The year Jew hate didn’t even need false pretext
8 February 2017
This opinion piece, by CST Director of Communications Mark Gardner appeared in the 3 February 2017 edition of the Jewish News, where it was entitled, “The year Jew hate didn’t even need false pretext”.
The article discusses CST’s latest annual Antisemitic Incidents Report, showing that CST recorded a record high number of incidents in 2016. A pdf of the report may be read here and the Jewish News coverage of the report is here.
This may sound a strange thing for Community Security Trust’s director of communications to say, but I do not welcome the headlines and media coverage that our latest antisemitic incidents report, with its record high figures, will probably attract.
The reason is simple enough. I think our community has had more than enough inescapable discussion of antisemitism over these past 12 months. I deeply regret that these latest record high figures will add to the emotional strain.
Please do not, however, confuse this with me seeking to somehow apologise for CST making the current situation known. If we are to fight antisemitism, and surely we all must, then we need to know what is going on out there.
For CST to do its work, our community, police and government must know that what we say is reliable. If you take the time to go on our website and read the actual report, I sincerely hope you will agree that it presents the situation with as much rigour, soberness and transparency as we can possibly show.
Our role at CST is to protect the community in order to facilitate Jewish life, not to chase headlines on a subject that could hardly be more serious or emotionally charged. I just ask that if you get upset by the negatives, that you please try and balance them against the daily reality of Jewish life: which I hope for most of us, most of the time, is overwhelmingly positive and filled with opportunities.
Having said how good Jewish life generally is, I must be honest and say that I worry about challenges that may well lie ahead. If anti-Semitism drops out of the headlines then I hope we would see a partial decline in the figures, but there are some big societal trends from which I do not think Jews will do well.
Analytically, for want of a better expression, the big worrying trend is being called “populism”, used to explain everything from Jeremy Corbyn to Brexit to Donald Trump. In relation to antisemitism, this rests upon notions such as “us versus them” and blaming unspecified “elites” for the complicated and troubled state of the world. This kind of language has always helped anti-Semitism to thrive. The prevalence of social media adds to this, with news no longer reflecting facts, but being a personally selected reinforcement of your own emotions.
Or, we can just be more blunt about it. Previous record antisemitic highs were caused by local antisemitic reactions to short-lived overseas conflicts involving Israel. Nothing like that happened in 2016. Instead, the antisemitic incidents total seems to reflect a more basic antisemitism, as if the hatreds that we thought had been driven into the sewers over the past few decades, are now climbing out again, unafraid and blinking in the sunlight.
This does not, of course, mean that Middle East-related anti-Semitism has disappeared. Far from it. If, or when, Israel finds itself again in open conflict, our local antisemitic levels will be just as violent and intense as ever. In fact, with the pressure cooker having been bubbling away, they may well be worse than before.
So, CST will keep doing its work. We will keep fighting antisemitism, and we will continue to be a reliable and sober voice on this increasingly complex and important subject.
We can, however, only ever be as strong as our community enables us to be. Please support us in our work. Report antisemitism, donate to the charity and volunteer to help your local security team.