Melanie Phillips
Melanie PhillipsCourtesy

(JNS) A conference held in London this week was subjected to an extraordinary onslaught on social and mainstream media from people who weaponized antisemitism against it.

The conference was on National Conservatism, a concept developed by the Israeli-American philosopher and political theorist Yoram Hazony. Through his key insight that attachment to the nation is a core component of conservatism, he has launched an attempt to reclaim for the West authentically conservative principles that have become muddled and uncertain.

As a result of this confusion, conservatism is failing to protect the Western nation-state against the progressive ideologies that threaten to destroy its culture.

The conference, at which I was one of the speakers, explored where conservatism went wrong and what it should be promoting.

The gathering provided a rare safe space for subjects that many have become too frightened to discuss, such as the transgender cult, the damaging impact of mass immigration and the need to restore the traditional family.

Those who express such views usually find themselves the targets of intimidation, smears and character assassination. So, unsurprisingly, the reaction of the left to the conference’s attempt to reinvigorate conservatism was to smear its organizers and speakers as fascists, antisemites and nutjobs.

The reason for such vitriol was that, to the left, promoting the traditional family, immigration controls and biological sex—mainstream views for millions of decent, civilized people—is akin to fascism.

Worse, however, were the false claims of antisemitism made to smear conference participants.

One of the speakers, the journalist and author Douglas Murray, talked in his keynote address about the need to have pride in one’s nation. Making the point that nationalism was given a bad name by Nazi Germany, he said, “I see no reason why every other country in the world should be prevented from feeling pride in itself because the Germans mucked up twice in a century.”

This provoked an instant meltdown on Twitter. Murray was accused of minimizing Nazism and the Holocaust and being himself some kind of fascist and Jew-hater.

This was as stupid as it was grotesque. Murray was speaking in his trademark sardonic style. “Mucked up” wasn’t meant to be understood literally. It was a typically English figure of speech called litotes, which is defined as the use of a negative statement in order to emphasize a positive meaning.

“Mucked up” in this context was an ironic understatement to convey the enormity of Germany’s crimes.

Yet one typical tweet called Murray “disgusting openly racist” and expressed “utter contempt” for “suggesting the Holocaust of six million and sparking a destructive war was ‘mucked up.’” As Hazony tweeted in reply, “Yes, Douglas used irony in conveying his utter revulsion at German depravity. … Your reaction is tone deaf and phenomenally unjust.”

In The Guardian, the paper’s deputy political editor Peter Walker accused two other speakers—Conservative MP Miriam Cates and Kevin Roberts, president of the Washington, D.C. think-tank the Heritage Foundation—of using antisemitic dog-whistles.

This accusation was baseless, idiotic and vile.

Walker pointed to Roberts’s repeated use of the word “globalist” to criticize left-wing groups that want to end democracy and impose their views. Even though Walker acknowledged that “globalists” can be used neutrally, he said it had been “condemned by Jewish groups as an antisemitic trope” because it was “associated with the far-right and antisemitic conspiracy theories.”

But “globalism” is used interchangeably with “universalism” simply to describe the “brotherhood of man” thinking prevalent on the left, which prioritizes transnational laws, institutions and values. What’s more, the left itself has often used “globalization” as a term of disapproval to describe international capitalism and multinational companies.

In her speech, Cates said that liberal individualism has proven completely powerless to resist the “cultural Marxism” that is systematically “destroying our children’s souls.”

Walker claimed the phrase “cultural Marxism” has its origins in a conspiracy theory that Marxist scholars of the Frankfurt School in interwar Germany, many of whom were Jewish, devised a program of progressive politics intended to undermine Western democracies.

But “cultural Marxism” is not a conspiracy theory at all. It’s an accurate description of an actual agenda promoted not just by the radicals of the Frankfurt School but by other Marxist thinkers who urged the capture of the culture to overturn the West by infiltrating Marxist dogma from within.

Moreover, the claim that “cultural Marxism” is an antisemitic dog-whistle is innately ludicrous. Marx himself was a profound antisemite. In his 1844 essay “On the Jewish Question,” he wrote, “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. … In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.”

It’s not everyone who criticizes “cultural Marxism” who is an antisemite but those who promote Marxism. Those who smear Cates are, in essence, calling her an antisemite for accusing the left of promoting antisemitism. So, this is not only a disgusting smear but profoundly stupid and meaningless.

What’s more, as with globalization, while some of the people being criticized for “cultural Marxism” are Jews, the majority are not.

For example, in 2020, after Britain’s National Trust linked Winston Churchill to slavery and colonialism and the National Maritime Museum threatened to tarnish the reputation of Horatio Nelson, a group of parliamentarians complained that the “institutional custodians of history and heritage” were subscribing to “cultural Marxist dogma.”

Obviously, people can’t be antisemitic if they are directing the accusation of “cultural Marxism” at people who aren’t Jews.

Even more imbecilically, we are being told that “globalization” and “cultural Marxism” are antisemitic dog-whistles just because they’ve been used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. This is to claim that language used widely by others in a neutral and factual way instantly becomes toxic when it issues from the mouths of bad people.

This absurd argument is also used to suppress criticism of the financier George Soros. It’s entirely legitimate to criticize Soros for his massive funding of anti-Western and anti-Israel causes. Yet anyone who does so is called an antisemite because Soros is a Jew and because some genuine Jew-haters subject him to antisemitic attack.

This means Soros is insulated from criticism because his Jewishness is used as shield for his behavior. In exactly the same way, those who smear Cates and Roberts are using antisemitism as a shield for the predations of the left.

What’s worse is that a number of Jewish Diaspora leaders often endorse such false and despicable accusations, as some did again this week against the NatCon speakers. Still worse is that the people who are thus smeared are as often as not some of the greatest defenders of the Jewish people.

I have personally known Douglas Murray for years. It would be hard to find a more passionately pro-Jew and pro-Israel individual.

Hazony tweeted about Cates and Roberts, “Kevin and Miriam are among the best friends we Jews have in public life. So why slander them in this way?”

Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman is also a staunch friend of Israel and the Jewish people. Yet in 2019, after she criticized “cultural Marxism” for an increasing use of censorship, it was the Board of Deputies of British Jews that attacked her and said she shouldn’t use the phrase again.

The Guardian, of course, is a paper that not only regularly pumps out falsehoods and blood libels against the State of Israel but recently published an appalling antisemitic cartoon linking the then-chairman of the BBC, who happens to be a Jew, to greed, gold and the image of a vampire squid.

Left-wingers—who are presiding over epidemic Jew-hatred in their own ranks—are using the claim of antisemitism to disguise the all-too accurate charge that they are destroying core Western values. It’s appalling that Diaspora Jewish leaders are helping them do so.

Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for “The Times of London,” her personal and political memoir “Guardian Angel” has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, “The Legacy.” Go to melaniephillips.substack.comto access her work.