If I say, even categorically, that my Queens Park Rangers football team is the finest in the world, I do not expect my view to be reported in theGuardian. How then do they justify reporting the views of actress, Miriam Margolyes, who says that “There are people who are boiling with hate and resentment and entitlement in this country and it is a disgrace. Far-right nationalism could easily lead to a pogrom in Britain.”
The Guardian is unfairly lampooned for printing errors, but these are difficult to entirely avoid if you’re a publisher. There is no such excuse for not knowing the meaning of words, because the Oxford English Dictionary is always available. What is a pogrom? “An organised massacre – originally of Jews in Russia.” It is Russian for devastation. Is Ms. Margolyes forecasting a massacre?
No it couldn’t happen here, because pogroms do not occur because people don’t like Jews. They happen because the state doesn’t like Jews. In pograms the police normally assist the wreckers. The perpetrators are not arrested. Robbery, violence and vandalism are allowed to go unpunished. That is entirely unlike Britain.
Now, if any ethnic minority can claim to be world experts on pogroms, it is the Jews. Most of us are in this country because our ancestors fled the anti-Jewish pogroms in continental Europe in the 19th century.
In total contrast, my country has behaved impeccably towards its Jews. There was only one outbreak of violence in 350 years which could be falsely labelled a pogrom. It occurred in Tredegar in Wales in August 1911, 109 years ago. A number of the locals attacked Jewish shops because they were blamed for aspects of the current slump.
What was the reaction of the authorities? And remember this was before anti-racist legislation had been passed.
The local magistrate went into the street and read The Riot Act. The police charged the rioters with such force that they fled the scene, complaining the police were brutal. The Tredegar citizens invited the Jews to come into their homes in case they needed protection. The town council called up a detachment of the Worcester Regiment who were based in Cardiff and it was all over in 48 hours. The council then put a penny on the rates to raise the money needed for compensation for the damage to the shops, though that produced more cash than was needed. Winston Churchill, as Home Secretary, insisted on the rioters being charged and sentenced in court.
There has been no other disturbance of even that gravity before or since the Restoration. The government now provides funds to protect Jewish buildings, though far more Mosques have been attacked than Synagogues. Five were defaced in Birmingham in March 2019 and more in 2020.
You have much more chance of being in a car accident than in any anti-semitic incident.. It has often been pointed out that there are more people killed on American roads over every Labour Day Weekend than in Custer’s Last Stand. Of course there are anti-semites. In a country of over 65 million, every interest is represented.
You may not believe this but a Protection of Badger Act was passed in 1992 and if you find a badger being ill treated, you should immediately contact the RSPCA Cruelty line, 24 hours day, on 0300 1234 999. For some reason there is no act protecting goldfish. It will come.
The key point for Ms. Margolyes is that pogroms are not, and never have been, British government policy. Neither are they in any important political party’s manifesto. The far right might be an exception but they invariably lose their electoral deposits.
The additional good news is that there is a need to publicise the efforts of an organisation founded at the end of 2016; the Moslem Jewish Leadership Council. At a conference in Italy in 2019 rabbis and imams represented no less than fifteen countries and there is much cooperation between religious leaders in Britain as well.
So, no, Ms. Margolyes, if there was an Oscar for scaremongering, you would be a strong favourite. The trouble is that you are preaching to a lot of the converted; Jews live from childhood with stories of oppression recounted in their family histories. In this country the liberal support of the government, the police and the local councils is solid and that is what should be emphasised.
There used too be a lot of clubs, schools and societies which didn’t like Jewish members. They are memories for the most part. The Groucho Marx joke that he would never want to be a member of a club which would have him as a member doesn’t raise a laugh today