Endemic Anti-Semitism

Journalists have been going around Western European cities, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Berlin, Manchester, wearing kippot (Jewish skull caps) identifying themselves as Jewish.  In all cities they were subject to anti-Semitic abuse, but the worst was, believe it or not, not in Berlin, but in Britain.   In Bradford and Manchester the abuse was not only constant and in some cases dangerous (stalking and threatening life), but the rate was twice that in the next worse place Paris.  As far as I could tell, the bulk of the abuse did not come from Muslims (in Bradford there is a large Pakistani minority), but mainly from Anglos, and also the abuse had nothing to do with Israel.  The excuse that people are anti-Israel, opposing the policies of the Israel Government against the poor Palestinians, or even against Israel’s right to exist as a State, does not hold, the comments were all in fact classic anti-Semitism, that is expressing hatred for the Jews as a race.  In no case in Britain was Israel even mentioned, it was entirely the old hatred, “Jews go home,” ‘kill the Jews,” “Get out of our country.”

Many people are surprised by these overt manifestations of anti-Semitism in Britain, but I am not.  During my boyhood and growing up in England, I experienced constant and endemic hatred expressed against myself in both an offhand and sometimes threatening way.  They ranged from boyhood chants at school, to a frightening altercation on a London bus at the Angel Islington with a well-dressed man who threatened “If I see your fucking face around here again I’ll kill you, you Jew bastard” (I believed him), to condescending comments in my Cambridge College, such as  “How interesting, I’ve never met a Jews before.”   So I was not surprised by any of this, I know anti-Semitism is ingrained into British culture, and I chose to leave as soon as I could.  I did not want my children growing up in such a hostile environment.  I got my degree and left for Israel (1964-66) and then the US (1966-96) and then back to Israel.  You could say this was cowardice, of giving in to the extremists (who after all are few and have no power – not true).  I’d rather see it as wisdom and experience triumphing over inertia and fear of change (remember Germany).

I must say that in the USA I only had one anti-Semitic incident in my 30 years living there, and that was when the Italian American secretary who was giving out the pay checks referred to the fact that the Jews were more interested in the money than others.  I complained about her to our boss, but he being an anti-Semitic Polish-Russian did nothing. However, the fact is that there is growing anti-Semitism in the US, particularly on College campuses.  A prime example of this was the recent interrogation of a qualified Jewish applicant, Rachel Beyda, for a position on the Judicial Board of the Student Council in UCLA.  Instead of asking her routine questions as the members of the nominating committee had done for other applicants, they questioned her ability to be unbiased in all subjects due to her being Jewish.  Their attitudes were not only rude and even hostile, but actually racist, as if she was unfit for holding such an office because she was Jewish.  In a 40 min recorded discussion the anti-Semitic attitudes of the majority won out and Rachel was rejected.  It was only the intervention of the adult faculty advisor who pointed out that if any other minority student had been treated in that way it would be considered unreservedly “racist,” that some members reversed themselves.  Later the University and the members of the Committee issued apologies.  Rachel was appointed, but she knows that she will operate in a hostile environment and that the cat is out of the bag.  A majority of active students in the Student Council of UCLA and no doubt elsewhere, are anti-Semitic.  Once again this case had nothing to do with Israel.

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