Lee Harpin
Lee Harpin

The community must meet our younger generation’s high standards in fighting bigotry

Young Jews campaigning for refugees
Young Jews campaigning for refugees

As a journalist it is a tremendous privilege to speak truth to power.  At the JN I see it as a duty to attempt to protect our community by uncovering what those who hate Jews are up to, to celebrate our community at its finest and shine and light and hold up a mirror to our community when there is wrongdoing, hypocrisy or we just need to do better.

The latest allegations made against senior community leaders associated with the JNF is an example of the latter. I was, others tell me, one of the leading journalists who exposed the sickness inside of the Labour Party during the Corbyn era. I attended countless damp rooms listening to rabble rousing rallies of the great unwashed denouncing Jews or attempting to paint us all as part of a grand (delete as appropriate) Blairite/Zionist/Deep State conspiracy. And every week you could read about it in this newspaper (or the other one too). That is why I do this job – I seek the truth and I uncover wrongdoing. That is why our stories on the behaviour and views of some of our own leaders are so important. They set the tone and standard for within our community, and represent our community to the outside world.

We cannot fight antisemitism and racism in society whilst we let it fester unchallenged in our own community. It would be hypocritical. It would be wrong and I believe that when confronted with these views most in our community would agree that they are unacceptable.

There is another element of my job which isn’t journalistic but something I have grown to take great pride in. Speaking to and learning from younger members of our community. Our youngsters are better than we were at their age – and it’s something we should all be proud of. They embrace difference and have their eyes wide open onto the world. They have strong and diverse opinions in many respects, whether on trans rights, our current government or Israel, Zionism and a variety of other things. On Jeremy Corbyn almost all agreed and held the communal line on the stench of antisemitism from his party despite their ‘woke’ opinions and this being on the opposite side to the vast majority of their non-Jewish peers. But broadly they are educated, respectful of others and difference, and shaped by our community institutions in strong Jewish values – over the years I have covered this community I have learnt a lot from our young people. And perhaps given the chance many others of my generation would too.

These young people – some who were very involved in the fight against Corbyn – have come out and exposed this bigotry and demanded action from our community institutions and those leading them. It is a question of whether our community will rise to those expectations and high standards set by our youth.

Incoming UJS president Joel Rosen quizzed Jeremy Corbyn at Cambridge Union

When covering the issues of antisemitism in and around Bristol University involving their former Professor David Miller I heard lots of understandable, but hysterical views from our community. The problem is that these views were mainly coming from people my age, who are 30 years or more out of actually being a student on campus without any actual experience to point to. When I spoke to Jewish students on the ground – and I spoke to lots of them – they were level headed and organised – and they didn’t need middle aged men like me in London or Manchester to tell them what to do. They wanted the issue to be resolved and had a plan – and if they wanted help they would ask. They wanted their antisemitic professor gone, and they were not happy with how the university had dealt with them. But did they think this was like Nazi-Germany? No. Almost all leave university having had good and happy experiences.

It is well publicised that there is a problem of antisemitism in pockets of the Muslim community – of that there is no denial – and at its worst it has resulted in violence and terror attacks against our own community and others. But the truth is that the vast majority of Muslims, our neighbours and friends want to live peacefully and side by side with us. At the height of the most recent conflict I covered the anti-Israel demonstrations. Yes it was easy to spot the the odd antisemitic banner – but almost every young person at these rallies I asked a question to responded with a variation to wanting a two state solution – they passionately demanded a Palestinian state, but alongside the State of Israel, not to replace it.

When I covered the Batley & Spen by-election I asked many Muslim members of that community what they thought about the antisemitic convoy on the Finchley Road during those demonstrations. Every single person I spoke with condemned it and wanted the police to prosecute these people for hate crimes.

This newspaper more than most has gone to great lengths at building relationships with Muslim communities and so many organisations in our community have spent years working on this – it cannot be ruined by some bigoted leaders and our response to this story is how we will be judged.

I do not believe it is any coincidence that this community has developed this impressive cadre of young people – we just need to listen to them a bit more, help when asked and meet the high standards of integrity and anti-racism we demand of others, and they now demand of us.

About the Author
Lee is Political Editor of Jewish News, former head of news at the Sunday and Daily Mirror and Sunday People.
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