Our latest report on antisemitism shows how we got here

The CST's Mark Gardner reflects how anti-Jewish racism rose to an 'unprecedented role in British public life

January 08, 2020 17:28

CST’s annual Antisemitic Discourse Report is generally less newsworthy than our annual Antisemitic Incidents Report, but it is no less important, as shown by the headline point stating, “Antisemitism played an unprecedented role in British public life”.

The Incidents Report explains the statistics of anti-Jewish hate crimes, but the Discourse Report describes the atmosphere around Jews, antisemitism and related issues.

It shows, in a considered way, developments in politics, media and other public contexts. It also gives the welcome opportunity to show where people have spoken and acted against antisemitism.

This is the last report we issue each year, but the report for 2018 was delayed by the election. Charity law meant we could not criticise Labour: a somewhat tricky requirement in a report studying antisemitic discourse in 2018. So, it only came out days before the end of 2019.

It is, nevertheless, well worth visiting CST’s website and reading the report. It is the discourse reports, not the incidents reports, that explain how we got to the bizarre situation of December 2019, where the organiser of a far-left protest outside South Hampstead synagogue warned against “Zionist journalists” to a crowd including anti-Israel boycotters, and some whom Labour had expelled or disciplined for antisemitism.

The protest was not against the synagogue, nor even against Israel or Zionism. In fact, it was against antisemitism, prompted by the daubing of antisemitic graffiti featuring a Star of David, “9” and “11”.

Normally, antisemitic graffiti is associated with the far right. Here, however, we cannot jump to that conclusion.

The numbers 9 and 11 most likely accuse Jews of the 11th September 2001 terror attacks. This is the modern conspiracy allegation par excellence. It is worryingly common in Muslim societies, is central to conspiracy cranks everywhere and has accordingly infiltrated far Left and anti-Israel circles.

Then there are the questions about left wing protestors against antisemitism, most of whom will be very anti-Zionist, some of whom have even been disciplined by Labour for antisemitism.

Where to begin with this? By asking how can the left even be antisemitic? By asking how the Labour Party can stand accused of antisemitism, whilst still disciplining some members for antisemitism?

This is where we hope that the discourse report can provide an especially useful guide to the perplexed. Each year it begins with explanations for what we mean by antisemitism and how that relates to anti-Zionism. It has the space to explain this in depth, showing how accusations that comprised older forms of Jew-hatred repeat, echo and update within much of what we now call “anti-Zionism”.

Then, we get into the specifics of 2018. Inevitably, Labour has the lead role. This was the year, remember, in which many of Jeremy Corbyn’s own associations with antisemitism became fully public knowledge. For example, his failure regarding the now infamous mural in Brick Lane showing Jewish bankers. This is the graphic on the cover of the report, because its content and reactions to it, say so much about the overall Labour problem.

The report covers far more than Labour. The Conservative Party, the SNP and Leave EU all feature. It covers George Soros, antisemitism in football, on campus and social media; and how Mitzvah Day’s Jewish-Muslim chicken soup challenge faced condemnation as “Zionists doing soft infiltration”.

Consider again the report’s opening, “Antisemitism played an unprecedented public role in British public life”.

Sadly, we will likely open the 2019 report the same way. The impact of all this attention on antisemitism has deeply impacted the morale of British Jews. It helps explain the strong revulsion at the Hampstead graffiti attack.

When the 2020 report comes around, let us all hope that it can begin by honestly saying that antisemitism diminished in public life.    

January 08, 2020 17:28

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