When vit­riol turns to vi­o­lence

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Mark Gard­ner

TO­DAY, MY or­gan­i­sa­tion CST re­leases its six-monthly re­port on an­tisemitic in­ci­dents, for Jan­uary to June 2014. It shows a large in­crease of 36 per cent: 304 in­ci­dents across Bri­tain in the first half of 2014, com­pared to 223 in the first half of 2013. The rea­sons are un­clear. It may be bet­ter re­port­ing rates or more an­ti­semitism. It is prob­a­bly both. Last month, July 2014, is another story en­tirely. Here we know ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing, a sig­nif­i­cant es­ca­la­tion in an­ti­semitism, with in­ci­dent lev­els hav­ing more than dou­bled dur­ing this lat­est con­flict be­tween Is­rael and Ha­mas. There have been over 130 in­ci­dents in the sec­ond worst out­burst of an­ti­semitism in re­cent mem­ory: the worst was in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary 2009, dur­ing and im­me­di­ately af­ter that year’s Is­rael-Ha­mas con­flict.

It may be a small mercy to say that events in Bri­tain have not com­pared with those in France, but the point is vi­tally im­por­tant. Scenes of mobs at­tack­ing syn­a­gogues and po­lice lines have not been re­peated here in the UK. We have not suf­fered the years of deep­en­ing an­tisemitic trauma punc­tu­ated by the kid­nap, tor­ture and mur­der of the young man Ilan Hal­imi in 2006 and the shoot­ing at Ozar Ha­Torah school in 2012.

These ter­ri­ble acts have not caused French Is­rael-haters, mainly young Mus­lims, to lessen their rage and many ob­servers are now se­ri­ously ask­ing if there is a vi­able fu­ture for French Jews, ap­prox­i­mately 5,000 of whom are mak­ing aliyah this year. Where France leads, will the rest of Europe fol­low? Does this in­clude Bri­tain?

At face value, this month’s events sug­gest that Bri­tain is not in the same po­si­tion as France: but the po­ten­tial for vi­o­lent an­ti­semitism is still very real.

I raised these con­cerns last week on BBC Ra­dio Five Live. It was the morn­ing af­ter David Ward MP’s re­marks about Ha­mas rock­ets and “Ich bin ein Pales­tinian”, and I sum­marised some of the many an­tisemitic in­ci­dents re­ported to CST by Jews from across the coun­try. David Ward’s re­sponse was both stag­ger­ing and ut­terly pre­dictable, a bored dis­missal of our com­mu­nal con­cerns, “we’ve heard it all be­fore… crit­i­cism of Is­rael… an­ti­semitism band­wagon”.

The next day, there was a splen­did ar­ti­cle by Emma Bar­nett in the Daily Tele­graph, ex­plain­ing her fears as a Bri­tish Jew about hos­tile im­pacts aris­ing here from an over­seas con­flict. Ra­dio 2 de­cided to in­ter­view both her and Alexei Sayle, who has long been a tren­chant (Jewish) critic of Is­raeli poli­cies. Sayle’s re­ac­tion made David Ward look like Gandhi. He be­gan in the same vein, claim­ing she was abus­ing an­ti­semitism to dis­credit Pales­tini­ans be­fore de­nounc­ing her as “sup­port­ing the mur­der of chil­dren, the mur­der of women… from a fas­cist, Zion­ist ide­ol­ogy”.

Sayle’s vi­gnette bril­liantly ex­em­pli­fied how and why main­stream Bri­tish Jews end up be­ing at­tacked for what­ever crimes Is­rael is be­ing ac­cused of. We are aware of the sit­u­a­tion and of the group li­bels, but stand res­o­lutely against them and lead our Jewish lives. That is what CST aims to do and it is what we would ask each of you to do also.

We carry on lead­ing our nor­mal Jewish lives

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