‘ I can’t believe this is happening in 2018’
Following a rise in anti-semitic attacks, Siam Goorwich asks why it’s taken less seriously than other forms of racism
LAST MONDAY, I joined an estimated 1,500 British Jews, Labour MPS and concerned citizens in Parliament Square. Together, we called for Jeremy Corbyn to confront his, and Labour’s, anti-semitism problem. But even as I type this, it’s hard to believe it was necessary to hold such an event in the UK in 2018.
Growing up in North London in the ’80s, the fact I was Jewish meant little more than not eating pork, lighting the Shabbat candles on a Friday night and attending Sunday school. As a child, I remember learning about the historical persecution of Jews and thinking it was crazy that there was a time, not so long ago, when people hated us.
The sharp rise in anti-semitism over the last few years has been a stark wake-up call. Earlier this year it was revealed that anti-semitic attacks were at an all-time high in the UK, with the Community Security Trust (CST) recording more incidents in 2017 than any other year since their records began in 1984.
Like other forms of racism, antiSemitism has flourished in the internet age, and I’ve seen people casually share twisted and venomous anti-semitic sentiments online.
Many high-profile Jews receive a constant stream of hate on Twitter. Labour MP Luciana Berger received a staggering 2,500 hate messages in just three days, including cartoons depicting her with an enlarged nose and yellow Nazi star, rape threats, and messages tagged #Filthyjewbitch.
But what’s been most shocking is the lack of reaction by the British public. At a time when being ‘woke’ is such a badge of honour, and other forms of racism are widely condemned, I find the absence of outrage around anti-semitism terrifying. The Jewish community in the UK is tiny – there are only around 270,000 of us and we make up just 0.5% of the population – and right now we feel very alone.
Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2015 has been particularly problematic. Corbyn’s anti-semitic ‘slip-ups’ include calling Islamic cleric Sheikh Raed Salah – who is accused of saying Jews murder children to use their blood in religious rituals – a ‘very honoured citizen’, condemning the removal of a blatantly anti-semitic mural, and belonging to three Facebook groups rampant with Jew-hating posts, including Holocaust denial.
But despite the evidence pointing to the fact that Corbyn and his left-wingers have a serious anti-semitism problem, myself and community members have repeatedly been gaslighted when we call for action.
Labour’s lax attitude has far-reaching consequences. Just as far-right parties have given Islamophobes the green light to spew hate, Corbyn has emboldened Jew-haters on the far left and in wider society. If anti-semitism is acceptable in a major political party, then it’s OK on the streets, in offices and online, right?
I want to have faith that the majority of the British public don’t harbour any negative feelings towards Jews, but I’m finding it increasingly hard. So please, if you believe in a fair society, stand with us and fight anti-semitism. We’d really appreciate it.
Jeremy Corbyn has apologised for ‘pockets’ of anti-semitism in Labour