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EDITOR’S VIEW: We must all take a stand against vile anti-Semitism

PUBLISHED: 10:58 11 August 2017 | UPDATED: 13:10 11 August 2017

Protesters gathered outside Haringey Civic Centre on July 31  before the council voted to adopt a definition of anti-semitism. Picture: SALIM ALAM

Protesters gathered outside Haringey Civic Centre on July 31 before the council voted to adopt a definition of anti-semitism. Picture: SALIM ALAM

Archant

A record number of anti-Semitic attacks have been recorded this year in Britain, with the highest number of incidents in the country being on our own doorstep in Barnet

Protest outside Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn following refusal to host Jewish film festival over a boycott of the Jewish Film Festival in 2014. Picture: Nigel SuttonProtest outside Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn following refusal to host Jewish film festival over a boycott of the Jewish Film Festival in 2014. Picture: Nigel Sutton

The Community Security Trust (CST), reports 767 UK attacks this year with 158 incidents in Barnet including 16 assaults, 14 threats and 112 abusive behaviour cases.

This includes not only verbal abuse, graffiti and abuse via social media but also attacks on schools.

It does not need to be said that all these incidents are alarming and completely unacceptable.

The fact that our Jewish community has to rely on the CST- its own security force - to stand outside synagogues says it all. It cannot rely on the British police or society to protect it.

Anti-Semitic grafitti  daubed on Hampstead Heath sign in 2015 . Picture: Nigel SuttonAnti-Semitic grafitti daubed on Hampstead Heath sign in 2015 . Picture: Nigel Sutton

While these figures disgust me, they don’t surprise me.

They confirm what I already know - that we are now living in an era where anti-Semitism has become a vile part of our lives.

These figures arrived in my inbox, the day after the Sunday Times Irish edition published an anti-Semitic rant from Irish journalist Kevin Myers.

His comments that BBC presenters Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz were better paid than other female presenters because they were Jewish, were not just the ramblings of an eccentric old journo but were read and passed by subeditors – I assume they still have one or two - and by the editor of the Sunday Times in Ireland,

How have we come to a situation where these offensive comments were nodded through or worse still not even noticed?

It is because anti-Semitism has become mainstream. People have become so immune to it that they don’t blink an eyelid.

It is time for all of us to stand up with one voice and say that this is not acceptable. It is not only these recorded examples of violence and racism, it is on a smaller more subtle level we must all take a stand.

I thought things couldn’t get much worse when a few years ago the Tricycle Theatre banned the Jewish Film Festival, a cultural event, on the basis that it received moderate funding from the Israeli embassy or when Labour party members began to openly and blatantly make anti-Semitic comments in public.

But I now realise it has. Anti-Semitism has crept into my own everyday life.

In the pub, when I told a new acquaintance that I was half Jewish, he replied: “Eeeew you don’t look it. You don’t have a big nose.” This is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable that nobody else at the table objected to these comments, but laughed.

It is not acceptable that when I went to pay a man £9.95 at the carwash a few weeks ago, gave him a tenner and said keep the 5p, he told me that I obviously wasn’t Jewish as his Jewish customers all insist on getting the 5p change.

This is why I welcome a move by Haringey Council this week to adopt the new International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antiSemitism.

The definition says: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

It goes on to say: “Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

But the vote at Haringey’s full council on July 24, was met with an angry protest outside the Haringey Civic Centre from members of the far-left Momentum group and Haringey Justice for Palestinians, who councillors accused of threatening them and disrupting the meeting.

While the right to protest and the right to criticise governments here or abroad, as many Jews do too, is to be cherished, it is when it spills over into hatred of a nation and a denial of its right to exist that the protest crosses a line. It is wrong to equate all Jews with the behaviour of the Israeli government and to link criticism of Israeli policy with any vote or discussion on anti-Semitism.

People can be as angry as they like at the Israeli government but to rant on Twitter about Jews or abuse a child in the street is vile and contemptible racism and cannot be excused by reference to Israeli military behaviour. The two are and should be kept utterly distinct - something the protesters outside Haringey civic centre last week failed to grasp.

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