Rally result is a victory for our community - not a time to score points

November 24, 2016 23:06

There will inevitably be a lengthy post-mortem into the various co-ordinated and un-coordinated responses to the antisemitic demonstration due to take place this weekend .

The roles of campaign groups , security groups, politicians , police, the media, and more will all be assessed.

There was, understandably, substantial concern within both the Jewish and local communities about the prospect of skinheads on the streets at the heart of our community this Shabbat.

It has been largely admirable in the past month to see how – apparently with relative ease – Jewish groups have come together to combat the threat of neo-Nazis.

They have shown that British Jews respond best when they speak with one voice. Bar a few exceptions, that is exactly what has happened.

The efforts of the London Jewish Forum, led in this work by Jay Stoll, and the other groups involved in the Golders Green Together initiative have been impressive.

The Community Security Trust responded with its trademark calm and care, refusing to make presumptive, headline-grabbing public statements and instead quietly assessing the security threat posed by the planned demo.

New Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush has repeatedly struck the right tone with his public statements, just weeks after taking on the top job.

Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer worked diligently behind the scenes to co-ordinate with Barnet Police. He did not bow to the pressure to jump on bandwagons or make outlandish claims and statements about the protest and the response of the government, police and others.

The police themselves came under fire for not being more vocal or decisive sooner. But as Mr Freer pointed out last week, senior officers deal with hundreds of such situations every month and know best how to react. Today’s news would appear to back up that assertion.

Chief Superintendent Adrian Usher spent countless hours answering calls and emails from Jews – living in the borough and elsewhere – to reassure them of his force’s plans.

I hope all of those mentioned above receive the credit they deserve for the way they dealt with this.

Some will, of course, say that the community vastly over-reacted and the best move last month would have been to wait patiently and see what came to pass. That was never going to be a realistic option.

The emergence of so many grassroots groups after the fall-out from last summer’s Gaza conflict meant there would be far more organisations attempting to impact current events than would once have been the case.

Some of those groups working outside the communal structure – such as Campaign Against Antisemitism – were no doubt effective in their own efforts. Indeed, some initiatives nicely complemented the work of the Jewish groups.

That said, I was surely not the only one who found the CAA’s selling of t-shirts (albeit reportedly not for profit) ahead of their planned counter-demonstration as opportunistic and designed as much for self-publicity as their claimed reason of assisting Jews who did not want to break Shabbat.

What is not needed now is inaccurate public statements or false and outlandish claims about which group is responsible for the outcome.

Countering hate is not a competition and such point-scoring shows a distinct lack of class at such a serious time.

Thankfully such incidents have been kept to a minimum. The reaction of our communal groups in the past month should provide a model for the inevitable future repeats of the sick threat of extremist action that has been successfully repelled.

November 24, 2016 23:06

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