A striking feature of the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Britain is the silence with which the country’s leaders are choosing to respond to a growing climate of hatred and intimidation, directed not only at Jews themselves, but increasingly anything remotely Jewish.
According to a report published in July by the Community Security Trust, a charity established to ensure the safety of the Jewish community in 1994, even though four out of every five anti-Semitic attacks usually take place «in the main Jewish centers of Greater London and Greater Manchester,» violent assaults against Jews and symbols of Judaism are also now taking place nationwide.
Qaiser Malik, 19, and Balawal Sultan, 18, both from Newcastle, currently await trial for a racially motivated assault on a Rabbi on Saturday, July 19th. In Belfast, on the same Sabbath, Northern Ireland’s only synagogue was attacked twice. And in England, much as in France, synagogues have been a particularly favored target of Jew-hatred. This trend extends from Liverpool in the north, where those attending temple were greeted with shouts of «baby killers,» down to Brighton in the south.
After the murder of a British soldier by Islamists in Woolwich on May 22nd, 2013, strenuous efforts were made by police to protect the nation’s mosques, and the chorus of political condemnation of attacks directed against Muslim houses of worship was immediate and unanimous. To describe the current response as mooted is an understatement.
Even in Scotland, where a 26 year-old shop worker named Jonathan McKean-Litewski was recently fired for refusing to remove his Star of David pendant, local Jewish representatives are so concerned by the rising level of anti-Semitism, that as a result, they have asked for an urgent meeting with the country’s First Minister, Alex Salmond.
The reaction to these events, particularly in the press, has been puzzling to say the least. When following cases of Islamic terrorism in Britain or the mass gang-rape of children by Muslims, commentators have done their utmost rightly to stress that no faith community as a whole should ever be victimized for the actions of a few.
As Jonathan Arush, the vice-president of the UK’s Board of Deputies observes, «There is a direct link between politicians saying things and people being emboldened to go and attack Jews. There is this constant drumbeat of anti-Israeli agitation that is causing British Jews to be more worried, more insecure than at any time I have ever known.»
But with the Guardian, the BBC, the Independent and Reuters all firmly pinning the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Britain on the recent Gaza conflict, it is worthwhile noting that although there has been an undeniably profound and distressing escalation in the unapologetic public expression of hatred for Jews this summer, the evidence points to something more disturbing.
In reality, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain had already soared by 36% in the first six months of 2014, to its highest level for five years — well before the IDF began Operation Protective Edge in response to daily missile attacks from the Gaza Strip.
It is almost as if the Jewish state’s reaction to the launching of rockets by Hamas, from schools, near hospitals, and next to UN buildings, had somehow provided a convenient pretext for the further violent manifestation of an already pre-existing, growing, and deep-seated Jew-hatred in Britain.
Where could all this be coming from?
Those looking for an answer in the reports grabbing the country’s headlines on the menacing incidents perpetrated last weekend, against shoppers in two major supermarket chains both originally founded by Jews, are likely to be disappointed.
In the first incident, 20 police officers were required to respond when a part of group of a hundred «Gaza protestors,» who had descended on a Tesco in Birmingham, entered the store and began hurling products from the shelves.
One witness interviewed by the Daily Mail, who was just completing his trip to the store, describes at first hearing chanting, following which «a group of Asian men holding Palestinian flags came walking in and starting to push products over and getting aggressive with staff and shoppers. Police officers tried to stop them but I ran out.»
As a policeman was assaulted in the ensuing fracas, you would expect that British politicians would roundly condemn such behaviour. You would be wrong. On the contrary, the likes of the Labour shadow cabinet member, Shabana Mahmood MP, have positively encouraged it.
Lauding her own success in a similar intimidation effort leading a crowd of 200, whose picket succeeded in closing down a Sainsbury’s store in the same city for «five hours at peak time on a Saturday,» Mahmood went on to recommend the power of, «practical action we can all take to make our government sit up and take notice,» to an audience whooping its approval.
The video of the speech by Mahmood, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood, to a «mass rally for Gaza,» in Hyde Park in London on August 9th, remains online.
The second incident directed against a supermarket at the weekend, although not nearly as violent, was however, considerably more troubling, and unmistakably religiously motivated.
Faced with a mob of «anti-Israel» demonstrators outside the Holborn branch of Sainsbury’s in central London, the manager found himself intimidated into removing kosher meats, cheeses and sauces from display, even though the products were produced in Poland and Britain. The Daily Mail reported that one shopper said, «I presume you are also removing Halal food in protest against the Islamic State slaughtering Yazidis?»
|Empty shelves in the kosher section of a Sainsbury’s supermarket in London, after management removed the kosher products, August 16, 2014. When asked about the removal, a staff member stated «We support Free Gaza». (Image source: Facebook/C. Appleby)|
The incident at Sainsbury’s led Brendan O’Neill, in the Daily Telegraph, to condemn «the rank unwillingness of influential people and institutions to face up to anti-Semitic sentiment» in the country. Sadly, he did so while demonstrating an equal unwillingness, to mention the subtle censorship faced by journalists like himself in Britain when it comes to stating the identity of those mainly exhibiting such sentiments.
In none of the reporting of these incidents, is the word «Muslim» ever mentioned.
It is never the person who actually commits these crimes that is held to be morally responsible for them, by either Britain’s media or its politicians. That honor is instead almost universally reserved for a nation over 2,000 miles away, Israel.
Why it is exactly, that ordinary families in Britain going about their weekly shopping should find themselves the victims of such «practical action,» as a result of the people of Gaza choosing to elect a party dedicated to the extermination of Jews, seems beside the point.
Surely it doesn’t take much in the way of imagination, to guess just how instantaneous and uncompromising the reaction of Britain’s politicians and press would be, if Christians objecting to the genocide being carried out by ISIS in Iraq, say, decided to go around in mobs violently menacing Muslim businesses?
Demanding the removal of halal food products, for example, to make the British government, «sit up and take notice» to use Mahmood’s words.
George Igler is a London-based political analyst and the Director of the Discourse Institute.
Anti-Semitism in Britain: «Sit Up and Take Notice»
by George Igler
August 20, 2014 at 5:00 am