17 MARCH 2007, Page 30

Weasel words

Sir: I am sorry to see a writer as generally well-informed as Frederic Raphael (Books, 10 March) trotting out the absurd legend that ‘Hep hep’, as an insult to Jews, derives from ‘Hierosolyma est perdita’ (if I may be allowed also to correct his Latin). Nor did this cry arise, as he claims, in Vienna. The Hep Hep riots against Jews took place throughout Germany in 1819 in a number of towns, including Frankfurt, Leipzig and Dresden, and were named for the shout used by the rioters, ‘hep hep’ being a call used by animal herders in driving their charges. There seem no instances of the cry being used in Austria. Interestingly, the nationalistic Heidelberg academic Jacob Fries, accused of encouraging the riots, defended himself with weasel words presaging those used by many of today’s ‘antiZionists’: ‘We declare war not against the Jews, our brothers, but against Judaism.’ David Conway London N21