Don’t scapegoat British Jews over Middle East crisis – Bill Carmichael

A FEW years back I was invited to give a talk on journalism at a Jewish community centre in North Leeds.
Is the Middle East conflict to blame for a rise in anti-Semitism?Is the Middle East conflict to blame for a rise in anti-Semitism?
Is the Middle East conflict to blame for a rise in anti-Semitism?

It was a splendid occasion with a warm welcome enlivened by some challenging questions, and afterwards I had the privilege of meeting some people who had made new lives in Yorkshire after escaping Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport in the late 1930s.

But one thing that struck me during my visit was the very high level of security deemed necessary in this quiet northern suburb.

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I won’t go into the security arrangements here – as the bad guys might find such information useful – but suffice it to say that I’d never seen anything like it outside of military establishments and airports.

What more can be done to tackle Anti-Semitism?What more can be done to tackle Anti-Semitism?
What more can be done to tackle Anti-Semitism?

When I asked the organisers about this I was told that pretty much every Jewish organisation, not just in the UK but across Europe and North America, is forced to install special security measures because of the threat of attack that has increased massively over recent years.

And that threat is very real indeed. Hardly a week goes by without reports of attacks on synagogues, community centres, schools, Jewish museums and even kosher supermarkets, sometimes with murderous results.

The Jewish community in the UK and Europe has to live with the constant threat of violence that would be unthinkable for any other religious or ethnic minority.

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And depressingly it is getting worse. The Community Security Trust charity revealed this week that reports of anti-Semitic attacks and abuse in the UK had increased by almost 500 per cent in just a few days.

Jeremy Corbyn is accused of taking insufficient action to tackle anti-Semitism when Labour leader.Jeremy Corbyn is accused of taking insufficient action to tackle anti-Semitism when Labour leader.
Jeremy Corbyn is accused of taking insufficient action to tackle anti-Semitism when Labour leader.

Just last weekend, for example, we saw pro-Palestinian demonstrators in London chanting anti-Semitic slogans, a Rabbi was attacked and hit on the head with a brick in Essex, and a convoy of 
cars decked with Palestinian flags 
toured Jewish areas of north London shouting rape threats through a loudhailer.

In British university campuses Jewish students are faced with death threats and Nazi salutes, and many say they cannot wear the kippah– the Jewish skullcap – for fear of violent attacks.

One reason for the rise in abuse and attacks is of course events 3,000 miles away in Gaza where the Israeli Defence Force and Hamas terrorists are locked in ghastly and deadly fighting.

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I won’t get into the rights and wrongs of that conflict here, but I suspect that those criticising Israel’s “disproportionate” response to Hamas attacks would quickly change their tune if a racist terror group was firing thousands of missiles aimed at British homes, schools and hospitals.

But that is irrelevant. We, quite rightly, do not hold British Muslims responsible for the actions of the Saudi or Iranian government, or for the atrocities committed by Islamist terrorists.

And we don’t hold British citizens of Chinese heritage responsible for the actions of the Chinese communist government and its suppression of its Muslim Uyghur minority.

In a similar vein we should not blame British Jews for the actions of the Israeli government. Indeed, I know from my own discussions that many British Jews are critical of Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration and supportive of Palestinian rights. To blame British Jews for events in Gaza is plainly racist.

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Part of the problem is the Left’s obsessive hatred of Israel that borders on the pathological. They point to the tiny Jewish state – the Middle East’s only democracy – as the root of all evil in the world, while simply ignoring dozens of other countries with far worse human rights records.

And this toxic antagonism towards Israel all too easily metastases into bigotry and racism towards Jewish people. For evidence look no further than the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, found guilty of unlawful harassment and discrimination towards Jewish people by an Equality and Human Rights Commission report last year.

I have no problem with robust analysis of Israel’s human rights record – although for the sake of consistency it would be good to see other countries, such as Russia, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia subject to the same level of scrutiny, criticism and protest.

So, say what you want about Israel, and be as harsh as you think justified, but just leave our Jewish friends and neighbours out of it.

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