Now's not the time to pack the suitcase and leave the UK

By David Aaronovitch, August 21, 2014

Put the suitcase back in the loft.

Of course I understand why you got it out, if not physically, at least mentally. This week, I heard a guy in Sarcelles in France talking on the radio about the destruction of a Jewish funeral parlour and the torching of Jewish businesses.

I hardly had time to think how frightening and different things were in the land of Dieudonné, where new minorities now hate the old ones, before a Manchester rabbi comes on the BBC and tells listeners that enough is happening around him — what with demonstrations outside shops selling Israeli products, that he believes that there is no future for Jews in Britain.

In Britain! No one gets to read the two main volumes of the diaries of Victor Klemperer, the Dresden Jew who somehow survived the Third Reich, without the same thought recurring again and again: Why did you stay? Why did you stay after storm-troopers marched through the streets singing their happy “When Jewish blood flows from the knife” Lied?

Why did you remain after Hitler came to power? What made you persist through the boycotts of Jewish shops and muddle through the gradual, one-by-one restrictions on Jews having jobs, going to school, marrying and trading?
After the pogrom of Kristallnacht, how could you not have tried at least to get out? Many of your friends sold up, took the loss and moved. What on earth were you hoping for?

And then the door closed and the rest was hiding or dying. And we know now what Klemperer didn’t believe then. And, as a consequence, we would never be caught like that, would we? Because, if things got really bad there’s always Israel. Or America. Or — my personal favourite — Australia (and then last week drunken teens spotting Jewish kids on a bus in a Sydney suburb gave them the “kill the Jews”, “free Palestine” and “Heil Hitler” treatment).

So, when we begin to have the odd Hitler placard at Gaza demos, when a synagogue is attacked with bricks, when a theatre manages not to have a Jewish film festival, when a car slows down on an evening street and young men shout obscenities at Jews, when a former head of the diplomatic service stands up in the Lords and blames antisemitism on Israel, when the dunces’ chorus of fashionable outrage manages to repeat almost every old “Jewish lobby” trope (but repackaged for the moment) — when we have all this, shouldn’t we go upstairs and check the state of that old trunk?

No. First, never confuse a fashion with a hatred. There are people — some old Nazis, a few retired diplomats and bitter Arabists, and too large a section of Muslim opinion — who don’t care for Jews and think that we’re a bad lot.

But, most Britons, as measured by all polls, believe Jews are OK. The younger generation, a tolerant lot, would sooner have their mobile phones confiscated than beat someone up because of their race or religion.
Second, however sensitive one might be to the odd Tonge and Galloway, the political classes have set their faces against Jew-hatred. If and when that begins to change (and I don’t think it will) I’ll be the first at the luggage department at John Lewis.

Third, Jews are going to fight this one. They have been too quiet and too separate up till now. They have gone around kvetching to each other, and otherwise hiding behind the guards at Jewish schools, shuls and community centres.

Jewish lobby? Great idea, when does it start? When do Jews begin to get themselves kippah-ed up and sitting in the audience at Question Time? I reckon now might be a good time, don’t you?

Last updated: 4:30pm, August 21 2014