In this festival of hate, our allies shine like the stars (thank you, Alison Moyet)

Words of support, such as the ones from the singer, are received with something close to joy

November 23, 2023 12:35

I’ve always known that Alison Moyet had a wonderful, distinctive voice. What I hadn’t realised is that it’s not just her singing voice.

Last week, she posted this on X/Twitter: “Seeing my Jewish neighbours and friends shrink into themselves as antisemitism rears its head again on our shores is heart wrenching.

"Years now we have trumpeted the righteousness of protecting our nation’s minorities. We need to remember that need for all as the world hardens.”

I know I’m not alone in having welled up when I read that. Since October 7 it’s become something of a cliché that words of support, of understanding and of concern from non-Jewish friends and allies have been received with something close to joy.

The sense of concern — even despair — that so many of us have felt in the past month can sometimes be overwhelming.

And while we have all noted the silence from some — both public figures and people we considered our friends — we have also experienced a sense of deep gratitude when friends and others let us know that we are not alone.

From people who have, so to speak, no skin in the game beyond their sense of decency and understanding of the difference between right and wrong, it really makes a difference.

Typically, however, Moyet’s words were met with a deluge of hate. One respondent told her, with banal predictability, that: “Opposition to Israel and its murderous war is NOT antisemitism.”

But boy-oh-boy, Alison Moyet really gets it: “I didn’t even mention Israel here or marches & that’s half the problem. British Jews are British Jews. Our neighbours. Our friends. Our country people.”

No one will have been surprised to learn that her comments were met with a deluge of hate. That is the sewer of social media, after all.

But easy as it to descend into a spiral of doom when we see such spewing out online and the carnivals of hate every Saturday on our streets, we need to remember that Moyet’s is not a lone voice. We are not alone.

My own X/Twitter feed is full of non-Jews expressing their solidarity. And every single one of them makes a difference, truly.

But one thing I have realised over the past month, both in my own reactions and speaking to others, is that while we are all so grateful for these public statements of support, it’s not the behaviour of public figures — for good or ill — that really lifts us or cuts deep. It’s what our friends do or don’t say.

I have one friend who I have known since childhood. We have shared so many memories together. We have laughed and, yes, we have cried over relationships that have gone wrong, over friends who have died and over moments of uplifting triumph.

But here we are, well over a month since the massacre, with the streets of London taken over once a week with Jew-hate and in an atmosphere of poison directed at Jews and I have heard not a word from him.

Not a text, not a message, nothing. I don’t think I ever want to hear from him again, if I live another 50 years — unlikely, since I am 58.

Every Jew I have spoken to has the same story to tell of friends — even those we thought were close friends — who turn out not to give a damn. It’s depressing, of course. But it is also enlightening, although in a thoroughly depressing way.

But for all that, it’s those who have offered a word — or far more than a word — who turn out to be the mensches we never realised they were. The texts simply asking how we are mean so much more to us than those who send them will ever realise.

I have had three offers of refuge from non-Jewish friends, should I ever need it. Imagine that. I don’t know whether to be uplifted or shocked. Both, really.

Jew hate is hardly new. Indeed, I’ve had a similar split reaction before. After I had been editing the JC for a couple of years, I had a call from the Met’s counter-terror squad. My name was on an Islamist “hit list”. It necessitated police protection for a while.

And I had just those contrasting responses: shock that this was happening, but also a strange sense of relief, almost uplift, that I wasn’t alone. The state was saying — showing — that it would protect Jews.

But if you had told me on 6 October that this would have moved beyond specific and individual terror threats, to the extent that non-Jewish friends would think they ought to offer refuge to their Jewish friends because society itself might turn, I would have thought the idea preposterous.

Yet here we are a few weeks later and three have done just that — and all are serious, sensible people. One is a college friend whose innate decency meant I was not remotely surprised by her offer.

One is a friend who now lives in New York, and has been profoundly shaken by what she is witnessing there. And the other is a well known broadcaster, more of an acquaintance than a friend, but who I now know is a true mensch.

The point isn’t whether there will ever be the need for refuge. As it’s important to keep remembering, we are not in Germany in the 1930s.

We have a government committed to our safety. The point is that they offered.

When we rest our heads on the pillow at night we have two choices for a final thought before we nod off.

We can focus on the hate, or even on those friends who have stayed silent. Or we can choose to think about those that have opened their hearts to us, even if it’s just a one sentence text. And we can remember that they are there for us.

November 23, 2023 12:35

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