Joan Ryan

Antisemitism has to be fought globally

The speed with which Corbyn and the hard left captured Labour is a warning to those who indulge 'The Squad' in the US

February 17, 2022 07:37

Earlier this month, two Orthodox Jewish men were attacked with a smashed glass bottle as they closed up a shop they work at in north London. 

This vicious attack – which left both men in hospital, one with a broken nose – may not have grabbed as many international headlines as the Beth Israel synagogue siege in Colleyville Texas last month.

But it, too, is a symptom of the growing wave of antisemitism which threatens Jews across the globe.

Tragically, in the West, it is Europe – in whose bloodlands six million Jews were murdered eight decades ago – which is at the forefront of this unfolding crisis. 

Thanks to social media, Jew-haters can spread their poison and bile across borders, inciting violence and hatred. The British hostage-taker in Colleyville, Malik Faisal Akram, for instance, is reported to have watched Pakistani sermons in which preachers called Jews “the biggest agents of Satan” who were “akin to pigs”.

That’s why we must tackle the antisemitism epidemic not only vigorously at home, but also across international borders.

Of course, antisemitism doesn’t just come in the form of racist street thugs, Islamist terrorists and the keyboard warriors who spend hours posting bizarre but toxic conspiracy theories about QAnon, the Rothschilds and “lizard people”.

In many ways, its more pernicious manifestations come from supposedly more respectable sources – ones which cross ideological boundaries.

A fortnight ago, for instance, Amnesty International – an organisation which I once supported – published a report which compared Israel to apartheid-era South Africa. Factually inaccurate and intellectually dishonest, this report has little to do with legitimate concerns about the plight of the Palestinian people. Instead, it’s part of a continuing effort by some on the left to demonise and delegitimise the world’s sole Jewish state.

The “apartheid smear” originated in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign – a movement which focuses obsessively and exclusively on Israel’s “crimes” and which has done nothing to further the cause of peace, coexistence and reconciliation in the Middle East. That’s not its goal. As Bassem Eid, the founder of Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, has rightly suggested: “The agenda of the BDS campaign is to try to destroy Israel.”

It has, moreover, inspired a welter of anti-Israel campaigning on university campuses – including next month’s annual “Israel Apartheid Week” – which has stifled debate about the complex causes of this tragic conflict and led to an atmosphere of fear and intimidation among many Jewish students. Last November, the CST, which monitors Jew-hate in the UK, reported that 2019-20 has seen the highest number of antisemitic incidents on campus in a single academic year, despite the year being cut short because of the pandemic. 

Antisemitism isn’t just confined to hate-filled rallies – like the annual Ayatollah Khomeini-inspired Al Quds Day protests which take place in cities from Tehran to London and Berlin to Damascus – in recent years we’ve also seen it stalking the corridors of Westminster. Three years ago this week, I resigned as a Labour Member of Parliament because I could no longer in good conscience remain in a party led by Jeremy Corbyn. 

In 2020 the EHRC produced a damning report of Corbyn's time as Labour leader. Thanks to Labour’s new leadership, Corbyn has been ejected from the parliamentary party for belittling the very scandal – of Jews being driven from the party, while members who peddled antisemitism went undisciplined – over which he presided. 

Repairing the political and moral damage the Corbynites inflicted on Labour – a historically pro-Israel party which many British Jews regarded as their natural home – will take time and determination.

But the sheer speed with which a small far-left fringe was able to capture power in Labour offers a warning to those who are complacent about, or willing to indulge, the activities of the “The Squad” in the Democratic party. The case of Labour demonstrates the need to set clear red lines, to call out each and every instance of antisemitism at the earliest opportunity, to condemn not just antisemites but their fellow travellers, and to recognise that Jew-hate will never be snuffed out in an environment in which anti-Zionism is tolerated and condoned. 

Although London has been dubbed the “BDS capital of the world”, rising antisemitism in the UK reflects a broader European trend. An Ipsos poll of 16 EU countries (plus the UK) released in October contained some truly shocking findings from across the continent. The statement that it “would be best if Jews left this country” was, for instance, backed by nearly one-quarter of respondents in Poland and over one-fifth in Hungary.  These results will come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the exploitation of antisemitism in both countries. 

The world’s oldest hatred has endured – shifting its form in new ways while clinging to the same vile tropes – for two thousand years. It won’t be easily defeated. And effective action will only come if we fight this scourge on a global scale.

Joan Ryan is director of ELNET UK 



February 17, 2022 07:37

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