Since the fighting between Hamas and Israel last summer, many British Jews have felt uneasy. During the fighting, anti-Semitic incidents in Britain flared. 2014 was the worst year for anti-Semitic incidents since records started to be kept 30 years ago, and July was the worst ever single month. In London alone, according to police statistics, July was the worst ever month for any kind of hate crime and 95% of it was recorded as anti-Semitic hate crime.
We watched as #HitlerWasRight trended on Twitter and on our streets they chanted “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.” A group of us decided that enough was enough. We rallied thousands of people outside the Royal Courts of Justice to call for a zero-tolerance crackdown on anti-Semitic hate crime. Since then I have held high-level meetings with the government, police and prosecutors.
However in the absence of fighting in Israel, anti-Semitism has a way of becoming less visible. We needed to know whether anti-Semitism was still as high as we felt it was and how it was affecting our Jewish community, so we commissioned a major polling company to research anti-Semitism amongst the British public and we surveyed the Jewish community ourselves. The results were shocking.
We showed members of the public seven anti-Semitic statements about Jews and asked them which ones were true. 45% of people believed at least one statement to be true, and 26% believed at least two statements to be true. The statements were single sentences such as: “Jews chase money more than other British people.”
One thing that is important to remember though is that most British people have never met a Jew, so many of them have picked up anti-Semitic prejudice they may not even realize is anti-Semitic. The 25% of people who think that Jews chase money probably do not realise that per capita Jews are one of the most philanthropic religious groups. Education is key for those who are ‘unwittingly prejudiced’, but it is clear that the tsunami of anti-Semitism in Britain last year was not the work of accidental anti-Semites.
What many will probably seek to brush aside from our survey is the crossover between anti-Israel activism and anti-Semitism. 84% of Jews think boycotts of Israeli businesses are intimidatory. 82% of Jews think anti-Semitism has been fuelled by biased reporting on Israel. 77% have personally witnessed anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Israel activism.
The tone of debate around Israel has become one of pure hatred – there is no debate. When thugs enter shops and throw all of the kosher food on the ground because it’s ‘Israeli’ or stand outside Jewish events shouting “Baby killers!”, it’s not hard to understand what is really happening. Anti-Israel protests are increasingly the scene of anti-Semitic acts, and we must cease to allow the perpetrators to get away with saying that they only meant to criticise Israel.
In parallel with this extreme anti-Semitism, we also see 69% of Jews saying that the Jewish community has to protect itself because the state does not provide enough security, and 63% saying that too much anti-Semitism goes unpunished. My meetings with the British government have revealed why those statistics might be so high. British police are struggling to distinguish between legal political discourse about Israel and illegal anti-Semitic hate crime – more training is needed.
The effect that all of this has had is drastic. 56% of British Jews say they have witnessed more anti-Semitism in the past two years than ever before, and the same percentage – 56% – say that the rise in anti-Semitism now has echoes of the 1930s.
45% of British Jews think that they might not have a long-term future here anymore and a quarter have considered emigrating. We have reached a tipping point – a point of no return. Britain must act or its Jewish citizens will increasingly question their place in Britain.
Anti-Semitic hate crime, including anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Israel protest, must be tackled head-on by the authorities. The Jewish population must be protected by the state instead of having to build up its own security. British people must remind their Jewish countrymen that they stand with us. Anti-Semitism in Britain is not a Jewish problem, it’s a British problem. Jews are the litmus test of freedom – our fate is the fate of society.