Time to stand in solidarity with Britain’s Jewish community

Cross-posted from Hope Not Hate

Aside from the use of the imprecise term “Islamophobia” (as opposed to “anti-Muslim bigotry”), this is an excellent statement from Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate about the antisemtism that has emerged in recent weeks. He is quite right to ask where the solidarity is this time around.

Last summer HOPE not hate launched the #WeAreTheMany initiative to give people the opportunity to show solidarity with Britain’s Muslim communities, who at the time were suffering a violent backlash following the murder of Lee Rigby. Mosques had been firebombed, woman wearing the niqab attacked and there had been an outpouring of hatred on social media.

HOPE not hate, like many other organisations, went into overdrive to defend and support our Muslim friends and neighbours. We did all this because it was the right thing to do. Britain’s Muslim communities should not have been held responsible for the actions of others and we needed to stand together in solidarity.

That there wasn’t a greater backlash in the wake of the murder was partly down to the great work of local interfaith networks and community groups, who did an amazing job to engage positively with their own audiences and come together to show solidarity with a community under attack.

Now, a year on, it is Britain’s Jewish community under attack but this same solidarity appears sadly less lacking.

The conflict in Gaza has led to a huge spike in antisemitic incidents in this country. A synagogue has been attacked in Belfast, a bomb threat made against a synagogue in London, Jewish people abused and threatened on the streets, and there has been an outpouring of anti-Jewish hatred on the social media. The Community Security Trust, which offers protection to the Jewish community in Britain, reports 70 incidents in the last few weeks alone.

Fear is gripping Britain’s Jewish community but sadly few organisations have stepped forward to offer support, and some of those who have made statements have only done so after they have been asked.

Whatever one’s views on the Gaza conflict, taking it out on Britain’s Jewish community is clearly wrong and more people need to start saying it.

The appalling scenes coming out of France should act as a reminder to where this all could lead. Synagogues and Jewish-owned shops have been attacked, cars set alight and Jewish people assaulted. It is estimated that 1,000 Jewish people are leaving France every week and this pre-dates the Gaza conflict.

In the Netherlands, the home of the Chief Rabbi has been attacked twice in one week, while only yesterday, in northern Germany, 14 men were arrested for planning to attack a Jewish museum. At a recent pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin there were posters urging demonstrators to join ‘a raid on the Jewish district’, stating: ‘Come equipped with hammers, fire extinguishers and batons.’

This outpouring of anti-Jewish hatred is shocking and inexcusable. Antisemitism is just as appalling as racism and Islamophobia and we should not allow events in the Middle East to be used as a pretext for antisemitism, Holocaust denial and other outrageous conspiracy theories.

I understand that many people are angry by the media images coming out of Gaza, and I share much of that anger, but to target British Jews for something they are not responsible for or have no control over is inexcusable and, in some instances, clearly antisemitic.

I do believe that some people say and do thing out of ignorance or in anger, but for many others it is quite calculated and deliberate. Sadly, antisemitism remains acceptable for some and consciously ignored by others.

It is precisely because of this that there is a need for community and faith leaders to step up and show their solidarity with Britain’s Jewish community. We need our leaders to educate the ignorant and speak out against those who are deliberately encouraging antisemitism. We need our leaders to lead.

A year ago we stood together in solidarity with Britain’s Muslim communities when they were being unfairly attacked and proclaimed that #WeAreTheMany. Perhaps now it is time to revisit that campaign and stand together with Britain’s Jewish community as they face hostility, abuse and attacks.