‘ 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

Grazia (UK) - - 10 Hot Stories -

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

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