BY RUTH LEVINE
Remembrance Sunday is always a warm and peaceful event for my family. We come together at my brother-in-law’s home in Stratford to remember my husband’s late father who fought at the Battle for Caen in the summer of 1944. His medals are laid out alongside the medals of my own Grandfather who escaped Alsace in 1915 aged just sixteen to fight alongside the Allies in Belgium during the Great War. We have a good meal, some wine and usually end up going for a stroll in what is now the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. This year we sat by my brother-in-law’s warm fireside on a cold November afternoon. This year we drank more and walked less!
I was disappointed to read this morning that, just a short drive from where we were in Stratford on Sunday, police in Hackney are now investigating after swastikas and abusive messages were painted onto vehicles opposite the Beis Malka School near Stamford Hill.
Shomrim – the neighbourhood watch group for the Jewish community in areas like Stamford Hill, Hackney and Haringey – has posted this image of the Beis Malka anti-Semitic hate crime below:
Where we live in Wiltshire we have experienced zero hate crime as Jews in the forty-one years since we moved down the motorway from Wimbledon. We are not obviously Jewish, although we come together to celebrate the major Jewish festivals and occasionally attend a synagogue. If we were Christians, we’d probably be called the C&E crowd – those who attend church for Easter and Christmas.
In all those forty-one years, the worst (and I hate to use the word) racism we experienced was a schoolboy at my son’s school cracking some joke about how “Hitler wasn’t all wrong” but at the time we brushed that off as no biggie.
The offending boy was punished just as my son has been punished for using bad and occasionally malicious language at school, as have most other kids there at some point or another in the decade or so they attend the school. The boy apologised to my son and his parents (who I know well) came around and shared a bottle of wine with us as they were feeling bad.
Those friends we have who are non-Jewish couldn’t care one hoot about our Jewishness and we go about our lives as proud British Jews. We are not extremists and feel more a member of a club than anything else about our Jewishness. We’re integrated Britons as much as any Britons are integrated into the country we adore. We never complain about antisemitism and we have had no cause to.
Yet UK antisemitism is apparently rising:
Incidents of antisemitism rose by 11% in the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2015, according to the Community Security Trust. The overall figure of 557 cases of malicious acts was the second highest ever recorded during a January-June period. The biggest increases this year were recorded in April, May and June, months when antisemitism in the Labour party was the subject of widespread media coverage. There were 41 violent anti-Semitic assaults among the 557 incidents, a 13% drop on the comparative 2015 period. More than three-quarters of the incidents were recorded in London and Manchester, the two largest Jewish communities in the UK. In London, there was a 62% increase in incidents, whereas in Manchester there was a 54% fall.
There can be no doubt that anti-Semitic attacks are dreadful. People need to be educated about the Holocaust and about how extremism can lead to horrible events. I have Jewish friends who have experienced antisemitism over the years and I suppose we all worry a bit about the likes of Alternative For Germany and the Le Pens just in case antisemitism crops up somehow in their repertoire if they do get into power in Europe. I don’t worry at all about Trump being an anti-Semite even though he’s appointed Steve Bannon as his Chief Strategist, whose paper made some anti-Semitic remarks in the past. Both Trump and Bannon were successful in New York and to be successful in New York you can’t be an anti-Semite! I cannot believe for one minute that Bannon is a white supremacist as the liberal media keep on claiming.
Let’s be honest here. Someone has to. We British Jews worry much more about where large groups of radicalised Muslims live as they are by far the most anti-Semitic of all social groups in the UK and radical Islamist preachers make a point of referring disdainfully to Jews in their sermons. Stratford has a growing Muslim population and you can see why some Jews living there feel threatened.
When it comes down to it, it’s usually oiks who are responsible for racist attacks. The white neo-Nazis after they get tanked up on beer and the radical Muslims occasionally act on their words but it’s normally the hooligans, presumably like those who daubed swastikas on these vans outside Beis Malka School. You must be brainless these days to vandalise with so much CCTV around and so much media with which you can educate yourself. The police should be looking for oiks and will likely track the culprits down soon.
Once the dust has settled from Brexit and Corbyn and his bunch of anti-Semites have departed the political stage, as no doubt they will soon, then we can get back to normality here in the UK. I’d expect for there to be a drop in anti-Semitic incidents. The radical Islamist problem, alongside other cases of extremism, need to be continually addressed.
We should all condemn all racism. We should all call out all extremism on all sides. We should stop being so forward in classifying ourselves as in any way different from others in terms of our religions, sexuality and dress … and, like those men ordered into the trenches during the Great War, we should batten down and just bloody well get on together! UK PLC needs us.