Guy Walters – Telegraph.co.uk December 23, 2010
At the end of July, The Independent carried a piece by Christina Patterson in which she observed that many of her fellow inhabitants in Stamford Hill were intolerant of her presence. “I didn’t realise that goyim were about as welcome in the Hasidic Jewish shops as Martin Luther King at a Ku Klux Klan convention,” she wrote. “I didn’t realise that a purchase by a goy was a crime to be punished with monosyllabic terseness, or that bus seats were a potential source of contamination, or that road signs, and parking restrictions, were for people who hadn’t been chosen by God.”
Thanks to these words, Patterson has earned herself a place in the Top 10 Anti-Semitic Slurs of 2010 compiled by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. Patterson’s words are apparently so offensive, that she is placed above these entries, taken from Yahoo Finance’s Goldman Sachs Message Boards and Facebook: “Stinking Jews finally getting what they deserve Burn all the jews up [sic]“, “Kill a Jew Year” and “Kill a Jew Day”. As one might expect, Patterson is far from delighted at being labelled one of the world’s top anti-Semites.
What, precisely, is so wrong with what Patterson is saying? First, it is clear from her biography that she is hardly likely to be chummy with Nick Griffin and David Irving. According to The Independent’s website, she is a “former director of the Poetry Society, and literary programmer at the Southbank Centre”. With these credentials, I hope it is not bigoted of me to assume that Patterson is perhaps not a member of the BNP. For heaven’s sake, she writes a column for The Independent.
Secondly, the Wiesenthal Centre has resorted to that old trick of selective quotation – always a top tactic for someone with an agenda. If you read the rest of her column, it’s clear that Patterson’s beef is not just with the behaviour of Hasidic Jews – she doesn’t like little girls wearing hijabs, or young women wearing niqabs. She also has little time for the revolting practice of clitoridectomy, which is inflicted on some 500 to 2,000 British schoolgirls every year. Taken as a whole, the entire column is about the limits of multiculturalism, and examines how, in her words, “certain practices, in different religious communities [...] conflict with some of the values in British society”. Patterson makes it clear that she can just about tolerate bad manners in the name of multiculturalism, but not much more than that. That seems a reasonable position to take, and is an opinion that should be freely expressed.
Thirdly, is there any reason to suppose that Patterson is lying? In her column, she cites the example of a black friend being made to feel unwelcome in a local fishmonger’s shop. Does that sound an unlikely scenario? I think not. Hasidic Jews have a reputation for being intolerant of those outside their world. It’s clear, that by moving to Stamford Hill, Patterson witnesses this intolerance every day. Let’s get this straight: Patterson is telling the truth.
Besides, she’s hardly the first person to say it. Look at the question posed on this website: “Why are hasidic jews so mean and rude? I’m from NYC and they are the rudest group of people I have ever come across. They never say “excuse me”, “please”, “thank you”. They have no social graces at all…” Should the poster of this be put on the Wiesenthal’s Centre’s pop chart of anti-Semitic nasties? Is the question completely without foundation?
Labelling Patterson as an anti-Semite is manifesting far more intolerance than anything she ever wrote. Yes, calling for Jews to be burned to death is anti-Semitic, but asking Hasidic Jews in Stamford Hill to be a little more polite is not. Victimhood status should never confer an automatic exemption from criticism.