Anti-Semitism: The Last Taboo? | Sarah Stook

‘It’s such a shame that the History teachers in our school never taught us this but they are the first to start brainwashing us and our children into thinking the bad guy was Hitler. What have the Jews done good in this world?’

Five years ago, Nasreen ‘Naz’ Khan posted this on a FB page. When somebody replied, rebuking her by saying (correctly) that Hitler was no friend, Khan replied with the following:

Stop beating a dead horse. The Jews have reaped the rewards of playing victims, enough is enough!”

What a delight.

We’d like think that we live in a more tolerant society. Though many argue against multiculturalism and the level of immigration that is currently occurring in our nation, for all its faults and favours, we live in a diverse society. We have Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Jews, amongst others, all living in our streets. In some areas, like London, all of these groups will live together on one street. In some areas, you’ll be hard pressed to find any of those religions bar one. Jews are part of our society, and they will remain so.

Anti-Semitism is a problem in our society, and there is no way it can be ignored. Between January and June of this year, the Community Security Trust (CST) announced that 767 reports of anti-Semitic behaviour had been made to them. This was up 30% from the same time the previous year. Amongst this were 80 physical attacks, 22 attacks on Jewish schools, and most awfully, 13 physical assaults on Jewish students and staff travelling to and from school. Yes, children are not an exception to the brutality that is religiously-motivated violence.

Unfortunately for the good people who are disgusted by this, we have seen no action from the top. In the Labour camp, we have seen a large amount of behaviour from a minority of the generally far-left, behaviour that is nothing if not grossly anti-Semitic. The mind of many will go straight to the controversial’ Red’ Ken Livingstone, who had dogged accusations for years, and was recently suspended from the Labour for a year after comments regarding Hitler being an apparent Zionist. A quick scan of some FB or Twitter comments from certain members will show a genuinely twisted view of Jews, an evil that is genuinely anti-Semitic. Naz Shah of Bradford West was suspended for two months over comments regarding Israel, but nothing has really come of it and she is still happily acting as en elected representative. Hard-left allies such as Len McCluskey deny this, yet Jewish MPs such as Luciana Berger have published the hate they receive online.

Let’s not pretend that this is a problem exclusive to the left, as we should not ever let anyone on the right get away with anti-Semitism. Nigel Farage made the rather dubious claim of the Jewish lobby having a disproportionate amount of power in the US, leaving the goal open for him to be criticised for his views. The rise of the alt-right in the United States has shown a new breed of anti-Semitism online, as many in this group are critical of multiculturalism of not only traditionally non-white groups such as Muslims, but Jews as well- and many believe them to be a dangerous threat to the existent of a white race that the strongest value so dearly. Historically, Jews and Catholics were treated with suspicion by the KKK, who believed them to be impure whites, setting a precedent for the racism that still exists today.

There are several things that are wrong with how anti-Semitism is treated:

  1. Why do we let this happen with so much ease? Why do we let Jews receive abuse and let it slide, but not do the same with others? The Jewish people are a wonderful people. Unless a person has done something bad- from racism to other crimes, are we not taught to respect them regardless of who we are? They are an integral part of our society. They are not just to be respected because they are doctors and shopkeepers; they are to be respected because they are people. Yet, with statistics like 2/5 Jews feeling as though they must hide their faith, we know that this is a problem.
  2. What is our leadership doing? Theresa May has stood up at the despatch box, tweeted about it, made comments about protecting Jews, but what has come of it? May is a good person, and I genuinely believe that she wants to stop this disgusting anti-Semitism, but what our Prime Minister needs to do is make it clear that there is zero tolerance for any behaviour. Hey, at least she’s doing something. She withdrew the whip from Anne Marie Morris when she used an outdated phrase that includes the n-word. What does Corbyn do when comments are made- and not just anti-Semitic ones? Yes, he suspended Jared O’Mara, but he took his sweet time. He condemns the actions of his anti-Semitic members, but what more do we see from the man who fought against apartheid? Not much. Both our Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition need to stamp it out.
  3. Prevailing attitudes in society. The Institute for Jewish Policy research discovered that at least 30% of Brits hold some anti-Semitic attitudes, however small or large. We must remember this number may be higher, as only 5,466 out of several million were polled. The survey discovered that anti-Semitism was mostly found on the far right, though anti-Israeli attitudes were more common on the far left. Anti-Israelism was found to be more common, and as the left tend to be more opposed to the country; it is not surprising it’s higher on their end. Both of these were higher amongst Muslims who had been polled than Christians. The three groups, far-left, far-right and Muslim, only make up for 15%, as each make up a tiny percentage of the population each. In short, the average Brit is going to most likely be none of these, and they may rarely interlap. Still, it’s worrying that roughly 30% of people have some prejudices, though only 2.4% were open about their views.

