The sickness of anti-Semitism

If we do not confront this hatred, it will consume us.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

It’s often been said that a society that allows anti-Semitism to flourish is in a particularly deep kind of trouble. That a society that fails to keep anti-Semitism in its box not only fails to stand by its Jewish citizens, but also risks becoming consumed and deranged by it. That anti-Semitism’s toxic cocktail of hatred and conspiracism can all too easily lead a reasoned, tolerant society to sicken. If so, Britain looks very sick indeed.

This week, a report by the Community Security Trust (CST) laid out in stark, blood-curdling detail the hatred we’ve seen exploding all around us since 7 October. Anti-Semitic incidents are at their highest for 40 years, the highest since the CST began logging them, surging by 150 per cent in 2023. This includes a 96 per cent rise in anti-Semitic assaults. The most ever recorded.

British Jews have had bricks, eggs and bottles thrown at them. They’ve been punched, kicked and spat on. They’ve been threatened with metal bars, knives and fake firearms. In one incident, ‘pro-Palestine’ protesters kicked a Jewish man on his way home from a Sabbath service in London. They then threatened to beat him up and shouted: ‘We are going to rape your mother, you dirty Jew.’ I’m sure this was all just an unconventional icebreaker, before they made the case for a ceasefire and a two-state solution.

We are seeing Jew hatred at its most visceral. According to the CST, the incidents were at their peak not when the IDF rolled into Gaza, or when this awful war – that Hamas started – began to claim civilian Palestinian life. No, they peaked just a few days after 7 October, just after Hamas had killed and raped its way through southern Israel, long before Israel’s full military campaign had begun. As the CST puts it, the initial surge in anti-Semitic abuse, graffiti and violence represented a grotesque carnival of ‘celebration’ – celebration, that is, of the murder and maiming and defilement of Jews.

It would be sickening enough if Israel’s just war in Gaza was leading scumbags in Britain to menace Jews on protests, or to daub ‘SS IDF’ on the wall of a synagogue, as happened in Sussex. To hold British Jews responsible for the actions – real or imagined, justifiable or unjustifiable – of the Israeli state is the essence of the new anti-Semitism. But we can surely now drop the pretence that the undiluted anti-Jewish racism we’ve seen on our streets in recent months was just mindless, misplaced anger with Benjamin Netanyahu.

Anyone who has been paying attention knows this has been brewing for longer than many would like to admit. Even before the awful events of 7 October, British Jews constituted 0.5 per cent of the British population and around a quarter of the victims of the religiously motivated hate crimes. Jewish pensioners being suckerpunched in north London or Jewish cemeteries being desecrated were grimly regular occurrences that rarely – shamefully – made it beyond local-news websites.

But it really feels like it’s open season now. It’s in the air. Jews – or at least the ones who are pro-Israel, which happens to be the vast majority of them – are fair game. You can even ‘hound’ them out of a comedy show, if they take against a performer pulling out a Palestinian flag at the end of his ‘non-verbal immersive comedy show’, as happened at the Soho Theatre last week. I still don’t know what’s worse, that performer Paul Currie was reportedly so upset with an Israeli audience member that he broke character and blared ‘leave my fucking show now’, or that his audience immediately joined in, chanting ‘Free Palestine’ until the pesky Jew left.

This isn’t normal, let alone acceptable. And yet it is now everywhere Jews turn. Despite prematurely declaring ‘mission accomplished’ on ridding his party of anti-Semitism, Labour leader Keir Starmer became embroiled in a doozy of an anti-Semitism scandal this past week, after Rochdale by-election candidate Azhar Ali was caught spreading an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, claiming the Israelis let the 7 October pogrom happen as a pretext to attack Gaza, and blaming ‘Jewish quarters’ of the media for the ousting of certain Labour politicians.

After he’d finally peeled his buttocks off the proverbial fence, Starmer did the right thing and withdrew Labour’s campaign support for Ali (he’ll remain its candidate on the ballot paper, as the print deadline has long since passed). But Starmer’s vacillation will have left many wondering if his Labour Party is only sure-footed in dealing with anti-Semitic comments when they are being foghorned by the left. (Ali was a Starmer loyalist.)

This is not to play into the narrative of the Corbynistas – that Labour’s anti-Semitism scandal was little more than a Blairite plot against Corbyn and his supporters. Rather, there was clearly a nervousness about tackling anti-Semitism when it was being spouted by a Muslim, standing in a seat like Rochdale, where a third of the population is Muslim. Now, with Ali fighting his campaign as the silenced martyr and ‘Gaza George’ Galloway hoping to cause an upset, questions of Israel, Palestine and anti-Semitism will putrefy this by-election debate.

As Tim Black wrote on spiked earlier this week, Labour has long let the calculations of pork-barrel identity politics overwhelm its moral compass. In the Rochdale case, it is an insult to both Jews and Muslims. Refusing to confront the well-documented, disproportionately high levels of anti-Semitism among British Muslims is a shameful dereliction of duty for any supposedly anti-racist party. But it also betrays its own kind of anti-Muslim prejudice, presenting all British Muslims as volatile, unreconstructed anti-Semites who must forever be tiptoed around.

As anti-Semitism continues to rage, Jews are swiftly learning that the supposed protections of the multicultural state simply do not apply to them. We saw this again this week in the outrageous double standards in the ‘paraglider girls’ case, in which three young women, caught wearing images of Hamas-style paragliders at a ‘pro-Palestine’ protest, were let off with a slap on the wrist. While the exact same judge, Tan Ikram, had previously jailed people for posting racist George Floyd memes on a private WhatsApp group, he downplayed the women’s very public glorification of anti-Semitic terrorism as ‘emotions running high’. (Those of us cynical enough to suspect that bias may also have been at play here, weren’t surprised to learn that Ikram had recently ‘liked’ an anti-Israel post on LinkedIn.)

Indeed, identitarianism has put anti-Semitism on steroids. Its prefab hierarchy of victimhood, its relentless sorting of ‘oppressor’ from ‘oppressed’, has legitimised hatred against Jews and Israelis, nonsensically portraying one of the most diverse and historically oppressed groups as privileged and ‘hyper-white’. Meanwhile, wokeness has ringfenced particular forms of anti-Semitism from criticism, if they happen to be spewed from a member of a certified ‘victim’ group.

A reckoning with identity politics is the first step towards curing the anti-Semitic sickness in our midst.

Tom Slater is editor of spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK


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