Crying wolf in Hong Kong

A response to the article by a Jew living in Hong Kong who describes the instances of Jew-hatred (he considers anti-Semitism a misnomer) he experiences daily.

Alex Drucker

OpEds סין

An article was published on this site on Tuesday in which the author describes the Jew-hatred he experieces in Hong Kong.  Lamenting the, in his words, up to 50 incidents every day of Jew-hatred and how people from all walks of life here in the Far East, are so indoctrinated, so loathsome of the Chosen People, that they cannot resist the urge to, ever so subtly, let the author know of their hatred. 

The piece was not written only for Arutz Sheva and appeared on another respected site  as well, but the double posting of this article neither grants it any further sense of truth nor does it do anything to solve, hide or in anyway contribute in a positive sense to the broader problems the author represents.

My problem with this article is threefold:

The author’s unfathomable use of jargon. His unique experience in Hong Kong. The broader problem of seeing Jew-hatred where it does not exist.

The author first refuses to use the word anti-Semitism preferring instead to call what he experiences Jew-hatred which, although not inaccurate, is entirely moot.  In the same way that we all know what is meant by Hoovering the floor, rather than vacuuming, or using a Kleenex rather than a tissue, we all know what anti-Semitism refers to.  Trying to introduce new terminology is nothing short of an attempt to lend gravitas to an article which I find otherwise empty of both substance and style. 

The author goes on to refuse (a refusal I find infuriating) to refer to Muslims, Islam or Islamic Fundamentalism.  Giving a convoluted and, to me, incomprehensible explanation of why “Mohammedism” is more appropriate a term, and in so doing tarring all those who do not actively struggle against Islamic fundamentalism as sympathisers and terrorists. Making an outrageous analogy between Islam and the mafia, saying a legitimate business with ties to the mob is the mob nonetheless - in the same way that because villains exist under the guise of Islam, Islam can only be defined by its worst elements.  He claims that Mohammedist young men in Hong Kong are perverts, racists and closet homosexuals. A claim that is entirely unsubstantiated.

He recounts various incidents of said, “Jew-hatred” that he has encountered in the last half a year, positing that this rise in Jew-hatred amongst the local Chinese population in Hong Kong is a result of BDS.  It appears to me, though, that this claim is merely a cheap way of using the BDS buzzword, again to try and lend his empty musing some form of legitimacy. 

In all of my interaction with local population here in Hong Kong, with the Filipino women who come to work as domestic helpers and the expats here working in trade, banks, law firms or wherever else I have never encountered anti-Semitism or Jew-hatred in any form, overt, subtle or imagined.  In discussing this article with several members of the Jewish community from all parts of Hong Kong, from all walks of life and with vast numbers of years spent here not one has had an experience different from my own.  No one I have spoken to has encountered any anti-Semitism let alone to have encountered it 40 or 50 times a day to the point where we feel we cannot leave our homes

If anything, the stereotypes of Jews being wealthy and business savvy are viewed as positive by the local populace, the domestic helpers want to work for Jewish families and our academic and educational ideals are admired, not held in disdain.  The only trope I have encountered and that I struggle to understand is that, to the Chinese, Jews all have beautiful singing voices, I do not know where this comes from but I’m happy to let them believe it to be true.

The experiences outlined by the author are bizarre, second only to his interpretations of the slightest actions of people he passes on the street.  He claims that covering one's nose is really a claim that Jews smell and that scratching one's torso is to liken Jews to apes. This may come as a surprise to some, sometimes a scratch is a scratch and, as anyone who has visited Hong Kong can attest, there are often some inescapable and curious smells coming from the Wet Markets, drains, restaurants and the like and covering one's nose, if it isn’t a sneeze, might just be to try and avoid one of these olfactory outrages. 

The author also "survived" what he seems to consider a horrific attack – he saw someone pick their nose! The horror of it! I would be the first to rattle off a list of reasons, as a Westerner, to dislike of Hong Kong, chief amongst them being the culture clash and the Western aversion to bodily function versus the relatively relaxed Chinese attitude.  I cannot count the number of times someone has belched in my ear on the MTR or a taxi driver has invited me to enjoy his flatulence or, more to the point, happily dig around in the nostrils for all the world to see.  Whilst I may want to share a choice four letter word with some of these people I don’t, nor should anyone, take someone doing some personal grooming as anything other than a cultural quirk.

He describes an incident on a bus with a particularly threatening 25 year old woman who covers her nose as he walks passed which, to him, simply must be an expression of her fascist ideology and cannot possibly be because perhaps the author, like the rest of us, might have been suffering from the 40o heat and 99% humidity.  Luckily, our quick thinking "hero" was there to scare the life out of this young lady else we may have been prone to violent attack.

He also describes encountering a young man performing an inverted Nazi salute also known as a quenelle, made famous by the French performer Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who was barred from entering this Jew-hating outpost earlier this year.  I find it hard to believe though that a country that has only been anti-Semitic for a few months as the author claims has already developed subversive salutes popularized by mediocre French comedians. 

Why, then, is this article representative of a broader problem?  There is a continually growing problem of anti-Semitism in the West, and I do believe, as do many others that anti-Zionism is a less than clever guise for anti-Semitism.  In fact, I agree with the author ignoring expressions of Jew-hatred does not diminish their number. 

However, the author is crying wolf where he has not even seen a dog.  Anti-Semitism presents itself often enough in enough parts of the world that we need not go looking for it nor should we feel as if we are left out when we don’t encounter it personally.  Hong Kong does not have a problem with anti-Semitism, more accurately, Hong Kong cannot be said to have any anti-Semitism. 

He is correct when he says that Hong Kong is not like 1930’s Germany or even present day France, but the situation here cannot be remotely compared to London.  Having lived my whole life in London and experienced anti-Semitism first hand on several occasions over several years there, Hong Kong is a veritable haven. 

That is not to say that the Jewish community in Hong Kong feels itself to be impervious from global anti-Semitism.  All Jewish institutions here are guarded as they are all over the world and I, in my position, am privy to a monthly report compiled by the Security advisor here alongside the Police Department and never have I seen mention of any anti-Semitic incident or attack, violent or otherwise.

Why the author feels the need to hunt for anti-Semites where they do not exist is beyond me.  To point it out where it is not serves only to delegitimise the experiences of those who truly are living with the specter of hatred over their heads.  It is hard enough to get the world to open their eyes to the suffering of Jews the world over, why does the author feel the need to include himself?

I am leaving Hong Kong this summer to move to Israel, but when people ask why I am leaving this Island, anti-Semitism won't feature anywhere on the list.  If the author is so fearful for his safety as a Jew here he is welcome to join me but until then he may want to try looking at the world in a more positive light and perhaps carry a packet of tissues for the next time one of our native hosts is struggling with a nasal blockage.