The murder of three Jewish children and a Rabbi at a school in Toulouse on Monday sent a chill of terror through the hearts of Jewish parents throughout Europe. We can almost always be sure that within the general uncertainty of anti-Western terrorism lies the certainty of Jewish victims.
The killers behind the Mumbai attacks targetted a Jewish outreach centre, torturing those inside before executing them one by one; an attempt to send postal bombs by cargo plane to targets in America included a synagogue; and Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah is accused by both Israel and Argentinian prosecutors of planting explosives at a Jewish cultural centre to murderous effect.
The French Jewish community is very much aware of the old hatreds. In 2006, Ilan Halimi, a young Jewish man, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by a gang in Paris. Rising levels of traditional anti-semitism across Europe has provided a powerful incentive and legitimacy to the violence that Islamists and far-Right supremacists have espoused and visited upon Jewish communities.
In Britain, Israeli-linked shops are protested and boycotted. During an anti-Israel protest in 2009, a Starbucks branch was smashed and looted for no discernible reason other than the fact that its founder is Jewish. Even my non-Jewish colleague was recently the target of a poster put up on the noticeboard of his local mosque which claimed he was a collaborator with Jews, and encouraged his immediate ‘elimination’.
It is now apparent that one does not even have to be Jewish to be guilty. The terror of this nihilism illustrates the potency of European anti-Semitism and the fear held by European Jewry.
In 2010, there were 639 reports incidents of antisemitism in the UK, which is the second highest figure since 1984, the year in which records began. 58 of those incidents included Jewish schools, students or teachers.
It is imperative, therefore, that Jewish schools can be provided with the necessary security that will guarantee the safety of their children. A number of media outlets, however, have opined differently.
In January, the Guardian published an article on Holocaust Memorial Day, which questioned Government funding to pay for security at Jewish state schools in England and Wales. The money provided is only a tiny fraction of the private funds donated by the Jewish community which is used to secure the safety of Jewish events, organisations, schools and synagogues.
The insensitivity of the Guardian’s timing is only outweighed by the vulgarity of its source. In this case, the Guardian was citing a report by Strathclyde academic David Miller, whose website, SpinWatch, has previously reproduced the work of neo-Nazi academic Kevin McDonald, in an attempt to explain the political behaviour of Jews. The same website regularly villifies Muslim liberals and opponents of terrorist organisations.
In 2008, the Daily Telegraph ran a featured story, citing the then-Labour Minister Ed Balls, with regards to Jewish schools demanding ‘illegal payments’. The article suggested these contributions were a bribe to ensure the applicant’s child would gain a place. In fact, these extra funds were urgently needed to pay for increased security.
There are not many non-Governmental buildings that need police protection, security barriers and specially-reinforced windows – a level of security not required by other faith schools. One would hope, in a free society, such protections would be an abnormality, but while the media and our elected officials can dabble in politics, the Jewish community must deal with reality. And as the Toulouse murders have reminded us, it is a reality to which the State must afford as much support as possible.