From Tito’s villa
I spent most of Wednesday afternoon at the villa once owned by Marshal Tito on the coast at Split. It’s a beautiful setting, with a private beach, swimming pool, bowling alley, capacious rooms and views across the Adriatic to the islands off Croatia. The bathroom had been done up for his last visit, when the old warhorse needed handrails to get in and out of the bath.
Next door was a barracks for the army of bodyguards and apparatchiks who followed Tito wherever he went. This villa was one of several across Yugoslavia kept at readiness for the Marshal’s visits. In 50 years, Tito visited this one three times.
I asked who had owned the villa before the Communists? I was told it had belonged to ‘a Jew’ named Schiller, who lost it gambling. A likely story, I thought to myself. When the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia, many resisted but many welcomed them with open arms. Croatian fascists, under German licence, murdered hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Roma, and Jews.
Which gets me to the point: antisemitism. Nazir Ahmed was suspended from the Labour party this week for remarks suggesting that it was a giant Jewish conspiracy which landed him in jail. Not the dangerous driving for which he was convicted. The incident resulted in the death of Martin Gombar, aged just 28. The magistrates heard how Ahmed had sent five text messages, while driving along the M1, moments before the crash. He served just 16 days of his sentence, rather fewer than Chris Huhne will serve in Wandsworth.
No, it was not dangerous driving which landed him in jail, but pressure on the magistrates from a shadowy network of Jews, controlling the media, according to an interview given by Ahmed in Urdu to a Pakistani television station. My Urdu is as good as the rest of my languages, which is non-existent. But those who do speak the language say the translation is clear: he said what he is said to have said.
If you believe that a Jewish conspiracy can influence the magistrates at Sheffield magistrates’ court, then it follows that you must believe that the Jews control much else besides: perhaps the banks, or the media, or the United Nations? In this world-view, it seems unlikely that the Jews would reserve their shadowy influence for the treatment for traffic offences in British provincial courts. Presumably, if they can get to the bench in Sheffield, they can get pretty much anywhere. This, of course, is what Adolf Hitler believed, and there is no space in the Labour party for someone who appears to share such a view with Hitler.
It is easy to laugh at the idiots who believe in Jewish conspiracies: people who thought that Jews drink blood, steal and murder children, or secretly run the financial system. People who think ‘the Jews’ is the same as saying ‘the government of Israel’ like Lib Dem MP David Ward does. People who treat Israel in an entirely different way from any other state, and hold it to an entirely different standard, simply because it is the world’s only Jewish state.
But laughing at them is not enough. There are plenty of people who believe in crazy things: ghosts, fairies, UFOs, that Tony Blair is a ‘war criminal’. The difference in believing that there are ghosts, and believing that ‘the Jews have too much influence’ is that the former is a mere eccentricity, the latter can lead to violence and death. When antisemitism becomes codified into a national credo, as it is across the Middle East and especially in Iran, then it becomes a virulent threat to world peace. It starts with the kinds of rubbish you can read in the Guardian most days; but it ends with the camps.
Sitting in Tito’s villa on Wednesday, I didn’t really think much about Tito. I thought about Mr Schiller, and what happened to him and his family when the fascists came knocking on his door.
antisemitism, Labour, Nazir Ahmed