Dave Rich is the Deputy Director of Communications for the Community Security Trust, a charity that monitors antisemitism and provides security advice and assistance to the UK Jewish community
I write this on Quds Day, when pro-Iranian sympathisers hold their annual march for Palestine; and the day before another Stop The War Coalition/Palestine SolidarityCampaign/Friends of Al-Aqsa demonstration in Central London.
I'm not writing on behalf of Israel, or to persuade you not to demonstrate. If you want to protest against Israeli policy and actions in Gaza, go right ahead. There's plenty of suffering in Gaza to protest about, that's for sure. So as we say in Yiddish, Gai gezunterhait (your Jewish co-protestors can translate that for you).
Nor am I writing to discuss who is to blame for the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel, or who has responsibility to stop it from happening, or, indeed, to discuss what is happening in that part of the world at all.
The reason I'm writing to you today is to discuss things that happen here in Britain and in other European countries. You see, it seems that sometimes, some people find it difficult to distinguish between protesting against Israeli policy and abusing Jews here in Britain. You'd think the difference between the two would be fairly obvious, but apparently not. So in that spirit, and to help you tell right from wrong, here are a few tips:
On you way to or from the demonstration, do not shout "Heil Hitler" or "Death to Jews" or "Burn in hell" at random Jewish people in the street, as has happened in Manchester and London in the past two weeks.
While you are on the demonstration, if passersby disagree with you about Israel and Gaza, do not surround them, shove them, steal their phone and call them a "Jew Zionist". Having a different view of where blame and responsibility lie in the current conflict does not make someone a proxy-combatant for you to attack.
While you are at the demonstration, do not compare Israel to Nazi Germany. Gaza is not the Warsaw Ghetto. If you can't tell the difference, this post explains it. It's a totally false comparison that plays on Jewish sensibilities in order to provoke a reaction. Another word for that is Jew-baiting. Don't do it.
In fact, don't take any banner or placard that has a swastika on it. Not when it is equated with a Star of David and not when it is drawn on Bibi Netanyahu's forehead. Don't you find it odd that the only political demonstrations where it is considered OK by people on the Left to wave a swastika, just happen to be protests against the world's only Jewish state? That's an almighty coincidence.
Don't use a Star of David in any other setting than the Israeli flag. That would mean you are targeting Jews, not Israel.
If you see a fellow demonstrator waving a Hizbollah flag, point out to him or her that Hizbollah is currently too busy propping up the murderous Assad regime in Syria to help the Palestinians. Perhaps ask your co-marcher why they are protesting against the deaths of innocents in Gaza, while associating themselves with those responsible for the much greater number of deaths of innocents in Syria.
While you are at it, why not ask Hizbollah supporters why they are waving a flag that bears an image of an AK47 assault rifle on a march that is supposed to be calling for peace. Peace through the barrel of a gun? Even China doesn't believe in Maoism any more.
If any of the speakers say that this march is part of a global protest movement for Palestine, remind yourself that in France, this global movement attacks synagogues and burns Jewish shops while shouting "Slaughter the Jews!" If you want to associate UK protests with those in other countries, you cannot ignore what the demonstrations in those countries actually involve.
If you march past a branch of Marks & Spencer or Starbucks, leave them alone. Smashing up British shops and terrifying their staff doesn't help the Palestinians. It's thuggish and discredits your cause.
Most importantly, if any Jewish people tell you that they are worried about antisemitism, this does not mean that they are apologists for the Israeli government or that they support each and every action of that government. It means they are worried about antisemitism. Listen to their fears and try to understand them.
Oh, and don't wave a Socialist Worker banner out of the window of a Lamborghini. It makes you look like a shmuck. And I bet you don't even need your Jewish friends to translate what that means.
Dave RichSuggest a correction