Fear is still hold­ing us back

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Miriam Sha­viv

Iabout An­glo-Jewry is fol­lowed by de­nials, claim­ing the Amer­i­cans are ig­no­rant of re­al­ity on the ground and un­aware of the enor­mous ef­forts of Bri­tish Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions. Our nat­u­ral re­ac­tion is to bris­tle and roll our eyes. We’re of­fended, in­dig­nant, tired of de­fend­ing our life here. But could we be wrong? Much as we may dis­like this mes­sen­ger, there is un­for­tu­nately more than a grain of truth in Boteach’s claims. In fact, he’s not say­ing any­thing I haven’t heard nu­mer­ous times around lo­cal Shab­bat ta­bles, par­tic­u­larly when Is­rael is un­der at­tack and the anti-Is­rael at­mos­phere rises sev­eral notches. The re­al­ity is that it is harder to be a proud Jew here than in Amer­ica. While many of us lead com­fort­able Jewish lives, the lev­els of an­ti­semitism and anti-Is­rael in­vec­tive in the pub­lic do­main can some­times reach fright­en­ing lev­els. I know too many peo­ple who avoid discussing Is­rael be­cause they’re fright­ened — at work, and par­tic­u­larly on cam­pus, where one stu­dent at a top univer­sity re­cently told me that de­fend­ing Is­rael would im­me­di­ately end his so­cial life. Too many peo­ple, also, who se­ri­ously con­sid­ered leav­ing the UK for Is­rael dur­ing the last Is­rael– Gaza war. What does it say about this coun­try that they pre­ferred, how­ever briefly, to face real rock­ets than to face Bri­tish pub­lic opin­ion?

On the communal level, our or­gan­i­sa­tions can­not com­pare to their pow­er­ful Amer­i­can equiv­a­lents (AIPAC, the Con­fer­ence of Pres­i­dents, the Anti-Defama­tion League and the like) in terms of fund­ing, staffing and im­pact. The es­tab­lish­ment of the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil was a step in the right di­rec­tion but has not fun­da­men­tally changed the equa­tion.

As a re­sult of this weak­ness and in­her­ited, as­sim­i­la­tory “we mustn’t of­fend any­one” at­ti­tudes to lob­by­ing, our or­gan­i­sa­tions pre­fer to de­fend Is­rael be­hind closed doors. One only need think back to the wide­spread dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the vis­i­bil­ity of the Board dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge in 2014 — lead­ing to the found­ing of the Cam­paign Against An­ti­semitism, and the thenpres­i­dent of the Board be­ing booed when he ap­peared at one of their ral­lies — to re­alise that this is a source of dis­may for many in the com­mu­nity.

With the at­tacks in Paris and the ris­ing ter­ror­ist threat, the cli­mate in Europe is chang­ing for the worse. We need more pub­lic, as­sertive and de­ci­sive ac­tion de­fend­ing Is­rael, sup­port­ing our stu­dents and com­bat­ing an­ti­semitism if the Jewish com­mu­nity is go­ing to con­tinue be­ing com­fort­able liv­ing in this coun­try.

The temp­ta­tion is to dis­like Boteach be­cause he is an out­sider wash­ing our dirty li­nen in pub­lic. But it doesn’t make him wrong.

They would rather face rock­ets than Bri­tish opin­ion

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