The horrific antisemitism on Leeds and Birmingham university campuses raise many questions, starting with “WTF??” and ending with “Is this 2024 or 1934?” I have a further question, relevant to my very specific interests, which is this: “Bloody hell, UK. Do you always have to copy America?”
I moved to this country from the US in 1990 and, WOW, it was a weird culture shock. For one thing, I was the only Jewish girl in my class at school. Out of 20 girls! For a New York kid, this was inexplicable, like being the only girl in school who could read. I actually had to explain to my classmates that “bat mitzvah” was not some crazy American spelling for “birthday” when I sent out my invitations.
Even more annoying than that was the weird time lag it took for things to come from the US to the UK. Movies and TV shows specifically. Man, the wait for Beverly Hills 90210 was painful, although not as bad as the one for Green Card, the 90s rom com starring — of all people — Gerard Depardieu and Andie Macdowell, which fully lived up to the promises of the trailer. “Hurry up, UK!” I’d think. “Get that American stuff quicker!”
Well, we all make mistakes when we’re young. I started to regret my wish in the early 2000s when Tony Blair — my once clever and cool PM, became, seemingly overnight, a war-mongering Christian, in the vein of the very unclever and cool President George W Bush. Argh, go away American influence! Then in 2016, Britain was apparently so keen to catch up with America that it beat its brother to the stupid punch that year, voting in Brexit four months *before* America voted in Trump. But we quickly returned to the status quo when, three years after America got a liar and charlatan with stupid blonde hair as a leader, Britain got exactly the same. ‘Enough with catching America’s cold, Britain,’ I thought. But little did I know that a bout of pneumonia was coming our way.
The stories from Leeds and Birmingham are genuinely shocking: at Leeds, there was “Free Palestine” graffiti on the university’s Hillel House and the Jewish chaplain, Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch has had to go into hiding after returning from serving in the IDF because of threats against him and his family.
“How can your students feel safe with a war criminal complicit in genocide roaming your campus?” the Muslim Association of Britain tweeted at the University of Leeds. Oh you think that’s bad? Well let’s check out Birmingham. Good ol’ sensible, middle of the country Birmingham. Or it was anyway, until last week, when university students held a protest on campus in which they chanted “Zionists off our campus” and “Death to Zionists!” “This is fine,” the dog in the meme thinks, drinking his coffee while flames rise behind him.
Get a grip, Britain. Maybe some of you have been looking across the Atlantic and watching all the antisemitism happening on US campuses over the past few months, from a Jewish student getting punched for attending a vigil for the Israeli hostages at UMass Amherst to Jewish students at New York’s Cooper-Union University hiding in the library while other students banged on the windows and chanted “Free Palestine.” Maybe you watched the Congressional hearings in which the heads of Harvard, MIT and Penn refused to say that calling for the genocide of Jews contravened university policies. And then maybe you said to yourself, “Hm, well, if they’re doing it, it must be cool!”
Come on, Britain. I know from personal experience how hard it is not to copy your sibling, but you’re actually the older one here and you need to rein this in. It’s been a long time since America was cool — I’d say at least 30 years — and while some things are fine to import (Reese’s Pieces, Oreos), the rest is not. What next, will you all suddenly be possessed with an inexplicable urge to own multiple guns? Or insist that “football” is actually a game in which almost no one actually kicks the ball? Or — God help us — will you suddenly all really like country and western music?
Look, I like America just fine. I pay taxes there (which is more than I can say about one of the presidential candidates). But this nonsense needs to end. So Britain, I say this with love: your Jews know it, and maybe deep down you know it. It’s time to be better than this.