Analysis: A complex problem - we must stay focused

By Mark Gardner, July 23, 2009
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The CST’s latest report shows that the most recent Israel-Hamas conflict continued the pattern whereby Middle East events trigger outbreaks of antisemitism against British Jews. Furthermore, the phenomenon appears to be worsening each time it occurs.

The CST defines an antisemitic incident as an act that includes antisemitic motivation, language or targeting. Perpetrators may deliberately find Jews to attack; or it may be circumstantial, such as in a road rage case.

In every instance, the CST sensitively hears the victim’s story and gives whatever support and advice we can, including referrals to welfare agencies and police.

The physical threats (including terrorism) that the CST confronts rest upon political challenges. Today there are many such challenges, as modern antisemitism is complex, diverse and nuanced.

It comes from no single source or community, and can include antisemitic impacts and consequences, where no antisemitic motivation necessarily exists. For example, the anti-Israel boycott movement sincerely defines itself as anti-racist, but leaves many Jews feeling extremely vulnerable. This is not Jewish paranoia, as Jews who fail publicly to meet the required anti-Israel standard risk being treated as social outcasts and political enemies.

Moreover, it is entirely reasonable for British Jews to lament the rise of political extremism in this country; to note with grave concern the rise of the BNP, and to ask why large parts of the mainstream Left are selectively blind in their condemnation of antisemitism.

To help fight these challenges, the CST encourages interfaith and cross-political alliances wherever possible. We helped build the community’s anti-BNP campaign, and play a leading role in the task force that co-ordinates government, policing and judicial responses to antisemitism.

The CST does not present Israel’s case, but anti-Israel anger obviously fuels antisemitism. Many observers also believe that the singling out of Israel reveals enduring antisemitism. These questions are more fully explored in the CST’s latest annual report on antisemitic discourse, which shows the persistence and resonance of old antisemitic themes in today’s treatment of Jewish-related issues; particularly in discussion of the “pro-Israel lobby”.

It is vital, however, to maintain a sense of proportion. Antisemitism does not define the British Jewish experience and Britain is a good place to be Jewish. Our community is, generally speaking, well integrated, highly educated and relatively prosperous. Most Jewish children are in Jewish schools; Jewish cultural activity is diverse, flourishing, and public. The CST wants to safeguard this success story.

It is as foolish to imagine antisemitism everywhere as it is to deny its existence. Better, therefore, to contextualise the problem, to fight it appropriately, and to continue living our Jewish lives in the manner of our choosing.

Mark Gardner is communications director of the CST

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010