The Jewish Chronicle

We should fight Jew-hate like we fought Covid

Antisemiti­sm is like a virus that mutates and creates new varients throughout history

- By Jonathan Boyd PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

IN MY darker moments, I sometimes wonder if we’ll ever rid the world of antisemiti­sm. It’s been around for centuries, changing its form and potency at different times and places, but always somehow present. Even when fairly dormant, we know deep down that it could be awoken at any time, so we constantly take precaution­s. Data gathered by JPR for the EU show that 60 per cent of British Jews avoid wearing, carrying or displaying items that might identify them as Jewish, at least on occasion. In France, the equivalent proportion is 82 per cent.

Antisemiti­sm is often likened to a virus that mutates and creates new variants, changing form and potency over time and across space. It drew on Christian theologica­l ideas in medieval Christendo­m, and on pseudoscie­ntific findings in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Europe. Today, it takes root in the world of fundamenta­l rights, where the cardinal sins are ethnic cleansing and apartheid, both charges levelled periodical­ly at Israel and too often, by associatio­n, Jews.

And just like a virus, it infects different people to different extents. One of the ways in which it is commonly researched is by presenting survey respondent­s with a set of antisemiti­c statements and asking them whether they agree with them or not. “Jews get rich at the expense of others.” Agree or disagree? “The Holocaust is a myth.” Agree or disagree?

Very few people agree with all the statements they are showed, in Britain at least. Presented with eight such statements in our most recent study, 0.1 per cent of the population — about one in a thousand — agreed with every one. But at the same time, 30 per cent of the population — about one in three — agreed with at least one, even if they disagreed with the others.

So there are relatively few hard-core antisemite­s, as in people who incontrove­rtibly test positive for the virus of antisemiti­sm who potentiall­y pose a mortal threat to Jews.

But at the same time, there are many who could be called asymptomat­ic antisemite­s — people whose prejudice is almost undetectab­le unless carefully tested, but who can neverthele­ss serve as vectors for infecting others.

The virus metaphor is helpful today. We have learned much recently about how to tackle a pandemic. We’ve seen public informatio­n campaigns to raise awareness of the threat. We’ve seen preventati­ve measures — steps everyone needs to take to help reduce the risks to themselves and others. We’ve seen punitive measures for those breaking the rules. We’ve seen research — constant measuring of the scale of the problem and early warning signs when it is about to escalate. And we’ve seen massive investment in antidotes, a global effort to create vaccines.

Tackling the virus of antisemiti­sm, which has many variants and mutates over time, requires a similar approach. Public education. Preventati­ve measures. Punitive action. Statistica­l monitoring and analysis. Investment in serious antidotes. In brief, a multiplici­ty of initiative­s, brought together under an overarchin­g mission of combating antisemiti­sm, that recognises the complexity of the phenomenon it seeks to address.

And not just here in the UK, but everywhere that antisemiti­sm rears its ugly head.

It’s a daunting task that, as I said, may never be fully achievable. But I was given cause for optimism recently when I presented evidence at a United Nations conference about the issue.

I know, I know — the UN. Not exactly an organisati­on with a great reputation among Jews. But this felt different. Convened by former Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miguel Moratinos, a wellknown friend of Israel and the Jewish People, and involving the heads of multiple Jewish and general internatio­nal agencies, it marked the start of what looks like a serious and concerted attempt to build that multifacet­ed, global strategy. If that approach can work with the coronaviru­s, maybe, just maybe, it can work with antisemiti­sm too.

Like Covid, antisemiti­sm needs public education, preventati­ve measures, punitive action and statistica­l monitoring’

 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Miguel Angel Moratinos
Miguel Angel Moratinos

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom