Business and political panjandrums attending last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, addressed weighty issues such as global co-operation, economic growth and climate change. Largely missing from the official four-day agenda, however, was the tsunami of antisemitism that has engulfed the West since the Hamas-led atrocities in Israel on October 7, but which at Davos merited only one discussion.
According to Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of America’s Anti-Defamation League who was on the panel, chief executives at Davos told him privately they wanted much more discussion about this. They observed that, while other minority groups had received outpourings of support after the murder of George Floyd and violence against Asian Americans, the phones of Jewish executives and colleagues hadn’t rung after the Hamas pogrom. “And frankly, they’re still not ringing,” Greenblatt said.
On October 7, more than 1,200 women, men and children in southern Israel were murdered, raped, tortured and beheaded by thousands of Palestinian Arabs led by Hamas, who abducted more than 240 Israeli hostages into Gaza. In both Britain and America, this genocidal onslaught provoked not an outpouring of support for Israel but an enormous rise in antisemitic attacks, which have been largely shrugged aside by the wider community.
In London, three Jews in their twenties were violently attacked in Leicester Square early on Sunday morning. The victims were reportedly targeted by a mob of 15-20 Arabic-speaking men who, establishing that they were Jewish, started chanting “Free Palestine” and attacked them. The victims said that despite repeated calls to the police, officers told them they were busy and turned up almost half an hour later.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, responded by saying: “Antisemitism will not be tolerated in our city.” The police said: “There is no place for hate in our city.” Frightened British Jews, facing weekly demonstrations screaming for terrorism against Jews under the noses of the police who have made vanishingly few arrests, find such statements positively hallucinatory.
Davos reflected a western culture that isn’t joining up the dots. Its antisemitism session included a graphic and highly distressing 47-minute film of the October 7 atrocities and heard accounts by the hostages’ family members. Yet the Davos audience didn’t seem to make the connection between those terrible events and the antisemitism that’s erupted as a perverse result. More to the point, participants were rubbing shoulders with Jew-haters who were deeply connected to the slaughter in Israel. For Davos also hosted delegations from Iran and Qatar, which fund, equip, train and direct Hamas. The myopia at Davos reflected the deep disconnect across the West, where attitudes towards Israel are put into a different box from attitudes towards Jewish people.
This distinction is bogus. Hamas and Iran repeatedly declare that their aim is not just to destroy Israel but exterminate the Jews. And the so-called “moderate” Palestinian Authority pumps out Nazi-style tropes, demonising and threatening annihilation against not just Israel but the Jewish people, with which it indoctrinates Palestinian children and adults. The reason why antisemitism exploded after the October 7 atrocities — even before Israel started its military operation in Gaza — was the conviction among a wildly celebrating Islamic world that, having killed so many Israelis on October 7, their aim of conquering the Jews was now within reach.
The Hamas pogrom is enormously inconvenient for western progressives for whom it is an article of faith that the Israelis are illegitimate oppressors and the Palestinians are their victims. They demonise the Israelis with falsehoods and distortions painting them as wanton child-killers while sanitising Palestinian aggression and Jew-hatred as “resistance”. This has been greatly exacerbated by “intersectional” identity politics that divides people into groups defined by power (bad) and powerlessness (good). Under this dogma, Jews are powerful and so can never be victims. And because Israel has military power, according to this thinking, it is to be condemned for using it even in its defence.
This delegitimisation of Israel is widely shared. Palantir, the software company which put on the antisemitism session at Davos, observed in a letter to its shareholders last November: “We are one of a few companies in the world to stand up and announce our support for Israel, which remains steadfast.” So deeply has the dehumanisation of Israel penetrated that, even for some who protest about the indifference being shown towards epidemic Jew-hatred in Britain and America, dead Israelis don’t count.
Yet if Israel were to lose its existential struggle, the enemies of civilisation would seize their broader chance. Hamas says that after it has finished off the Jews it will come for the Christians. Iran has been at war against America and Britain since 1979. There’s a real danger that Iran’s agenda of destroying Israel, the US and the West will be seized upon by Russia and others to escalate this into a world war. Yet at Davos they were fixating instead upon artificial intelligence and the dangers of populism — even while Iran was firing ballistic missiles at Iraqi Kurdistan.
Jews are often likened to the canary in the coal mine. A culture that turns on its Jews is a culture that’s in deep trouble. For the Davos crowd, nevertheless, the party goes on.