(Perhaps the title is more deserving of a 10 volume epic) I use ‘Odyssey’ not to sound pompous, but to best describe (in short) the journey that I feel British politics has been on lately.
Anti-Semitism, dubbed ‘the world’s oldest hatred’, is on the rise again.
There is no avoiding the fact that though there is always a presence of anti-Semitism, there are times when it is more prevalent, and that as a Jew, one can feel more aware of a certain level of animosity.
The spectrum of anti-Semitism is broad, it can be the denial of the Holocaust, the passing of a remark said in jest such as ‘typical Jew’, to the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Most complex though is the criticism of Israel (the one Jewish state). Whilst it can be healthy to disagree and debate the political issues regarding the Israeli government, all too often this leads to the inevitable question: ‘Isn’t that anti-Semitic?’.
I am not preaching to discourage people from having opinions on Netanyahu’s Parliament, just to address the anger towards the politicians, not ‘the Jews’.
An article published in the Guardian in February 2017 showed the following shocking statistics:
‘The CST, which monitors anti-Semitism and provides security to Jewish communities, recorded 1,309 incidents of anti-Jewish hate last year, compared with 960 in 2015, a rise of 36%. The previous record number of incidents was in 2014, when 1,182 were recorded’.
The spike in hate crime in 2014 was attributed to the war in Gaza but no trigger has been found to explain what happened in 2016 to cause such a dramatic rise that surpassed the 2014 figure.
One more recent way of voicing anti-Semitic views, which has flown under the radar, is the Parliamentary Petitions website. Here anyone can submit a petition, which, if it reaches 100,000 signatures gets the issue discussed in the Commons. It has become a hotbed for people writing ridiculous anti-Semitic nonsense without risk of negative repercussions, with over 31,000 petitions.
Of course, for the large part, they are necessary so that different voices can be heard and problems which would otherwise not be discussed get a fair hearing. Whilst few anti-Semitic petitions reach the 100,000 mark they are still readily viewed on the website. It is also a challenge to sift between the genuine petitions on Israel and those written to spark an unreasonable argument against the Jews.
Criticisms of Israel
A prime example of stepping over that line between healthy criticism of Israel, and unhealthy, were the words of Tim Lezard (from an article published by the JC) who stated:
‘When anti-Semitism rises as a result of Israel bombing Gaza, should UK taxpayers fund security for synagogues?’
Funnily enough, the article goes on to say: ‘according to the definition of anti-Semitism’ this part is good ‘holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel’ is anti-Semitic. It’s harrowing to think that someone who acted as an aide to Corbyn, with a shot of getting power, had such dangerous views on the safety of British citizens.
I don’t want to be ‘uber’ sensitive about anti-Semitism but sometimes I can’t help but get upset. Despite the sometimes questionable actions of Labour surrounding anti-Semitism, I chose still to be an active member of the Labour Party and had the incalculable honour of playing a part in the mammoth campaign recently fought by Labour. However, a victory should surely mean winning a majority? The only victory coming out of the general election was undermining May. That’s for a different time though … . Interestingly, of the last four prime ministers, all have been advocates of the state of Israel which juxtaposes with the fact that the majority of the country are pro-Palestine. Which begs the question … Why? Would it be presumptuous to think their views are gained from the cataclysm of Jewish settlements in Palestine? Or is it a protest against the political elite?
An ignorable example of what may have deterred many Jews from voting Labour, was the use of a giant left-wing political banner in Bristol (which has since been condemned as anti-Semitic), portraying Theresa May wearing Star of David earrings. The fact that this is viewed by someone as a way in which to dissuade people from voting Conservative is frightening. As well as the Star of David earrings, the word ‘Balfour’ was written over May’s side of the poster. This unnerving political statement can only be viewed as rejecting the legitimacy of Israel as a nation, using it as a weapon against the Conservatives. This November marks the centenary of the signing of the Balfour Declaration, which called for ‘the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’.
In the wake of numerous terrorist atrocities, in and outside of the UK, I feel proud to live in such an accepting and principled society. It’s far more emotionally exhausting being angry and bitter. I don’t want to overwork my emotions and pull my own heartstrings like it’s a pizzicato piece, but instead think it’s urgent we pull together. Fortunately, I have never had an incident of anti-Semitism against myself, perhaps in part, due to being born in the bubble of North West London.
At present we are seeing manifestations of anti-Semitism in the form of attacks on the state of Israel.