Anti-Semitism has surged in the UK since the Hamas pogrom in southern Israel on 7 October last year.
Earlier this week, a man wielding a knife threatened the staff of Kay’s kosher supermarket on Hamilton Road in the Golders Green district of London. He reportedly entered the shop and demanded to know where the staff stood on ‘Israel and Palestine’.
Fortunately, the shop staff bravely forced him to leave, using trolleys and broomsticks to keep him at bay, before he was later arrested. As a video of part of the confrontation shows, they can be heard shouting ‘yesh lo sakin’ (he has a knife) in Hebrew. According to the police, ‘a 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon, criminal damage and racially aggravated affray’.
Tragically, this was no isolated incident. A few weeks ago, three Israelis – two men and a woman – were attacked in London’s Leicester Square after their assailants heard them speaking Hebrew. The two men suffered head injuries as a result.
Also in London last month, a group of masked men mobbed a Jewish charity event for disaffected young boys. The men tried to break into the charity’s office in Hendon, north London but were blocked by police. They were also filmed abusing Jewish passers-by. Apparently, they had got wind that an Israeli soldier would be addressing the boys (his talk was on how to overcome adversity and avoid taking drugs).
The UK statistics on anti-Semitism paint a grim picture. Figures from the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that protects British Jews, show a 524 per cent increase in anti-Semitic incidents between 7 October and the middle of December last year.
This trend is not restricted to Britain. In America, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported a 337 per cent increase in anti-Semitic incidents between 7 October and 11 December.
The ADL has also collated national data on anti-Semitic incidents in the weeks following Hamas’s pogrom from several countries around the world. They show a 738 per cent increase in Australia, a 300 per cent increase in Austria, a 961 per cent increase in Brazil, a 1,000 per cent increase in France, a 320 per cent increase in Germany and an 818 per cent increase in the Netherlands. The statistics were calculated over different time periods, but they all show a sharp upward trend.
More alarming still is that this surge in anti-Semitic hate is coming from a relatively high base. In Britain, the number of anti-Semitic incidents has been on an upward trend for at least the past decade, punctuated by sharp spikes whenever conflict involving Israel and Palestine flares up.
The American statistics show a similar pattern. According to the ADL, the number of anti-Semitic incidents rose from 751 in 2013 to 3,697 in 2022.
Some will no doubt try to argue that the issue here is not anti-Semitism, but rather that people are frustrated with Israel or are expressing opposition to Zionism. But this does not wash. If your opposition to Israel leads you to attack or agitate against Jews, then your ‘opposition to Israel’ is just anti-Semitism rebranded.
There is a clear line between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. If someone chants ‘Free Palestine’ on a protest that is not in and of itself anti-Semitic. Nor is holding a placard bearing the same message. Having debates about the Israel-Palestine conflict, whichever side different individuals take, is not racist, either.
But daubing ‘Free Palestine’ in an area of London with a large Jewish community is undoubtedly anti-Semitic. Attacking a Jewish school boy in London in an attempt to force him to chant ‘Free Palestine’ is anti-Semitic. Screaming ‘fucking Jews’ at Londoners putting up posters about Israeli hostages in Gaza is clearly anti-Semitic. And, for the avoidance of doubt, entering a Jewish supermarket wielding a knife and demanding to discuss Israel and Palestine is most definitely anti-Semitic.
Anyone who refuses to recognise that anti-Semitism now poses a serious problem has, at best, lost their moral compass. At worst, they themselves might be part of the problem.
The aftermath of the 7 October Hamas pogrom in Israel has made the rethinking of anti-Semitism a more urgent task than ever. Both the extent and character of anti-Semitism is changing. Tragically the open expression of anti-Semitic views is once again becoming respectable. It has also become clearer than ever that anti-Semitism is no longer largely confined to the far right. Woke anti-Semitism and Islamism have also become significant forces.
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