On Thursday the Community Security Trust, released annual statistic on the number of anti-semitic incidents in the UK in 2017, showing once again that antisemitism broke records. The number of violent incidents rose significantly and for most of 2017 there were over 100 incidents per month, continuing trends from 2016. This is not reactive, no incident led to spikes in the statistics, this is the new normal.
Like millions of other young British people I have visible signs of my faith, I wear a Kippah, and Tzitzit, and this leads to both positive and negative responses from the wider public.
I work at the Campaign Against Anti-semitism not because I want to spend my life talking about anti-semitism, but because I am sick of the way I and others are spoken to.
When I was a small child I remember walking down the road in Manchester with my grandmother when a car driving by rolled down the window, a man threw an empty bottle at us, screamed something including the word Jew and drove off. A little over a year ago I was assaulted in Coventry whilst visiting the Cathedral ruins, an incident which would have been a lot worse were it not for a lifetime of learning to de-escalate aggressive anti-semites. Last year I was publicly confronted by a visiting speaker at my university, who accused me of being a spy based on my ’visible Zionistness” (my Jewish religious attire).
I work at the Campaign Against Anti-semitism not because I want to spend my life talking about anti-semitism, but because I am sick of the way I and others are spoken to and the predictable comments I receive even in what should be safe spaces: “the world is secretly run by this group of freemasons, they are all Jews, the Jews run the world” one ‘friend’ informed me whilst walking to a lecture in university, “typical stingy Jew” I get told by another when asking if it was his round of drinks.
Thing are worse online, “You have the blood of Palestinian babies on your hand” one stranger shouts at me through the keyboard. “Only big group collaborators in Poland was Jews. Learn history you ignorant,” I am told, in response to commenting on the dangers of the new Polish law banning discussion around Polish state or national complicity in the Holocaust.
Anti-semitism is often predicated on conspiracy theories and extreme world views. Terms such as ‘Zionist’ are used as a smokescreen for clear discrimination based on identity, not belief, as was shown this week with George Galloway’s targeting of Jewish comedian David Baddiel.
Even when out with my fiance we are subject to abuse. Twice we have faced anti-semitic lines casually thrown by passersby in the street. “You people” is an anti-semites favourite and it’s one we have faced as recently as two weeks ago. On our very first day out together we faced passing comments. This year I have seen and experienced more anti-semitic comments than previously and it is coming from a wide array of sources, not just the traditional far-right, but from people from all walks of life including left-wing activists and Islamists. No part of society is immune. Anti-semitism finds root in diverse political, religious and ethnic communities, and a singular approach to tackling it will not end it.
The Jewish school I attended had six foot spiked metal fences and a permanent security team to protect us and the same applies to my synagogue. This is the unacceptable way I have grown up. Pumping money into security keeps our community safe and that’s great, but it doesn’t solve anti-semitism itself.
The rise in anti-semitism has not led to a rise in prosecutions and it’s the lack of repercussions that has in turn emboldened anti-semites - this must change. Education must be prioritised and those in positions to make change need to start pushing for meaningful, long lasting change, so we can shift from a community dependent on security to one comfortable and safe, like everyone else in Britain.