tall or short, etc etc?

  • Stephen Diviani says:

    Whilst anti-Semitism is hardly unique to one country – look at Alice Walker’s support for David Icke’s book – it operates in the UK at a level I have never before experienced. And that is largely down to Corbyn and the Labour Party leadership who have legitimized racism. The Party’s approach to tackling racism has been dilatory to say the least. To take just one case, Jackie Walker has been suspended from the Labour Party because of her appalling comments about Jews (she is herself part-Jewish before anyone mentions it by way of an excuse), suspended while her case is considered: she has been suspended for more than two years. Why has her case still not been concluded? No, if Corbyn ever becomes Prime Minister his government would ‘represent an existential threat to Jewish life’ in the UK. For the first time in my life as a UK citizen I am starting to think of Israel as a safe haven for me. It is very, very frightening.

    • V.Lind says:

      At least you are on topic. As a Brit who lives abroad, I am horrified by the cavalier attitude of the Labour party to this dreadful attitude, and even more so by the fact that so many of its supporters and members are among those guilty of it.

      That a national party leader can be so vague and off-hand about such an important issue in this day and age is astonishing to me.

    • Von Schneider says:

      Please explain to me why Jackie Walker’s comments were ‘appalling’. Personally I felt they lacked nuance, but were not anti-Semitic in the slightest.

      Quite frankly, it sounds as if you hear what you want to hear. To state that Corbyn as PM would be an existential threat to Jewish life in the UK is simply laughable. Get back to reality.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        The issue for Corbyn is that he can not conceive himself as being “racist” or “bigoted” hence he fundamentally can not see that his behaviour is problematic. Many of the people around him, in contrast, have rather nasty opinions.

        There are more Moslems than Jews in Britain…some in the Labour party have done the maths.

  • Eric says:

    A good example of casual English antisemitism can be found in Isherwood’s diaries while he was living in Santa Monica. Many nasty offhand comments about Jews or people he thought were Jews, including someone I know who interviewed him who was in fact an ex-Catholic priest.

  • “Obviously Jews don’t speak as a bloc”

    Mr. Weilerstein is a master of understatement.

  • Janus Avivson says:

    absolutely correct !!!

  • Elijah Moshinsky says:

    I have encountered antisemitismthoughout my career.Earlier it was the public school Richard Eyre Type Which disdained the emotional and individual,Hytner was the hidden Jew,but recently it is as an overt common understanding that antisemitism is ok because after all the arts are all leftists.
    But fuck em. .It is talent that counts.
    Holten was a a Danish anti Semite.
    My favourite moment was when at the successful opening of one Ronnie Harwood’s plays with Albert Finney,Harold Pinter said it was too Jewish.

  • Nick says:

    Anti-Semitism is not “alleged”!!! It exists in reality. And not only in the UK, but all over the world. In the UK Anti-Semitism blossoms not only because of the fascist-like Labour Party and Corbyn, but also because of the overwhelming Muslim presence. So, the Brits must think twice before they import crap into the country! But so does all of Europe. And may be it is too late for the UK. Anti-Semitism was always a significant part of UK history, but now it even worse than ever, starting with Corbyn, BBC and the Muslims and ending with simple British folks!

  • Nick says:

    No one asks you to love or not love the Israeli Government. It is not up to you to elect. Bibi Netanyahu is a democratically elected Leader of Israel and thus be fully respected. And it is not his “reign” as you imply. The country is governed democratically – the only such country in the middle East. Anyone who is critical of Israeli Government is automatically an anti-Semite and a dangerous one, since s/he tries to cover her/his hatred behind political correctness and free speech! Disgrace!

    • George says:

      Balderash. It is perfectly legitimate to criticise the Israeli Government , as many in Israel do. Bibi has earned no respect.