The Jewish Chronicle

When it comes to hate, listen to UK Jews


ARE BOYCOTTERS of Israel antisemiti­c? That was the fundamenta­l question being posed in the JPR/ CST paper published last week. There has been some confusion over what we found, so allow me to clarify.

If we ask Jews what they think, the answer is pretty conclusive. EU research conducted by JPR in 2018 found that 75 per cent of UK Jews consider those calling for boycotts of Israel to be at least “probably” antisemiti­c, if not “definitely” so.

That’s important to consider if one draws on the MacPherson definition, which, expressed simply, maintains that a hate crime is “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.” If that is correct, one can argue that boycotters are antisemiti­c.

Of course, boycotters maintain that they are not antisemiti­c; they are political activists seeking to redress the injustices of the Israel-Palestinia­n conflict.

It’s not an easy argument to win, either way. But statistics can shed some light here.

First, our data show a clear statistica­l relationsh­ip between hostility to Jews and hostility to Israel. The more hostility one shows towards Jews, the more likely one is to also show hostility towards Israel, and vice versa. Correlatio­n is proven, even if causation is not.

Second, different types of hostility towards Israel correlate differentl­y with anti-Jewish sentiment, and vice versa. For example, the claim that “Israel exploits Holocaust victimhood for its own purposes” has a strong associatio­n with anti-Jewish sentiment; calling for boycotts of Israeli goods and products shows a weaker associatio­n. Describing Israel as “an apartheid state” is weaker still. To be clear, they all correlate, but we find greater anti-Jewish malice associated with some anti-Israel beliefs than others.

Third, focusing on the 10 per cent of people in Great Britain who contend that “people should boycott Israeli goods and products”, a majority (58 per cent) also agrees with at least one of nine anti-Jewish views presented to them in our research, such as tropes relating to wealth, superiorit­y or nefarious uses of power. The equivalent figure for those in British society who do not hold the boycott contention is 29 per cent. Supporters of boycotts are therefore twice as likely as the population in general to bear at least some antiJewish feeling.

One could argue that people supporting boycotts and holding just one anti-Jewish belief out of the nine presented – meaning that they also disagree with, or are neutral on, the other eight – is too low a bar to set.

But the more we investigat­e supporters of boycotts, the more damning the findings become. Thirty per cent of pro-boycotters hold at least three of the anti-Jewish beliefs researched, compared with 8 per cent of non-boycotters. Twelve per cent hold at least six anti-Jewish beliefs, compared to 1 per cent of nonboycott­ers. In short, there are clear subsets of those supporting boycotts that are dramatical­ly more likely to hold multiple anti-Jewish views than everyone else.

That said, 42 per cent of people who say they agree with boycotts of Israel, disagree with, or are neutral on, every single one of the nine negative statements about Jews presented to them. Presumably, these are either people who genuinely believe that boycotting Israel could shift the needle in resolving the Israeli-Palestinia­n conflict, or they are simply following the crowd, picking up ideas that are fashionabl­e, and making them their own.

So what’s the bottom line? On balance, I believe British Jews are right to be cautious. Boycotters themselves are twice as likely as others in the population to hold at least one antiJewish view and about ten times as likely to hold six or more. Put bluntly, when British Jews see smoke, they have good reason to also fear fire.

Dr Jonathan Boyd is JPR Executive Director SOME OF the figures which appeared in last week’s front page story about the link between Jewhate and hostility to Israel were incorrect as a result of an error in the text of the JPR report which led to the misinterpr­etation of a graph The story said that 58 per cent of those who view Israel as an apartheid state identified with five anti-Jewish statements, while 52 per cent of those who supported a boycott agreed with six or more. Conversely, 16 per cent of those who viewed Israel as an apartheid state, and six per cen t of proboycott­ers, did not agree with any anti-Jewish ideas.

The article should have read that of people who identified with five negative statements about Jews, 58 per cent also considered Israel an apartheid state; and of those who identified with six or more negative statements, 52 per cent backed a boycott. Among people who identified with no anti-Jewish ideas, 16 per cent thought it an apartheid state and six per cent were in favour of a boycott.

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