The release date of Golda, the Golda Meir biopic starring Dame Helen Mirren, was always intended to create a frisson. It was last Friday, the 50th anniversary to the day of the start of the Yom Kippur War, which is the focus of the film. But the producers obviously did not know of the added poignancy of that date that Saturday’s massacre of Jews would bring.
I saw it on Sunday at the Phoenix in East Finchley, a cinema that has a large and supportive Jewish audience. As the closing credits rolled, my friend turned to me and said something that I, too, had been thinking but had not voiced: “I did wonder whether we were wise watching it here — a room full of Jews, and an open target.”
Which of us in what we might call Jewish areas has not had that feeling this week? Which of us hasn’t looked over our shoulder as we went about our business?
In that context, it’s been important that there have been words of support from the Prime Minister, Home Secretary, Leader of the Opposition and other senior politicians. They may be ritualised but as every Jew knows, rituals matter. And when the PM appears in shul alongside the Chief Rabbi, it matters.
But when that is basically all there is, it matters even more.
Monday’s vigil outside Downing Street was a sombre but uplifting occasion. But it was an event organised by and for Jews. You will waste a lot of time looking for anything organised by non-Jews to express their support for the community, let alone for Israel, because it doesn’t exist. There have been synagogue services and meetings, of course. But something in solidarity organised by a church, a mosque, a Hindu temple or — as if, given their appalling record — a Quaker meeting hall? Nothing.
The reason, of course, is that it is Jews who died. Maybe they think that’s our role in life. Maybe they simply don’t care. Or maybe they have the same attitude as the BBC, that there are two sides to every story — even when one side rapes and murders and the other side is raped and murdered, so best, all things considered, not to side with anyone.
Thus when the suggestion was made that there might be a mark of respect at Premier League matches this weekend, it was reported that “concerns have been expressed in private over clubs being accused of taking sides”. Yeah, those dead babies are so divisive.
I always tell people, because it is true, that being a British Jew today makes me one of the luckiest Jews who has ever lived, because we are as safe, secure and integrated as any Jewish community has ever been.
But it’s all relative. When push comes to shove, we are alone. Where is the solidarity? Where is the support? Where are the celebrity rent-a-quotes who opine on everything but are suddenly mute when it comes to dead Jews.
We all have non-Jewish friends, I am sure, who are mensches. But overall, they are a fraction. At best the attitude is indifference. At worst, something else altogether. Which brings us to the BBC. When our national broadcaster — and yes, dear BBC, we Jews also pay our licence fee — is unwilling to describe the people who committed such bestial acts in Israel as terrorists, the rational response is to ask why. Especially when the BBC has had no problem labelling Islamic State and al-Qaeda as terrorists.
Hmmm. What could it be about the Jewish victims of terror that meant they were victims of “gunmen”? What could it have been about the Jewish children who were attacked on a coach in Oxford Street at Chanukah in 2021 that led the BBC to spread the fiction that the Jewish boys had first made an “anti-Muslim slur”? I’m struggling to think.
Almost every Jew I know is outraged at the BBC’s coverage of this latest murderous attack on Jews. But where is the outrage from anyone who isn’t Jewish? Other than the wonderful Ian Austin, I’ve not seen a word of criticism.
That absence can be telling. When Gary Lineker was in the crossfire over his crass comparison of Suella Braverman’s language with the Nazis, he insisted that he would carry on speaking out on issues that mattered to him. One of which is Palestine.
In December he described the killing of a Palestinian by Israeli soldiers as “awful”. The man who died was a Hamas terrorist who was shooting at the soldiers. But that was of no interest to Lineker.
What has he had to say about 1,200 dead Israelis, murdered for going to a music festival or going about their lives? Nothing.
None of this is surprising. None of it is a shock. We are used to it. But we shouldn’t have to be.