Fight­ing back against voices of hate

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY DANIEL SUGARMAN

READ­ERS OF the Daily Record in Scot­land, leaf­ing through their pa­per over the break­fast table or on their way to work last month, will have turned the page and seen an ad­vert de­signed to make them sit up and take no­tice.

“Right now — in Scot­land”, the graphic in­formed read­ers, “Jewish busi­nesses are be­ing ha­rassed and in­tim­i­dated”.

The ad­vert called for “vol­un­teer hu­man rights ob­servers” in Aberdeen and Glas­gow, to be “trained and equipped to peace­fully mon­i­tor, record, doc­u­ment and bear wit­ness to Jew hate”.

It also in­cluded a pic­ture of Jew-hate from a dif­fer­ent era — a row of Nazis, arms out­stretched, pre­vent­ing Jews from en­ter­ing the Univer­sity of Vi­enna in 1938.

Read­ers were in­formed that “In 2015 JHRW — Jewish Hu­man Rights Watch was launched to fight the ris­ing tide of Jew -hate across the UK.”

“It was De­cem­ber 2015,” says Jonathan Neu­mann, the direc­tor of JHRW, dis­cussing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s be­gin­nings.

“The orig­i­nal im­pe­tus was Le­ices­ter coun­cil pass­ing a BDS mo­tion, which re­ally gal­vanised us into think­ing that some­thing needed to be done.”

He and oth­ers thought that, given the Jewish com­mu­nity’s “con­sen­sus on op­po­si­tion to BDS, a more forth­right po­si­tion needed to be taken.

“We de­cided to fill that gap”, he says. “BDS has re­mained very much our fo­cus since then, ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about it and cam­paign­ing to end it.”

Ac­cord­ing to JHRW, part of the rea­son why the group has called for hu­man rights ob­servers in Scot­land is be­cause the sit­u­a­tion there is more se­vere, with the Scot­tish Pales­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Cam­paign de­scribed as “on a dif­fer­ent level” to ac­tivists in other places in the UK.

The ob­servers will be de­ployed at events where JHRW be­lieves there is a threat of an­ti­semitic abuse oc­cur­ring.

Mr Neu­mann ex­plains: “The ob­servers will be prop­erly trained, they will have proper high-viz jack­ets, with ‘Hu­man Rights Ob­servers’ on. They will record and watch out for in­ci­dents for Jew-hate, any­thing that can be re­ported.

Mr Neu­mann ex­plains that the or­gan­i­sa­tion has as­sisted Bri­tish Jews liv­ing in “far-flung places” where “they don’t have the sort of com­mu­nal in­fra­struc­ture and sup­port”.

JHRW is also ac­tively work­ing to try to end the anti-Is­rael boy­cott move­ment in Bri­tain, with an em­pha­sis on go­ing af­ter any group or or­gan­i­sa­tions per­ceived to be pro­mot­ing it.

Le­ices­ter and other lo­cal coun­cils which passed anti-Is­rael mo­tions found them­selves fac­ing a dis­crim­i­na­tion case in the courts, brought by JHRW.

Although the High Court ruled in favour of the coun­cils last June, in Oc­to­ber the govern­ment pub­lished new guide­lines pre­vent­ing lo­cal au­thor­i­ties from us­ing pen­sion funds or pro­cure­ment money to boy­cott or di­vest from Is­raeli firms.

“JHRW put the coun­cil BDS is­sue on the map”, says Mr Neu­mann. “It’s no coin­ci­dence that when we started bring­ing these le­gal ac­tions, this guid­ance and leg­is­la­tion started hap­pen­ing.”

Other groups, such as the Pales­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Cam­paign (PSC) and char­ity War on Want — which pro­motes “Is­rael Apartheid Week” — have also been tar­geted by JHRW. In late 2015 an of­fi­cial com­plaint was made to the Char­ity Com­mis­sion re­gard­ing War on Want (WoW). How­ever, JHRW is dis­sat­is­fied by the com­mis­sion’s ap­par­ent in­abil­ity to reach a de­ci­sion on the char­ity and are, they say, con­sid­er­ing other op­tions.

This ag­gres­sive strat­egy is an ex­am­ple, Mr Neu­mann says, of throw­ing the tactics used by anti-Is­rael ac­tivists back at them.

“Un­for­tu­nately the other side are very suc­cess­ful”, he says, “and to date the Jewish com­mu­nity and Bri­tish Zion­ists have not used those kind of tactics ef­fec­tively. We have now de­cided to adopt them.”

JHRW ac­tivists protested out­side War on Want’s of­fices in Lon­don and Man­ches­ter last year.

Mr Neu­mann says: “This is a group [WoW] that loves to protest out­side Jewish Is­raeli com­pa­nies. This is the first time a Jewish group has gone to them and ag­i­tated out­side their own head­quar­ters and out­side their own meet­ings. It was very un­set­tling to them. They didn’t like to be on the re­ceiv­ing end of their tactics.”

In terms of fu­ture plans, JHRW says that its “at­ten­tion is in­creas­ingly turned to uni­ver­si­ties, par­tic­u­larly with Is­rael JHRW’s ad­vert in Scot­land Apartheid Week, which we be­lieve falls foul of the law.”

Mr Neu­mann also stresses JHRW does not con­sider it­self to be right or left wing. “We’re not re­ally in­ter­ested in those la­bels. We have peo­ple who are Con­ser­va­tive Party sup­port­ers, Labour Party sup­port­ers, swing vot­ers.

“We ab­so­lutely ap­plaud this govern­ment for what it has achieved on com­bat­ting Jew-hate, and if it was a Labour govern­ment which had done it then we would ap­plaud it all the same.

“Our chief and only con­cern is to ad­vance the cause of Jewish hu­man rights, and who­ever wants to as­sist or fa­cil­i­tate that, we will ap­plaud them.”

JHRW ac­tivists protesting out­side War on Want’s 2016 AGM

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