When my mother went to school in London in the 1930’s, she was told by her neighbours to leave England and ‘go home’. Even some of her own school teachers called her out and ridiculed her as a ‘Jew’. Of course, this all occurred against the backdrop of rising antisemitism across Europe. Her father was there in opposition as the ‘British Union of Fascists and National Socialists’ marched through East London.
In 1937 at the Coronation of King George VI, her street held a fabulous party to celebrate. Her family had to watch from the window. After all, Jews were not invited. George VI ‘was not her king’.
I grew up in a different environment. And slowly, even general derogatory slang terms, such as ‘yid’, were considered unacceptable, even in jest. Antisemitism remained something terrible, but had become something that happened to people, that other people knew. It existed, but only at a distance, only in stories. It was a neo-Nazi problem, and we all knew there were not many of them left. I left the UK in 1987 for Israel, when I returned to the UK in 2006, the atmosphere had changed.
As I was growing up, antisemitism resided in the far-right. An ideological swamp that offered no protection. Society rejected both the hatred and the breeding ground. But in the last decade, as antisemitism morphs once more, it has found new cover within a different part of the political spectrum.
Today it emerges as offspring through the absurd marriage of the hard-left and Islamic thought. In a perverse twist, it is protected by the very groups that should despise it. The anti-racists, the humanitarians and the academics. They denounce antisemitism whilst simultaneously denying its existence and protecting the very cells that produce it.
In the UK the situation continues to deteriorate.
This week, Goldsmiths University of London placed a large suggestion board seeking ideas for improvements from students. Professor David Hirsh arrived on campus to see that one of the suggestions was to remove him. The comment read “no more David Hirsh, no more Zionism — a bitter Jew“ appended by a smiley face. This not even the first but rather ” the third openly antisemitic piece of graffiti at goldsmiths in a year.”
The university responded they “condemn this action – this is an unacceptable attack on a member of Goldsmiths staff.”
This though is nonsense. Goldsmiths proudly provide an environment in which the breeding swamp of antisemitism flourishes. I have been to several anti-Israel events there and felt the hatred myself. You cannot create an environment so hostile and refuse to accept the responsibility when the sewer spills over. Even their rugby team has an emblem on their shirt that has obliterated Israel. What did they expect?
Just a few weeks before this, my daughter came home distraught, because the local bus stop had been vandalised with horrific antisemitic graffiti. How do you deal with a fourteen-year-old who phones in tears because somebody has abused her so anonymously? Why should we even have to deal with this question?
Just two weeks ago, my wife lost income as a direct result of her identity. We are aware that the cancellation of an assignment, was down to the realisation on the part of the client that my wife had been educated in Israel. For a Muslim Councillor in a nearby town, that was an unacceptable connection to make.
Today, the editor of the UK’s Jewish Chronicle Stephen Pollard, went to a local coffee shop (in Tottenham Court Road) for a sandwich. He heard a discussion on a nearby table. Two girls were talking about Israel. The conversation swiftly switched to Jews.
“She’s Jewish and she’s like really annoying – you know, rich like the rest of the them and keeps going to f***ing Israel for holidays.” The response: – “”Ugh. Hate them”.
This week, there have also been a spate of attacks against Jewish homes across North West London. In one attack, in the early hours of Saturday morning, a brick was thrown through the window of a Jewish home. A group of Jews were pelted with eggs while walking home from Shabbat dinner. Another property was daubed with swastikas.
Last week on a different campus in London, there is footage from an event promoting the boycott of Israel. Jewish students on their own campus were accused of being enemy aliens, of being ‘briefed’ and sent by the Israeli embassy.
This is not a tale spreading months, or even years, nor is it happening to other people in strange towns. This is all on my doorstep, happening to my community, my friends, my own daughter. It is here. It is happening now. It is happening often. We cannot keep hiding our heads in the sand and pretending it is not getting worse. It visibly is deteriorating, and quickly. It needs to be dealt with today.
Lip service is not enough. You cannot just ‘oppose antisemitism’, or suggest you ‘condemn it’, and then walk away, protecting the very swamp from which modern antisemitism flourishes. It is time to end the protection that Jew hatred is given when it is disguised as anti-Zionism. Marching to obliterate a democracy because you believe the citizens are sub-human is not ‘criticism of a government policy’.
When you attack a cancer, you destroy the cells, you seek to eradicate the very thing that allows the cancer to grow. It is time for the UK government to change the way it deals with antisemitism. It is time to drain the entire swamp that breeds Jew hatred. You have to do this if you really wish to fight antisemitism. The alternative is that we will all lose the fight.