More care needed on front line

September 04, 2014 16:21

There's a buzz in my neck of the Jewish community. No one's scared. They're delighted that Jews across the UK have started Doing Something.

New activist groups pop up on Facebook like mushrooms. Join a protest. Support Israel. Fight antisemitism. Stop the boycotters.

Here's a group asking us to join a demo outside M&S to thank them for stocking Israeli goods, when others have been moving them off their shelves.

Still dubious about whether counter protests do any good-but time to put myself where my typing fingers are, so I go.

One of the leaflets I'm given to hand out says HAMAS ISIS BOKO HARAM ALL THE SAME. Hmmn. Not quite, I think. Hamas does elections backed up by armed thugs. ISIS and Boko Haram do armed takeovers. ISIS saws off the heads of its enemies. Hamas does mass executions by shooting. But this is the leaflet that gets passers-by interested -sometimes angry. Great opportunities for dialogue.

We should not respond to provocation in this way

Supportive people from Kuwait and initially hostile ones from Morocco get into long friendly agree-to-differ conversations. Others who say they don't know what ISIS and Boko Haram are, or who can't understand why we're saying Hamas and ISIS are the same, tune in and get the point when I explain their common commitment to imposing Caliphate-style rule, to rigid dress codes, to summary executions of people deemed enemies,

A couple of pro-"Palestine" individuals threaten us. One shouts: "One day we will kill you." Others from our group say the pro-boycott group keep saying intensely antisemitic things. We tell the police but all they seem to do is warn them off.

Some hostile passers-by give us vigorous thumbs-down gestures. Seems to me to be a peaceful way to express their hostility . But some of our group scream, "Terrorist! Terrorist! You support terrorists!" Seems to me that being hostile to Israel can be more complex than that. It's like screaming, "Child-killer!" at Finchley shoppers carrying "I love Israel" bags.

A young woman, nicely dressed in sparkly top, Islamic headscarf and trousers, takes one of our leaflets and theatrically tears it up. She starts waving her arms about provocatively. I'm ashamed to see three or four tall young men from our side go after her shouting at her.

Have you any idea how terrible it looks to see three strong tall men closing in on a diminutive young woman, however provocative she is? It makes our side look like bullies and playground hooligans. And the police have to stop those guys going after the woman. I see a couple of other instances of strong men from our group going after male shouters from the other side.

Folks, we are not vigilantes. We should not be responding to provocation in this way. Do people not notice there is a police officer taking very detailed notes of everything that's going on, our behaviour as well as theirs?

So I come away both exhilarated and uneasy. I'm not sure this is productive. The screaming and counter-screaming are horrendous and I can't see that recruiting new support for either side. I see the leaflet the pro-boycotters are handing out. Packed with out-of-date info and some lies about M&S and a relationship with Israel which ended decades ago. It's badly designed and reproduced by a tiny revolutionary communist group.

And the most ironic thing of all? The young Israel-hater in the sparkly top is carrying a huge M&S carrier bag packed full with that afternoon's shopping.

September 04, 2014 16:21

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