Eve Garrard: What is to be done about antisemitism?

This is how Eve concludes.  The rest too is, as always, indispensable reading:

…Jews, like everyone else, have multiple identities, criss-crossing and overlapping in a variety of ways. With respect to her identity as a Jew, a British Jew might in the first instance feel fear and dread at the spectacle of resurgent anti-Semitism on the left (or anywhere else). But with respect to her identity as a Briton, she might feel appalled, furious, outraged at what is being done to the liberal culture which she (rightly) loves and admires and feels proud of. When the British left is ready to compare Israel to the Nazis, declare Gaza to be similar to the Warsaw Ghetto, and treat genocidal threats against Jews as a trivial matter; when the Guardian, the principal media organ of this sector of society, opens its columns to a constant stream of such venom; when members of the intelligentsia are ready with breezy nonchalance to dismiss Jewish concerns about anti-Semitism as overheated overstatement, and Jewish self-defence as sinister brutality; then a terrible degradation of thought and sentiment has taken place here in the UK, among an influential part of the chattering classes. For the sake of liberal culture in Britain, as well as for the sake of its Jewish citizens, we all have reason to fight resurgent anti-Semitism, and to support a renewed commitment to the universal values which protect us, irrespective of our race or gender or religion, and which make the inhabitants of this country, in global and historical terms, a very fortunate group of people.

Read the whole piece by Eve Garrard on normblog.

10 Responses to “Eve Garrard: What is to be done about antisemitism?”

  1. JG Campbell Says:

    This is an excellent post by Eve on Normblog, as always.

    And the suggestion that – instead of fighting alone, fleeing to US or Israel, joining with the antisemites, or completely assimilating – Jews should join forces with that “distinct section of the liberal-left which sees what is happening, and doesn’t like it” in order to “work with these figures and others like them to revive a universal anti-racism…as well as more particular ones appropriate for individual situations and commitments” is admirable.

    But hasn’t that already happened to a large degree? And despite individual successes (like reversing UCU boycott decisions), hasn’t it failed to stem the tide of anti-Jewish racism focused on Israel that seems slowly but surely to be becoming mainstream, especially on the liberal-left (but also on the democratic right to a lesser degree)?

    I fear that what’s really needed is a broader coalition of all those people of good will on the left, centre, and right of democratic politics who’ve had enough already. Yet, for all the obvious reasons, I can’t see such a coalition – that includes Nick Cohen and Denis MacShane, say, and Danny Finkelstein and Michael Gove – being able to come together until things are so bad that, by definition, it’s too late.

  2. Jacob Says:

    Has anyone seen this story?

    “Buenos Aires synagogues get bomb threats”
    May 19, 2009

    “BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — Two Buenos Aires synagogues received bomb threats in the wake of violent anti-Semitic attacks at a public street celebration.

    Monday’s bomb threats on the Amaijai and New Israeli Community synagogues, both located in the highly Jewish-populated neighborhood of Belgrano, proved to be false.

    Also Monday, hundreds of protesters, mostly women and children, clamored for the release of the five men arrested Sunday during a cultural event organized by the Buenos Aires city government to celebrate the 61st anniversary of Israel. Several people were injured during the violent demonstration at the street fair.

    The men have been identified as members of the Front of Revolutionary Action, which has links to leftist radical groups such as the political organization Quebracho. The group maintains an Internet blog and defines itself as Marxist-Leninist….”


    • Gil Says:

      Jacob, on that same page there is a link to news that the police have discovered a bombs cache at the headquarters of this group.

  3. Academic Says:

    For balance, it is worth emphasizing, I think, that, aside from “left wing intellectuals”, “ordinary England” at the moment seems to me to be very free from antisemitism or anti-Israel sentiment. One positive example of many: I overhear a child tell a train-ticket seller they are off to Israel. The response: “Oh you lucky thing. That’s on my “to do” list too.” Similar positive experiences in ordinary state schools. (No negative examples encountered.)

    It is ironic: When I was at school and then an undergraduate (nearly 40 years ago), the only place where I felt an absence of antisemitism was the university campus. Now it seems to be the other way around!

    • David Hirsh Says:

      I think that is a really interesting point and I think you’re right.

      But of course there is the danger of the mainstreaming of antisemitism.

