How the British Media Turned a Holocaust Survivor’s Name into a Byword for Shady Landlords

Born in Poland in 1919 to an acculturated Jewish family, Peter Rachman was captured by the Germans in World War II, escaped to the Soviet Union—where he was sent to a Siberian prison camp—and then was able to join a Polish army unit fighting under British command in the Middle East and Italy. After the war Rachman settled in England and began a career in real estate, eventually amassing a small fortune and dying in 1962. A year later, his incidental connection to a major political scandal attracted the attention of the tabloid press, as Caryl Phillips explains:

On July 14, 1963, The Sunday People published a lead story supposedly exposing the late businessman’s nefarious practices under the banner headline “Rachman—These Are the Facts.” The paper identified Rachman as a central figure in an “empire based on vice and drugs, violence and blackmail, extortion and slum landlordism the like of which this country has never seen and let us hope never will again.” With no fear of a libel suit from a dead man, other newspapers followed and targeted Rachman, although there were plenty of examples of unscrupulous landlords at work in London.

The BBC reported that in order to extract maximum profit from his houses, Rachman would not hesitate to [rent properties to black people], so that rent-controlled white tenants would feel they had little choice but to leave, enabling the landlords to let out their flats at a higher rate. Panorama reported that, if this didn’t work, Rachman would pay Caribbean immigrant tenants to play deafening music at all times of the day and night. The BBC also reported claims that Rachman hired black hoodlums to intimidate white tenants, or, conversely, white hoodlums to harass black tenants.

But something else had happened to Rachman’s name: it was turned into a noun, “Rachmanism,” by no less a figure than the Labor party leader Harold Wilson, who would become prime minister little more than a year later. In a 1963 parliamentary debate on housing, Wilson condemned “the disease of Rachmanism,” and the term soon entered the Oxford English Dictionary.

While Rachman was indeed a somewhat unsavory character, Phillips writes, the main accusations against him are entirely baseless. His willingness to rent properties to blacks at a time of severe racial discrimination helped him make his fortune—but also provided housing to those who had trouble getting it. Indeed he is still fondly remembered by London’s Caribbean community. It’s difficult, Phillips concludes, to believe Rachman would have acquired such notoriety had he been, say, an Anglican.

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Read more at New York Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust survivors, Labor Party (UK), Racism, United Kingdom

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter