I’m exhausted by the tsunami of anti-Jewish hate

Many of the protesters seek a peaceful world. But London is now an I-don’t-want-to-go area


credit: Ruthless Images

March 20, 2024 13:25

I’m exhausted. Completely and utterly exhausted.

Since the morning of October 7, the world seems to have shifted on its axis as hate, division and anger have become the dominant theme of our public conversation. It genuinely feels that it is us — Jews — who are facing the brunt of this pain. This isn’t to diminish the heartbreak and fear that other communities are currently facing, but as a British Jew there isn’t a day that goes by where a news story doesn’t make me catch my breath for fear of the detail beyond the headline. Not a day when I don’t talk to a Jewish friend about some awful example of antisemitism at home or abroad. Not a single day when I don’t feel the need to turn off the news.

This is as painful a period of history to be Jewish as I can remember in my lifetime and, yes, that includes the devastating period of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. Under Corbyn I knew my role; I knew I had a responsibility to fix what he had broken and the anti-Jewish hate I faced was clearly coming from one place. I knew who I was fighting. I don’t think any of us can say that now.

Anti-Jewish hate seems to be coming at us from every direction. Last month’s CST report detailed 4,103 instances of anti-Jewish hate, with 2,699 on or after October 7. But it’s not just the number of incidents, it’s the range. Our kids are being targeted at school, on campus and on the football field. Our communal buildings seem fair game for haters and social media is a cesspit. Never mind the threats of physical violence that we are seeing.

Then there are the protests. Or rather, the fear of the protests. I am loath to admit it but they scare me, because I know that for some I am considered fair game. A quick search of my mentions on social media makes that point loud and clear.

I know that many of the protesters seek a peaceful world. Don’t we all? But others are driven by hate — a hatred that we have seen too much of in recent months. And I don’t want to be exposed to such hate. I know that not all Jews feel the same and that warms my heart, because London is not and should never be a no-go area for any community. But the reality is that for some of us, when the protests are happening it’s an I-don’t-want-to-go area.

I have spent my adult life challenging extremism and fighting for community cohesion. I led the Board of Deputies campaign against the BNP and I ran HOPE not hate when the EDL were on the march.

I worked with people of all faiths and none to challenge extremists, to make it clear that the silent majority had a voice and a responsibility to hold the line in the national battle for the liberal democratic values, which are the bedrock of our country.

That’s why I feel so exhausted. Our country was meant to be more resilient than this. Extremists were not meant to be able to gain a foothold so quickly. We were meant to be stronger. But just a brief look at HOPE not hate’s latest State of Hate report, published last week, shows how fragmented our society has become.

How has the government responded to such a clear threat to community cohesion? I don’t want to be flippant but I have been underwhelmed. More money to protect our communal buildings: thank you. And a new definition of extremism. Words are important, but actions count. This does not meet the scale of the threat our society and our community face.

It has been nine years since the government’s Counter Extremism Strategy was updated. In that period there have been 16 terror attacks on UK soil, including the murder of two MPs by extremists. Anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim hate are at their highest ever reported levels. People are scared. So why are we still waiting for a review?

Funding for the Prevent programme has been slashed. In London, the annual budget is being cut from £6.4 million in 2019 to just £2 million in 2025. Where are the resources to challenge extremism and to stop radicalisation? Instead, we’ve seen a lot of rhetoric and appalling culture wars which are seemingly more important to members of the government than what is happening on British streets, on campus and online. Our faith is not a political football — and if our faith isn’t, then neither is anyone else’s. And I am tired of the people that seem to think divisive politics in an election year is more important than the safety and security of our citizens.

We need to demand better from our government. I don’t want to be exhausted any more.

Baroness Anderson is a Labour peer

March 20, 2024 13:25

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