Heaven forbid that such an atrocity should happen, but suppose white racists attacked a mosque today, murdering four people. Crowds gather to show solidarity with the dead. They profess support for their friends and families and their horror at sectarian murder. The assassins killed their victims for no other reason than they were Muslims. That was it. All they had done was stick to their faith.
A BBC reporter called Tim Wilcox joins the mourners, and buttonholes an elderly and not very articulate Asian lady.
‘The situation is going back to the days of 1930s Europe,’ she says, as she recalls the last time racist murders swept the continent.
‘Do you think that can be resolved before it is too late?’ the reporter asks.
Cheeringly, the woman refuses to let despair overcome her. ‘Of course. We must not be afraid to say that Muslims are a target now…’
Before she can get her words out, Wilcox shuts her up. ‘Many critics of Islam would say that Christians in the Middle East suffer hugely at Muslim hands as well.’
‘We can’t do an amalgam,’ the woman mutters – as I said her English is not good.
‘But, but,’ interrupts Wilcox, as he tries to stop her saying that the behaviour of Isis or the Taliban or the Saudi religious police or the killers who targeted Charlie Hebdo cannot possibly justify attacks on innocent Muslims, ‘you understand everything is seen in different perspectives’.
Of course, Wilcox would never say such a thing after the murder of Muslims, and rightly so. He was interviewing an elderly Jewish lady, who was trying to mourn Jews killed for no other reason than they were Jews in a Paris supermarket.
Change the religion – make it Judaism, to be precise. Change Islamism to Israel, and the most grotesque apologies for murder become acceptable; standard even. Jews must bear collective responsibility for Israel’s crimes real and imagined.
People are demanding that the BBC fire Wilcox. I disagree for two reasons. First you do not respond to an attack on a newspaper by firing journalists. More important, Wilcox is not some isolated and aberrant racist; his views are the standard opinions of the European left middle class. I meet them every day in my political neighbourhood. They are the result of ignorance rather than malice. (Although I find that in time a dark alchemy can transofrm ignorance into malice.)
Wilcox like so many others does not understand that anti-Semitism is not a rational, if regrettably bloody, critique of Israeli foreign policy but an insane conspiracy theory that has captured the minds of millions of fanatics, moved whole nations and led to uncountable deaths.
I wonder how many more bombs it will take to blow these people out of their folly. In my bleaker moments, I suspect they will take it to their graves.