I have never understood why some people get used to anti-Semitism. There are those in our community who see nothing disturbing about dropping their children off at fortified schools, or passing through airport-style security to enter their synagogue. As anti-Semitic crime surges, they look perplexed and observe that nothing feels different to them because nothing has happened to them personally. They accept the risk of anti-Semitism as part of their everyday life, but fail to act as long as they themselves are not targeted.
Our charity seeks to educate against anti-Semitism while simultaneously working to inflict criminal, professional and reputational sanctions upon anti-Semites. To succeed we must pinpoint the problem, and that is why the accuracy of our research is crucial: if it contains mistakes, we could find ourselves fighting the wrong battles.
Last week, Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) published its Antisemitism Barometer research. Conducted over three years, it included three specially-commissioned YouGov polls of the British population’s attitudes towards Jews and two separate CAA polls of British Jews, the data from which was weighted by a former Associate Director at YouGov.
Our rigorous research showed that anti-Semitic prejudice is actually declining, but British Jews are increasingly fearful with almost one-in-three considering leaving the UK. They do not need to be packing their bags for the question to be significant. When our polling asked British Jews to point a finger of blame, more than half accused the Crown Prosecution Service for failing to prosecute all but a handful of anti-Semitic crimes annually, and the Labour Party was attacked by four out of five of us for its mastery in whitewashing anti-Semitism.
Just when we should be celebrating a fall in prejudice against Jews, we find ourselves grappling with rising fear of surging anti-Semitic crime and the acceptance by swathes of the electorate of a political party riddled with anti-Semites. Our findings sparked national debate, but communal debate was no less interesting because of the divisions it exposed.
Some complained that they had never been a victim of anti-Semitism, and so it could not possibly be true – accusing us of exaggeration. Others accused us of somehow suppressing the voices of those who are making plans to leave.
Perhaps in this world of social media bubbles and fake news, we are all losing the ability to listen to the views of others. British Jews’ experiences will vary according to their denomination and whether they wear visible signs of their Judaism. They vary by neighbourhood, age and gender. Those with children may feel differently about the future to those without. As a community, we must accept these variations and try to understand the whole picture – not just our personal part of it.
Our research tell us Britain is one of the best places in the world in which to be Jewish. But we can also see that our comfort in this country is increasingly at risk. There is no contradiction in recognising how lucky we are, while fighting the threats that assail us. However satisfied we may be with our laws and the majority of our politicians, it is imperative that we focus our attention on the failures to prosecute, and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Future generations will not forgive us if we enjoyed the golden era for British Jews but watched complacently as it ended.