  4. Harry Goldstein Says:

    I tend to agree with Academic. I think we sometimes forget just how marginal the left (especially the academic left) actually is. This may have been comforting at one time (when some of us were unreservedly of that persuasion), now it can be debilitating.

    Dave, this is not to neglect your point about the danger. Where a particular set of attitudes becomes the touchstone of intellectual respectability, then wannabe intellectuals will adopt them as a matter of course, and there is some degree of ‘trickle-down’ as a result.

    So this isn’t a call for complacency. It is however a call to reject pessimism, which can be equally debilitating. It is especially counterproductive if we start to think of British society as irredeemably antisemitic, when in fact the majority of ordinary people are less so (and indeed less racist in general) than at any time in history.

    They are however hostile to terrorism, violent demonstrations and Islamist extremism, and tend to resent being stigmatised as racist as a consequence. My own view is that we are actually the majority, or potentially so – even though it may not look that way from the campus.

  5. Joshua Says:

    ‘ “ordinary England” at the moment seems to me to be very free from antisemitism or anti-Israel sentiment.’

    1) Poll: 50% in U.K. think Jews more loyal to Israel than home nation — 2007


    2) Poll: British hate Israel most — 2005


    3) European poll: Israel greatest danger to world peace — 2003


    60% of British residents see Israel as greatest threat


  6. Academic Says:

    Well I just had time to look at a couple of these and they could be said to be misleading. E.g. the link with the title “British hate Israel most” is clearly over-sensationally headlined. The data merely tell us e.g. that 15 percent of Britons think Israelis the most unfriendly (of a palette of countries) whereas 30 percent award this accolade to France and 23 percent to Germany. Also there was a largish percentage who particularly didn’t want to live or take a holiday there and/or thought it the most unsafe. Again hardly surprising and hardly the same as “hate”

    I’m simply reporting my own everyday experience: 25 years ago in Switzerland, a (non-Jewish) person I know went to a florists to send some flowers by Interflora to someone in Israel and met with an angry response: “Your sort are not welcome here”! I don’t know if that would still happen today in Switzerland, but I’ve certainly not encountered anything like that in the UK in many decades. (Except on university campus of course 🙂 )

  7. Joshua Says:

    “the link with the title “British hate Israel most” is clearly over-sensationally headlined.”

    I don’t agree – hard-hitting perhaps but not hyperbolic. Even if one were to accept your interpretation about holidays and so forth, one should also have regard to the following comments made by the Telegraph (the newspaper which commissioned that YouGov poll):

    “It is also the country thought least deserving of international respect. Despite being the only fully democratic state in the Middle East, it is also thought to be among the world’s ‘least democratic countries.’ ”

    “Of the 12 criteria set out in YouGov’s check-list, Israel comes out bottom in four cases and among the bottom five in a total of eight. Only Russia has a worse overall score.”

    And of course there are the two other polls, the results of which hardly suggest that Britain is “very free from antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment”. That over 50% of Brits think that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their “home nation” is certainly a figure that would shock many Jews. In Holocaust terms, such a result indicates Poland or Austria rather than Denmark.

    “I’m simply reporting my own everyday experience”

    And I’ve had a number of very different experiences. However, I do think the evidence of these polls is rather more convincing than the experiences of just two people in a nation of over 60 million.

  8. Academic Says:

    Yeah well, I guess there are different things being measured in these polls and in personal encounters like yours and mine. And of course one can measure other things like numbers of antisemitic attacks and that’s another dimension of the problem (of antisemitism). But I think the dimension of personal encounters is interesting. You’re right of course that just my or your anecdotes is not very scientific But one could no doubt make it scientific. (Send lots of student researchers out into the field with set questions like “Hey I’m new in town. Do you know where is the nearest synagogue? Could you accompany me there?” and let them record and classify the responses. Then repeat with “gurdwara” instead of “synagogue” etc. or in France instead of in England etc. for comparison.) Might be interesting. It would be measuring something significant I think and something different from what is measured by your Daily Telegraph YouGov poll etc. I’d just like to guess that, on this measurement scale, England (viz a viz the Jews) would come out quite well (except in university Politics departments and amongst BBC and Guardian journalists, Green party politicians, Church of England bishops etc. etc. 🙂 )

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