Antisemitic incidents, January - June 2009
24 July 2009
CST releases its half-yearly report on antisemitic incidents today, available on the CST website. This report shows an unprecedented rise in antisemitic incidents: 609 in total in the first six months of this year, more than in any previous entire year since CST began recording antisemitic incidents in 1984. The comment piece below, by Mark Gardner of CST, appears in today's Jewish Chronicle alongside their news reporting of the incident figures.
A complex problem - we must stay focused
CSTs latest report shows that the most recent Israel-Hamas conflict continued the pattern whereby Middle East events trigger outbreaks of antisemitism against British Jews. Furthermore, the phenomenon appears to worsening each time it occurs.
CST defines an antisemitic incident as an act that includes antisemitic motivation, language or targeting. Perpetrators may deliberately find Jews to attack; or it may be circumstantial, such as in a road rage case.
In every instance, CST sensitively hears the victims story and gives whatever support and advice we can, including referrals to welfare agencies and police.
The physical threats (including terrorism) that CST confronts rest upon political challenges. Today there are many such challenges as modern antisemitism is complex, diverse and nuanced.
It comes from no single source or community, and can include antisemitic impacts and consequences, where no antisemitic motivation necessarily exists. For example, the anti-Israel boycott movement sincerely defines itself as anti-racist, but leaves many Jews feeling extremely vulnerable. This is not Jewish paranoia, as Jews who fail publicly to meet the required anti-Israel standard risk being treated as social outcasts and political enemies.
Moreover, it is entirely reasonable for British Jews to lament the rise of political extremism in this country; to note with grave concern the rise of the BNP, and to ask why large parts of the mainstream Left are selectively blind in their condemnation of antisemitism.
To help fight these challenges, CST encourages inter-faith and cross-political alliances wherever possible. We helped build the communitys anti-BNP campaign, and play a leading role in the task force that co-ordinates government, policing and judicial responses to antisemitism.
CST does not present Israels case, but anti-Israel anger obviously fuels antisemitism. Many observers also believe that the singling out of Israel reveals enduring antisemitism. These questions are more fully explored in CSTs latest annual report on antisemitic discourse, which shows the persistence and resonance of old antisemitic themes in todays treatment of Jewish-related issues; particularly in discussion about the pro-Israel lobby.
It is vital, however, to maintain a sense of proportion. Antisemitism does not define the British Jewish experience and Britain is a good place to be Jewish. Our community is, generally speaking, well integrated, highly educated and relatively prosperous. Most Jewish children are in Jewish schools; Jewish cultural activity is diverse, flourishing, and public. CST wants to safeguard this success story.
It is as foolish to imagine antisemitism everywhere, as it is to deny its existence. Better therefore, to contextualise the problem, to fight it appropriately, and to continue living our Jewish lives in the manner of our choosing.