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In an unhinged time, the real challenge is to strive for balance

Recent events in London are feeding extremist narratives: Jews should fight hate through context and reason

    Pro Palestinian demonstrators take part in the weekend's Al Quds Day parade
    Pro Palestinian demonstrators take part in the weekend's Al Quds Day parade (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

    The long days of the year are accompanied by a genuine heat wave. After months of “incidents”, society finally begins to fray: a lone White Van Man ploughs into a crowd of Muslims on Seven Sisters Road as revenge for the London Bridge atrocity. The fourth outrage of an unstable time.

    London has become the epicentre of the Anglo-American world’s disintegrating politics. In a conflation of Karl Marx’s famous phrase, we are watching a tragedy and farce – but at the same time.

    We are suffering tragicomic whiplash. The tragedy of Grenfell Tower fire was quickly followed by the farce of the hard left not missing the opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    It became clear within hours that the victims of the fire were overwhelmingly immigrants and rehoused refugees, most of whom were Muslim. All but one of the rituals of our time followed. Rabbis, imams, ministers … faith leaders were quickly on the scene to show the care and concern of the whole city. A tidal wave of aid washed over the survivors.  So much was donated that 48 hours later, community leaders asked people to stop sending pampers and peanut butter. Londoners once again took a moment to marvel at how our city handles terrorist violence.

    The missing ritual was leadership from the top.  Prime Minister Theresa May failed to show any understanding of what had happened, no empathy, no anger on behalf of those housed in a 27-storey firetrap. And in the gap her absence created, hard-left rabble rousers took to the streets. By the time of Sunday’s annual Al-Quds Day march, the left-wing conspiracy theorists and antisemites had put their own narrative on events.

    As the JC reported, the 1,000 or so marchers calling for the end of Israel were treated to a speech whose punchline was: “It’s the Zionists who give money to the Tory Party to kill people in high rise blocks.”

    Reading the words is nowhere near as shocking as hearing them in a video on YouTube.

    A video of the Al Quds event posted by YouTube user 'Beyond the great divide'

    It is the internet and social media that does the most to create the circumstances that allow us to calm ourselves in the wake of a terrorist atrocity and get freaked out at the rise of antisemitism. Even if you don’t do Facebook or Twitter, too much reporting and general conversation is framed by what appears there.

    Social network discourse is not an entirely bad thing. The quote above was copied from a screen grab I took from the Al-Quds Day video.  I posted it on Facebook. A friend, who is Syrian, posted this in reply: “’Al-Quds Day Rally' has nothing to do with the liberty of Palestinians or Arabs. It has everything to do with the glorification of the fascists of Hezbollah and their masters in the Iranian regime, liberating their allegedly beloved Palestine one Syrian child at a time.”

    Helpful context.

    Sadly, this kind of interchange is too rare. On Twitter, with its 140-character limit, ideas, information, and lies masquerading as information become the nihilist perfection of online discourse: the assertion is its own proof.

    In this weird moment when there is so much stupidity about and so many platforms on which to express it, it is easy to become unbalanced.

    Striving to maintain balance as society goes through epochal change is the challenge of our time.  It has been the challenge for the Jewish community in every period when the old order disintegrates and what will come next is not clear. 

    Perhaps the best way to deal with the current situation is to remember the words of 18th century Jewish sage, Moses Mendelssohn. “Adapt yourselves to the morals and constitution of the land to which you have been removed …” In Britain today that would mean live by the one slogan we all acknowledge as having moral and near constitutional force, “Keep calm and carry on.”

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