Misunderstanding what is divisive

Perhaps Antony Lerman supposes he has “creatively exploited and managed” antisemitism “in such a way as to generate vibrant and relevant discussion about issues of the moment”.

Implicating the Community Security Trust (one of the major Jewish organisations which records, investigates and organises against antisemitism) in Jewish community rifts, he opines that calling for research into antisemitism in Scotland is somehow divisive and “grounds for concern seem slight”.

“So while research on antisemitism should always be encouraged, how will it help Jews in Scotland if it throws up the existence of a Holocaust denier on the Mull of Kintyre?”

Well, wouldn’t it be a great relief to discover that antisemitism in Scotland was emanating from a solitary remote Holocaust denier? Those of us who’ve been worrying that there is something more to it could have a hearty laugh at our mistake, pack up, and go joyfully about our business again. It is strange that the former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research has no spirit of inquiry to discover what is behind the incidents.

I’d like to hear from anybody who has the urge to diminish reports of antisemitism, after a week shadowing one of the visibly observant Jews who have approached SCOJEC and The CST. Reading Antony Lerman’s piece, you’d think they somehow didn’t matter. It’s wrong to suppose that community renewal can be achieved through diminishing their experiences and fears. It’s head-burying to attempt to address politicisation of racism by diminishing the effects of that racism on its targets.

The Community Security Trust’s Head of Communications Mark Gardner comments on the post (9 Jun 2010, 3:02PM):

“I stressed that the vast majority of Glasgow’s Jews are not visibly Jewish, and lead a comfy enough existence in largely white middle class neighbourhoods where street thuggery, street crime, gangs, racism and antisemitism were very rare. I noted that many of them would drive to work in their cars and did not have to use public transport.

I then said that antisemitism, like any racism, impacts against the more vulnerable sections of the community – schoolchildren who wear kippot on their heads and use public transport; people who are literally the only Jew in the village, or on the council estate etc.

I noted that these were the people who had felt vulnerable and isolated and had consequently turned to SCOJEC expressing alarm at the atmosphere they perceived during Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza last year. I said that I was proud to work with SCOJEC in representing these people’s concerns to Scottish Govt, Police and others, so that they did not feel alone and so that strategies could be developed to prevent things getting any worse.

In any other context, I suspect that Guardian readers would be horrified to read an article such as Tony Lerman’s: an article that basically mocks people’s fears about racism (eg his line about Holocaust deniers on the Mull of Kintyre, which carries far more strength than his emotion free mantra “any incidents are to be deplored”.)

The frightened contacts to SCOJEC and CST from Scottish victims of antisemitism last year were not figments of our imagination. What do you want us to do? Tell these people to stop being such Zionists, to go put a kilt on, eat a black pudding, drink some Irn Bru, buy a house in Whitecraigs, and then everything will be ok?”

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