MY favourite definition of an anti-Semite is "a person who hates Jews more than is absolutely necessary". Susan Chandler, the former Victorian Liberal Party campaign manager who described a colleague as a "greedy f..king Jew", appears to qualify.
The object of Chandler's affection was Adam Held, the Liberal candidate at the recent federal election for the Victorian seat of Melbourne Ports. Held is Jewish, as is his opponent, the sitting member Michael Danby.
It appears Held earned Chandler's ire during the campaign when he committed the unforgivable sin of doing an Oliver Twist and asking for more. It wasn't gruel he was after but extra political pamphlets for his campaign. Chandler obviously thought it was a plot by the Elders of Zion to corner the market in political pamphlets. Today pamphlets, tomorrow the world.
One would have thought that in view of Held's work ethic a more apt description would have been "a hardworking f..king Jew".
Clearly, Chandler is not the sharpest knife in the Liberal drawer. Anyone with an IQ above room temperature would not have committed such terms of endearment to email. Nor would they have been outraged at the suggestion that they had done anything wrong. "Anti-Semitic? Moi? Some of my best friends are Jews." She may have a few less in the not-too-distant future.
It's strange how anti-Semites rarely recognise their own prejudice. As a young and promising golfer I indicated to my boss, a charming and cultured man, that I was interested in joining his golf club. "Sorry, son, no Jews, jockeys or jailbirds." He couldn't recognise his responsibility as a human being to take a principled stand against anti-Semitism.
In the 1940s, when Jews were unable to join any of the A-grade clubs in Sydney or Melbourne, they decided to build their own clubs and were immediately attacked for being exclusive. That the clubs had non-Jewish members was conveniently ignored.
After World War II, and the attempt by the Nazis to destroy European Jewry, there was sympathy and support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the mandated territories of Palestine. When the UN voted in November 1947 to create an Arab and a Jewish state, the neighbouring Arab countries attacked the Jewish state.
That Israel survived was first met with disbelief, then awe and finally anger. Those, particularly on the Left, who had wept openly for the murdered millions, started to resent Jews no longer being victims.
How dare Jews win? How dare they defend themselves against those who wished to destroy them? How dare they refuse to accede to the absurd demands of the people who had created the problem by refusing to accept the UN decision? Jews had decided that they no longer wanted the sympathy and tears of the liberal Left. They wanted to survive, on their own terms.
As Israel repulsed attempts to destroy it, the anger of the liberal Left increased in intensity. As internationally famous lawyer Alan Dershowitz stated, "Throughout the world, from the chambers of the UN to the campuses of universities, Israel is singled out for condemnation, disinvestment, boycott and demonisation."
Anti-Semitism? "No! No!" cried Israel's critics. "We don't hate Jews, just Israel." For many, Israel became the pariah state. Anti-Semitism became acceptable again. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman responded: "Criticising Israel is not anti-Semitic and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction, out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East, is anti-Semitic and not saying so is dishonest."
It's the double standards by which Israel is judged that incenses Jews and their supporters.
Dershowitz's story of Harvard University president A. Lawrence Lowell's attempt to limit the number of Jews admitted to Harvard in the 1920s because "Jews cheat" is the classic double standard. When an important alumnus objected on the grounds that non-Jews also cheated, Lowell replied, "You're changing the subject. I'm talking about Jews."
In Australia today many journalists are incapable of recognising their own deep-seated prejudices. When I asked one journalist why he and many of his colleagues felt it necessary to mention that certain businesspeople were Jewish, particularly those who had brushes with the law, he bridled at the suggestion that this was anti-Semitic. "It's part of the story," he spluttered.
"Really?" I replied. "How, exactly?" He was unable to give a coherent reply. I asked, "Do you know and mention the religion of James Packer, Rupert Murdoch, Christopher Skase, Kerry Stokes or Alan Bond?"
"No," he replied, somewhat shamefaced.
"And nor should you," I told him, "Because it's irrelevant."
Others were more astute. No mention of religion. They just pointed out that the person they were writing about was a regular visitor to Israel. More clever still was the television program about a Jewish businessman who had just been released from jail. No mention he was Jewish, just a shot of him with his rabbi. Anti-Semitic? Perish the thought.
Then there's the sinister Jewish lobby. One Canberra journalist becomes apoplectic on the subject. Again, no mention of the Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, union or dozens of business and special interest groups that continually lobby governments. No suggestion that they are insidious or sinister.
Oh dear, no. Selective indignation, dear readers, is anti-Semitism.
As a young boy growing up in the aftermath of World War II, I hoped that anti-Semitism would gradually fade away. Regrettably, that has not been the case. It is alive and well and, it would appear, still common among what was once called polite society.
Barry Cohen is a former minister in the Hawke government.