These aren’t the attitudes of naive teenagers- and this would be no excuse anyway- these are people who are fully grown adults. They hold degrees, jobs, are active members of their community. Perhaps they have children. Perhaps they have Jewish neighbours, co-workers or just general acquaintances. It’s scary.

What makes it worst of all is how Jews are scared to hide their faith. A Christian should be able to walk down the street, proudly wear the crucifix without worrying about it being pulled at. A Muslim should be able to wear a hijab without it being snatched off. A Sikh should be able to not worry about being attacked for wearing a turban. Therefore, a Jew wearing a kippah or in Orthodox dress should not have to worry about being abused. Historically, we are a Christian nation, but we are not Saudi Arabia in our enforcement of our laws. We may have a generally Anglican or secular view of our legislation, but we do not allow our religious folk- whether other denominations such as Catholics or totally different such as Jews- to live in fear. A man in a kippah or a Rabbi clutching the Torah or a little girl practicing for her Bat Mitzvah does not offend me. They are proud of their religion, and should not be subdued into hiding it.

Though the most severe cases, such as property being attacked or near-fatal assault are thankfully rare, they are becoming more common. When you have children abused on their way to school, you know it’s a problem.

Think, for a moment about a young child you care about. Perhaps a child, a younger sibling, a cousin- it doesn’t matter. School is a place of sanctuary, of safety and security. In it, children- rightly or wrongly- are very much insulated from the outside world. School allows all children a chance, a chance to better their lives and improve their futures. Education is mandatory in this country, and as a result, British children have fantastic life chances. Kids hold their parents hand, chatting excitedly, or walk with friends when they’re a bit older, as they laugh about the day. Now, imagine that child walking to school and being screamed at by someone a lot older and a lot bigger than them. They cry, they try to walk that little bit faster so they can get to school, away from the nasty man or woman. What if it gets worse? What if they are, like 13 of them were, attacked? Imagine this, a child of under sixteen, going to school and being physically assaulted. Their apparent crime? They practice Judaism, and are maybe so religious enough that they attend a faith school. Faith schools are controversial, but attacking a student for going to one is ridiculous.

Attacking a child is general is as low as you can go.

So why is this waived off? Children are attacked, people are assaulted and some Jews even feel that they are no longer welcome in our country. Nobody reading this wants this wonderful part of our community to feel as though they have no place. Years and years ago, Jews were persecuted by this country. In 1290, King Edward I, after years of restricting Jewish activity, expelled them from England, and they did not return until 1656 under Oliver Cromwell. They had years of being mistreated, even massacred, by government forces. I won’t jump the gun here, I’m not saying this burst in anti-Semitic behaviour will cause a 2017 Edict of Expulsion, but as a society, we should worry that things could get a little far.

I’m not saying that I’m going to walk up to a random Jew tomorrow, hug them and swear to them that I am ally, but I am never going to condone anti-Semitic behaviour. We need to speak up more, protect them. It doesn’t matter that they only make up a small amount of our population, they are still people. It does not matter whether you’re a die-hard Thatcherite, a huge Corbynite or a true Scottish Nationalist; we need to prove that anti-Semitism doesn’t belong anywhere in our parties, or our society.

Is it the last taboo, sweeping anti-Semitism under the rug? Ok, maybe there are other ways of discrimination that are swept under still. Yes, somehow I believe that whilst anti-Semitism is rightly a taboo, preventing it is even more so. As a society, we need to realise that this is just no ok. If our leaders won’t stand up, we will.

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