So this is what anti-Semitism feels like…

It is so much easier to observe and understand history, than it is to understand that it is happening again, and to oneself.

I am not sure when I first became aware of feeling I was more vulnerable because I am a Jew. I was always aware that things were different for me, and my family. My children went to a Jewish state school surrounded by a high fence and constantly guarded. My synagogue as s the case with nearly all synagogues in the UK has a security rota internally, and is patrolled by local security and police externally.

I always treated these though, as being a deterrent, a covering of the small risk of harm. The change came, as these things do, gradually. Operation Protective Edge in August 2014 was the beginning, with demonstrations in London and Manchester. Then, at the beginning of this year came four significant events, one after another which served suddenly – though it wasn’t sudden of course – to emphasise to me that it is now my turn. My turn to be the victim of anti-Semitism.

Not directly by a personal attack, but indirectly by my realisation that as a Jew I no longer have the equality of protection by society that I did previously.

The first of these was the report into the Oxford Labour party, which was never published in full. That was not good. It must have been pretty bad for the Labour party to supress it, so I knew that one group as we had been told, had a problem with the Jews.

Then the revelations that various elected representatives – mostly Muslim – had published some form of anti-Semitic material or other. I was not surprised that they had done so; I have been aware for some time that many Muslim representatives think badly of the Jews. What bothered me was what had been said was so bold, so widespread and so tolerated by their Labour (mostly) colleagues.

Many of these comments were made at the time of Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. Many of these comments were made it seemed to me to reassure their electorate that when it came to hating Jews, these representatives could be relied upon to the do the right thing. To toe the anti-Semitic party line, to line up on behalf of the terrorists in Gaza who were executing those who didn’t agree with them, and threatening to kill those journalists who might be prepared to tell the truth.

Of course, these councillors and MPs said what they did back in 2014. The excuses flowed out, “it was the heat of the moment”, “they were upset”, “children were being killed”. The excuses ran long and wide and although I was not convinced, I was still thinking it might be all right.

Then the third event – the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new Labour leader. Here was a confirmed Stalinist, and someone who described a Hamas leader as one of his friends. Almost as soon as he was elected came the excuses, the best – or worst – of which was “Jeremy doesn’t have an anti-Semitic bone in his body”.

Well, more about this shortly because this is intrinsically linked with the fourth event – the Labour Party Inquiry into anti-Semitism, or as it is more completely described, the Labour Party Inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, including Islamophobia. The penny started to drop. Loudly. What Islamaphobia? I hadn’t seen anything other than a few high profile violent attacks on people with a brown skin by known racists, mostly from the far right.

The only regular attacks on Muslims I knew about were mostly by family members, and mostly then against women, but I don’t think the Inquiry was interested in that.  That is too a real a problem for the Labour Party to go near.

No, this report was all about creating an environment for a whitewash, a cover-up, a denial of the facts that too many people in the Labour party don’t like Jews. And I was right. It was just that. Every group was allowed to contribute, even the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which denies the right of Jews to self-determination. So, even the anti-Semites had their say on what is or is not anti-Semitic. It would laughable if it wasn’t so pitiable.

Then at the press conference when the report was released, a Jewish MP was subjected to anti-Semitic harassment by one of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. He may have been expelled from the party but not before sharing a laugh and jolly joke with his then leader. The same leader who stood by and said nothing, the leader who apparently doesn’t have an anti-Semitic bone in his body. Maybe not, but it is clear as night follows day that his belief that Jews should be returned to their traditional second class citizen status flows strong and fast through his blood.

The Labour party supports and conceals anti-Semitism. Baiting Jews has become acceptable in what used to be a progressive and open party. It is now everywhere; Jews are being harassed and marginalised. The Labour Party by and large doesn’t want me. Unite, a trades union with a member of approaching 1 ½ million doesn’t want me, or at least not if I believe in saving myself and my family from destruction. The National Union of Students is not prepared to protect Jewish students from attacks, discrimination and harassment, and the universities stand idly by whilst Jews in their care are intimidated and marginalised at their places of learning during Israel Apartheid Week.

Now I know what anti-Semitism feels like – dirty, dishonest and downright ugly. At least I now understand what I am dealing with.

About the Author
Robert Festenstein is a solicitor based in Manchester with considerable experience in Court actions. He is active in representing groups opposing BDS and fighting the increase in anti-Semitism, particularly amongst the left-wing in the UK.