BRITAIN IS not an anti-Semitic country. Jewish life is thriving in many ways, and we have a strong voice in public discourse that shows us punching well above our weight. A recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League indicated that Britain is the sixth least anti-Semitic country in the world.However, there are real concerns. There are reports of anti-Semitic sentiments from some pockets of our society, particularly the political sphere, which are deeply troubling. There is a palpable feeling of an escalation of the gravity of the situation.
I fear that anti-Semitism has been used and misused in the build up to major elections as a political football to support disturbing fortress Judaism/Zionism narratives.There is a creeping problem in Britain, but not as has been portrayed recently.We have a worrying trend of suspicion seeping into our society. As a public Jewish figure, I sometimes receive revolting social media abuse. Following the election of the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, I posted a picture of the two of us. This photo received particularly vile responses – a toxic brew of Islamophobia sprinkled with a heavy dose of anti-Semitism. It is what lies behind these responses that I think we need to talk about in Britain.Recently, I visited Bradford, a city in the north of England with a large Muslim population. My first meeting was with a group of Muslim women attending a weekly cooking activity. My encounter with these women immediately made them exceptional – 95 percent of Britons have never knowingly met a Jew. It struck me that Britain views its Jewish communities predominantly through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sadly, among some groups – not just Muslims and the far Left – this has led to a warped and suspicious view of Jews. Inevitably, it also means that events in Israel and the territories impact attitudes toward Jews in Britain. It’s no surprise that the questions I was asked by the Muslim women in Bradford related – in addition to more gentle questions about family, friends, joys and pain – to Jewish power, wealth and, of course, Israel.It’s not just about Jews. There is a feeling of creeping (and creepy) marginalization in many minority communities. Muslims, for example, are wrongly viewed through the images of young men blowing themselves up in the name of their religion, or at least of their misinterpretation of it.This combination of a lack of contact, and of false association, is sending us down a worrying path in Britain. But it is undoubtedly one that affects our entire country, and not just its Jewish population.