Antisemitism On The Streets Of London In 2021? I’m Not Surprised At All

If you were shocked by the recent spike in antisemitic attacks in the UK, you haven’t been paying attention, says Siam Goorwich.

 People stage a rally against antisemitism rally in London's Parliament Square, 2019

by Siam Goorwich |

When I first caught wind of the current unrest in Israel, my heart sank. Not just for the actual victims of what's going on – the people on the ground, on both sides, for whom this conflict isn't just headlines and hashtags and memes, but everyday life. But also for myself; a Jew living in the diaspora (i.e. not in Israel). Because for us too, things get decidedly uncomfortable when Israel is in the news.

TheCommunity Security Trust(a charity set up to monitor antisemitism is the UK) recorded86 antisemitic incidents in the UK between 8 May and 17 May. These included graffiti on a synagogue in Norwich, a rabbi being attacked outside his synagogue in Chigwell, Essex, and a convoy of cars driving through North London broadcasting ‘F*** all of them. F*** their mothers, f*** their daughters and show your support for Palestine. Rape their daughters, we have to send a message like that. Please do it for the poor children in Gaza’ from loudspeakers. Four men have now been arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offences.

Further afield, we’ve seen a van emblazoned with the phrase ‘Hitler was right’ drive through a pro-Israel rally in Florida, protesters at a pro-Palestinian rally in Belgian chanting ‘death to Jews’, and an elderly Jewish man attacked and Jewish girl sexually assaulted following a similar rally in Canada. And this is not an exhaustive list.

In a statement released on Sunday evening, the charity Campaign Against Antisemitism said: ‘There is a direct line that can be drawn between the horrifying scenes this weekend and the inflammatory language used this week by some politicians and journalists.’

What’s frustrating is that so few non-Jews seem to get it. When we explain that anti-Israel sentiment is often used as a cloak for Jew hate, we’re told we are wrong: anti-Zionism is not the same as antisemitism. Well yes, you’re right, it doesn’t have to be – but sadly it often is.

I’d go a step further, and say anyone who has been sharing posts which are demonising Israel, holding it to double standards or calling for its destruction*– i.e. which fall foul of the 3D test of antisemitism in relation to Israel – has actively fanned the flames of Jew hate.

(*Note: this is not the same as legitimate criticism of the Israeli government or expressing sympathy for Palestinian victims of the conflict. Although if you’re doing either of those things, I’d also expect you to be condemning the actions of Hamas and showing sympathy for the Israeli victims too).

What’s frustrating is that so few non-Jews seem to get it. When we explain that anti-Israel sentiment is often used as a cloak for Jew hate, we’re told we are wrong: anti-Zionism is not the same as antisemitism. Well yes, you’re right, it doesn’t have to be – but sadly it often is.

We’ve tried explaining that antisemitism is a virus that mutates to become whatever is most appealing at the time – in this case, Israelis are incorrectly portrayed as white colonialist oppressors, which is factually incorrect but fits nicely into the current post-colonial narrative – but it falls on deaf ears.

Time and time again, when we’re calling out the dog whistles of antisemitism – whether it’s Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership or the true meaning of the phrase ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,’ which is a call for the complete destruction of the world’s only Jewish state – we are ignored, humoured, debated, or have our motives called in question.

Last year, a Jewish activist I follow wrote: if you don’t trust Jews to tell you what’s antisemitic, you don’t trust Jews period.

For me, that sums it up perfectly.

READ MORE: Antisemitism In The UK: ‘As Hard As This Is, These Conversations Need To Happen’

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