Column for JN Nov 19 2021
It’s been a fun few weeks in the OK Corral, hasn’t it? To be honest, the antisemitism lunacy has escalated to such an extent that I have scarcely known where to turn.
If it’s not swastikas daubed near a synagogue in north-west London, it’s mad anti-vaxers adopting the yellow star worn by Jews during the Holocaust, to show themselves as victims.
Or it’s a Jewish couple attending a maternity appointment at the Whittington Hospital, where Shomrim reported they were verbally abused, and then physically attacked by a man shouting “F*** Jews, move away from CCTV so I can break your bones and open you up”, before throwing a full bottle of unidentified liquid (though I think we can guess what it was) at the pregnant woman.
Then there are the repulsive scenes on a Ryanair flight, in which West Ham fans actually filmed themselves singing an antisemitic song in order to cause maximum discomfort to a strictly-Orthodox man, minding his own business as he looked for his seat before take-off. Where were the Ryanair staff while this was going on? You may well ask.
And there was the “Hershel Fink” debacle at the Royal Court Theatre, in which a character in a new play, written as an evil, money-grubbing billionaire, was given such a name, despite the theatre administration eventually shamefacedly admitting that the character was not Jewish, and renaming him “Henry Finn”. Ironically, Henry Finn is exactly the kind of name to which someone called Hershel Fink would have anglicised ‑ as so many British Jews, including my own family, can attest. As one commentator remarked, why not call him “Jewy McJewface” and be done with it, unless you are worried about offending the Scots?
Moving on, there was, of course, last week’s unwholesome incident with Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely’s appearance at LSE.
In this case, the ambassador was able to carry out her meeting without disruption, but was greeted by a baying crowd outside the building, some of whom had previously posted social media threats about what should be done against her.
The National Union of Students (NUS)’ response to the Hotovely situation was to issue a statement in which it said: “We are aware of some threats of violence to the event, and Jewish students feeling unsafe. These forms of protest have no place in our movement.”
But it added: “It is concerning that a protest overwhelmingly led by students of colour and Muslim students was quickly characterised as a ‘violent mob’.” Er, that’s because it was.
So, antisemitism to the left of us, antisemitism to the right. And the one glimmer of light in this apparently unremitting gloom is that in nearly every case, those in power, who are not Jewish, have lent their voices to condemning and acting against antisemitism.
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, condemned the swastika daubing; arrests were made of people on the Ryanair flight; education secretary Nadhim Zahawi spoke out against the crowd behaviour at LSE and apologised to the ambassador; non-Jewish actors and actresses berated the Royal Court.
Which brings me to my conclusion that we, as Jews, can’t hope to survive in wider society without the help and support of non-Jews. And that’s why I hoped – and still hope – we can occasionally lend our support to worthy causes that on the face of it have nothing to do with us. Such as the Uyghur people in China and Richard Ratcliffe and his imprisoned wife, Nazanin, held captive by Iran.
It’s called being human.