British anti-Semitism

Many years ago we had a series of inter-faith meetings at our synagogue
(Beth El) in Bethesda MD. The meetings with the various Christian
denominations went quite well. But, I remember that the Muslims that we met
with were very non-committal. After the formal part of the meeting I
chatted with an Imam, and during the conversation he said to me “so many
bad things have happened to the Jews, there must be a good reason for it.”
I thought about this rationalization when I recently received an exchange of
letters between several British Jews, triggered it seems partly by my
article on “A tale of two lions.” There are those British Jews, living in
England, who have a natural desire to under-estimate the effects of anti-
Semitism, and there are those of us who have emigrated to Israel, who have
no need to under-estimate these effects, indeed according to the former we
are deliberately over-estimating the level of anti-Semitism in Britain.
It is true that the Blackshirt movement of Oswald Moseley started losing
support among the British people as soon as he adopted anti-Semitism
as a major policy. This coincided with the massive meeting they had in
Wembley in 1936 at which Jews in the audience were beaten up in full
view of cameras and reporters. But, a subtle point, it was not so much
the anti-Semitism that turned off most Britons, it was the violence. They
objected to political violence. That was what they did on the continent,
in France and places East, but not in Britain, where they managed their
politics as gentlemen without recourse to violence. This reminds me of
the response of US Pres. Wilson before WWI, when advised that the US
should expand its investigations of possible spies in the US by
intercepting their mail, he said “gentlemen do not read other gentlemen’s
mail!” Well that was a long time ago, and now in Britain you have “yob”
culture, murders of young women practically every week, football
hooligans, increasing anti-Semitic violence, an increase in the Muslim
population and increased pro-Palestinian activities particularly by left
wing extremists.
There was a time when Jews sat quietly and were passive in the face of
monumental persecution. They rationalized that “this will pass,” “it will
get better,” but unfortunately it did not. Generations of accepting fate
led to the near destruction of the Jewish people. I have no illusions and I
think this is a realistic attitude. The Jewish people would be well on the
way to extinction if it were not for the existence of the Israel Defense
Forces. As it is we will probably never achieve the level of population,
a mere 14 million, that we had prior to WWII. It’s true that democracies
protect minority rights. But, nevertheless, all Jewish facilities in
Britain and throughout Europe have to be protected by armed guards, and this
has been true for years. Is this the kind of environment that Jews should
expect to live in as equal citizens in a democratic country?
Something has fundamentally changed. When I was growing up in Britain in
the 1950s there was constant and pervasive anti-Semitism, but it was largely
surreptitious. It was too soon after the war, after the photos of the camps.
It was grassroots, from below not above. Now leaders such as Mayor Ken
Livingstone, MP George Galloway, future Lady Tonge, and BBC commentator
Orla Geurin, can act as public conduits for these views. As commentator
MelaniePhillips has said, anti-Semitism has once again become “fashionable.”
I don’t expect howling mobs to be raging through the cities of Britain
attacking Jews, but I do expect a gradual increase of anti-Semitic incidents,
an increased threshold of the acceptance of anti-Semitic public statements,
an increased tolerance of anti-Israelism throughout sectors of British society, including the media, academia, the political establishment and so on.
To those British Jews who won’t take this sitting down, take a leaf from the
President of Haifa University. He has announced that unless the AUT
rescinds its boycott at its May 26 meeting he will sue them in the British
courts. This is how the KKK was decimated in the US South, by legal action
taken by the families of those who had suffered as a result of attacks by
the KKK.
Writing letters and petitions is good, but taking action is much better.
Rights are worth nothing unless they are protected.

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