The figures for antisemitic incidents in the UK in 2006, released today by The Community Security Trust make for depressing reading: a rise of 31% in incidents since 2005, a record number of incidents overall and a record number of violent assaults. Of course the reporting of antisemitic incidents will have improved since the CST began this work in 1984, and the 594 incidents reported to the CST in 2006 is a snapshot, rather than the full picture. But nobody should doubt that British Jews, like other Diaspora communities, have faced an approximate doubling of antisemitic attacks since the end of the 1990s.
The nature of the antisemitic incidents in 2006 reveals much about contemporary antisemitism. The large rise in incidents is mainly a consequence of the reaction to the war in Lebanon. During the 34 days of fighting in July and August last year, there were 134 antisemitic incidents in the UK; during the same period in 2005, there were just 39. The model of antisemitic incidents rising in response to trigger events such as the war in Lebanon is a familiar one; racist attacks of all kinds follow trigger events in this way. It would be facile, though, to interpret this as meaning that Israel “causes” antisemitism: trigger events do not create antisemitic incidents out of a vacuum. They act as a spark for pre-existing prejudice, or to provide an outline for expressions of bigotry, rather than being the original cause of the hatred. So the person who is moved to send hate-mail to their local synagogue because of a war in Lebanon, may be different from the person who abuses a Jewish neighbour because they are angry about the jailing of David Irving; but the dynamic for each is the same, and the prejudice already existed in both.
The increasing congruence of antisemitic and anti-Zionist discourse on different parts of the political spectrum is mirrored on the street. The person who shouts “Sieg Heil” and does a Nazi salute at a passing Jew is just as likely to be black or Asian as to be white. The swastika has been appropriated by anti-Zionists as a symbol of abuse for Israel. Equally, it is wrong to assume that people whose antisemitism is energized by anger at Israel are exclusively Muslim or Arab. There is a genuine melting pot of antisemitic themes and language, evidence that in a world of instant global communications, what happens on the political extremes reaches right down to non-political, everyday street prejudice.
The bastardisation of the word ‘Zionism’ is central to all of this. It has been stripped of meaning and refashioned into the new, post Holocaust, antisemitic definition of the word Jew. It has become an empty vessel, into which every hatred and paranoia can be – and is – poured. There is no barrier to prevent hatred of Israel slipping into hatred of Jews, which it does all too easily.
This hatred of Zionism is based upon an elaborate and ever expanding mythology of historical denial, half-truths and explicit lies that transcend all boundaries of reasonable criticism and analysis. The hatred defines Zionism in terms that have nothing to do with how its adherents – ordinary Jews – see themselves and the world. It is a propaganda drive that only makes sense by reference to Lenin on the purpose of political agitation: “The wording is calculated to provoke in the reader, hatred, disgust, contempt. The phrasing must be calculated not to convince but to destroy, not to correct the adversary’s mistake, but to annihilate his organisation and wipe it off the face of the earth”.
It is important to keep all of this in perspective. Britain is still a very good place for Jews to live and there are large parts of British society from which antisemitism is wholly absent. However there are other parts where it is becoming a serious problem, and the rising number of incidents is an indicator of this. The link between incident levels and trigger events, especially those from the Middle East, shows that this is in part a form of political violence; and such violence only thrives when it is legitimated by a public discourse that sees British Jews as deserving of abuse or attack because of their perceived support for Israel.
Europe experienced a similar rise in antisemitic attacks in the early 1990s, as part of a general resurgence of the far right after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The difference then was that it was part of a wave of attacks against all minorities, and Jews had the support and sympathy of all parts of mainstream society. The current wave of antisemitism is different, coming as it does from a political milieu that considers itself progressive, anti-racist, anti-Western and revolutionary. Much of the traditional anti-racist left remains silent or, even worse, is dismissive of the evidence, abandoning the Jewish community rather than questioning its own political assumptions. But it is rare for an antisemitic incident to be perpetrated by somebody fitting the stereotype of a card-carrying neo-Nazi skinhead. Antisemitism has changed its nature many times, and in recent years it has done so again. Those who only recognise antisemitism when it comes accompanied by echoes of Nazi Germany are of no help in fighting Jew-hatred in its most modern forms.
The Community Security Trust Anti-Semitic Incidents Report 2006 - Dave Rich
Added by David Zarnett on February 01, 2007 01:35:14 PM.