He is probably best known in his native Britain for representing Diana, Princess of Wales in her 1996 divorce from Prince Charles, but he’s recently come out with a history of anti-Semitism (“Trials of the Diaspora,” Oxford, $45.00, 864 pages) that was called “astonishingly thorough” by the Telegraph and “fiercely relevant” by the New York Times.
Mr. Julius, an attorney and the deputy chairman for London law firm Mishcon de Reya, seems to have his finger on the pulse of anti-Semitic sentiment in Britain. He successfully represented author Deborah Lipstadt in the 1996 libel case brought against her by Holocaust denier David Irving, who claimed he had been misrepresented in her 1993 book “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.”
We recently talked to Mr. Julius him about anti-Semitism, the Obama administration, Islamism and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The Washington Times: President Obama recently referred to journalist Daniel Pearl’s murder as a “loss,” never mentioning that he died at the hands of terrorists or that he was brutally executed on video. Do you think this, combined with other recent utterances from White House officials regarding Jewry and/or Israel, is part of a growing trend Jews need to be concerned about?
Anthony Julius: I hope it isn’t part of a growing trend. I think that there’s a general tendency when speaking about Daniel Pearl to acknowledge the atrocity of the killing without identifying it as an atrocity quite deliberately committed against a Jew.
Often this derives from the conviction that while what happens to Jews … is only of concern to Jews whereas what happens to journalists is of concern to everyone. This is a mistake, of course, not just because the harming or persecuting of Jews now may well be the precursor to the harming or persecuting of other people later on, but also because how Jews are treated is a test of whether a society is civilized. So it was disappointing to read what the President said and the way that he said it. But I do not assimilate it to any kind of assault on Jews or Israel. It’s very important that we should make the right distinctions, and not group together into a single “hateful” category everything that we may not like.
TWT: What impact do you think the Obama administration’s foreign policy is having and will have on Israel’s security and the security of world Jewry?
AJ: It’s hard to say, standing in Britain. However, it seems to me that the administration can be criticized on two counts. First, I worry that the administration believes that a friendly posture always produces a friendly response, and specifically in relation to Israel’s enemies, that the more they are accommodated, the more respectful they will be of the United States’ own interests.
Second, I worry that the administration’s various foreign policy objectives are not coherent and this is leading to the making of merely short-term decisions. … I think Israel’s interests are probably suffering, perhaps quite significantly, from those two characteristics of the administration.
TWT: What is the atmosphere in Britain currently like for the Jewish community?
AJ: There is a general sense of demoralization among Jews and the Jewish community because of the belief that the media, the class of public intellectuals, and indeed general public sentiment, is so hostile to Israel that Israel cannot get a fair hearing. And since Israel and Zionism are so much a part of Jewish identity, this hostility is experienced as an assault.
In addition, whenever violence flares between Israel and the Palestinians, it is treated by anti-Semites in England as an opportunity to abuse Jews here. It’s an opportunity for thuggery. Much, though not all, of contemporary anti-Zionism – especially that version of it which seeks to deny the right of Jews to constitute themselves as a nation – is saturated in anti-Semitism.
TWT: President Obama and much of his cabinet seem unwilling to talk about radical Islam and its very real threat to not only Israel but the West in general. What’s the relationship between Islamism and anti-Semitism? Can they be separated or are they inextricably linked?
AJ: There’s no doubt that the perspectives of radical Islamic terrorist groups are conditioned by radical anti-Semitism. That has encouraged a misplaced pessimism, even a dangerous defeatism, among some in the West. For myself, at any rate, I have great confidence in the strength of the West’s appeal to newly arriving, as well as second generation, European and American Muslims. Certainly, it’s at least as likely that we will have a European Muslim population in two or three generations that share the best Western values (including separation of church and state, freedom of expression, tolerance, democracy) as it is that we will have a generation that completely rejects them.
TWT: Is there anything the West can do to sway these immigrants and their children in the former direction?
AJ: I think we should have the confidence in our values to adhere to them even under conditions of stress and tension.
TWT: On that note, what are your thoughts on the draft ruling this month in France to ban women from wearing the burqa in public?
AJ: The balance of the argument favours the ban, I believe. It will liberate more than it will oppress, and it will enlarge equality more than it will subordinate.
TWT: What does a nuclear-armed Iran mean for Israel and Jews in general?
AJ: Only bad things. Jews throughout the world are connected by ties of friendship and kinship, and by religious and cultural sentiment, to Israel and to the people of Israel. Even if Iran does not have the same ambition as Nazi Germany, there is no doubt a nuclear-armed Iran would utterly transform to Israel’s disadvantage the balance of power in the Middle East. This would cause Jews throughout the world to fear for the future of the Jewish state, and cast a profound shadow over their own lives too.