Last month the Times of Israel carried an essay by one Shimon Cohen attacking the distinguished former leader of Australian Jewry, Isi Leibler, who is now based in Israel. In March Leibler - a onetime senior vice-president of the World Jewish Congress - had launched a blistering critique of the current leadership of British Jewry. Cohen, the head of a public-relations company whose clients include some of Anglo-Jewry's good and great, took issue with Leibler's exposé of the "trembling Israelites" in charge of this world. "British Jewish life," Cohen insisted, "is experiencing something of resurgence, proud of its heritage, connected to Israel and finding its voice. Far from running for cover, British Jews are walking tall."
Leibler is capable of defending himself. I want rather to bring to your attention two sets of developments that seem to me to warrant consideration at the highest levels of the Anglo-Jewish world. In so doing I want to assure Mr Cohen that I do not mind which particular moneyed macher addresses these matters of principle. The important thing is that they are addressed, and solutions found. And that there is no hint of a fudge.
The first concerns the strange goings-on behind the closed door of the taxpayer-funded Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust. Last week the Trust was to have hosted a workshop entitled "The Role of Negotiation in Dealing with Conflict". The session was cancelled following pressure from Unison, whose anti-Jewish inclinations drove it to object to the choice, as presenter of this workshop, of a distinguished Israeli academic who is a known authority on crisis management and conflict resolution.
Unison claimed that its objection to Professor Moty Crystal merely derived from its espousal of a boycott of Israeli goods and services. But this explanation strikes me as hollow and specious in the extreme. The bottom line is that in this green and pleasant land discrimination against someone - anyone - on the grounds of their citizenship or ethnicity is prima facie racist and, therefore, illegal. So my question to Mr Cohen is: What are you and the moneyed machers in whose defence you have chosen to speak going to do about it?
We must, I'm sorry to say, stay in Manchester and its environs for the other case-study. Last November, in my capacity as a visiting professor at York St John Iniversity, I had the privilege of hearing a presentation by doctoral student Joy Schmack. Mrs Schmack, an extremely experienced teacher and inspector of secondary-school religious education, is researching the use of the word "Jew" in teenage classrooms in the north-west of England. She presented chilling evidence of the unmistakeable revival of the word "Jew" as a common term of abuse amongst teenagers, who apparently habitually use it as a synonym for "cheat" or "swindler", or "snitch". "Don't you dare Jew me", one Merseyside youngster might say to another - perhaps hardly realising the significance of these words.
‘Don’t you dare Jew me’, one pupil might say to another
Scarcely four months after hearing this presentation I received a communication from a retired gentleman whose family escaped from Nazi Germany in 1934 and who now devotes his retirement to talking about antisemitism to youngsters in schools in Cheshire, Merseyside and Lancashire. He had been moved to write to me because of his experience at one such school, where his presentation was discourteously received and where a teacher confessed to him that the word "Jew" had now replaced the word "gay" as a playground term of abuse. The teacher said: "If kids wish to insult each other, they now use (the word) Jew.'
The school in question is the notorious educational establishment located in the Manchester suburb of Didsbury and known as Parrs Wood. Readers of this column will recall that it was this very school that was the subject of my column on February 3, when I drew attention to the hostility to Israel and to the contempt for Jews displayed by its students, abetted by certain of its staff. Now we are told that its pupils routinely use the word "Jew" as a term of abuse and that this usage is (once again) becoming commonplace.
Perhaps Shimon Cohen and his moneyed friends could tell us what they are doing about it.