British Jews fear backlash

"Increase in tensions brings an increase in pressure against the Jews."

heathrow 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
heathrow 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
British Jewry is concerned that the uncovering Thursday of a Muslim extremist plot to attack planes from Heathrow Airport will increase animosity towards the Jewish community, already suffering from heightened anti-Semitism following Israel's attacks on Hizbullah. "There's no doubt that any increase in tensions brings with it an increase in pressure against the Jewish community at times like this," said Mark Gardner of the Jewish Community Security Trust. "People look for scapegoats. Jews and Israel come near the top of the list. This will not help the situation." The CST has recorded a doubling in anti-Semitic incidents in Britain since the fighting in Lebanon began. Gardner said that it was advising Jewish institutions to stay on "an unusually high level of alert" - already in place due to existing Al-Qaida and Hizbullah threats - but that no activities were being changed or curtailed due to the revealed terrorist plot. Already Thursday, some Muslim and left-wing political voices could be heard making the link between the planned attacks and what is happening in the Middle East, implying that Israel was inflaming tensions and, by doing so, raising the chances of terror striking in places such as the UK. But Jewish leaders stressed that these views were in the extreme minority. Still, said Ben Novick, director of media relations for the Britain-Israel Communications and Research Center, said such views "feed into public opinion and violence on the street." He charged that such connections would be "wrong" because the plot had been being planned for months, while Israel had only been fighting in Lebanon for the past few weeks. Israeli Deputy Ambassador to London Zvi Ravner called any such connection "ludicrous" on the same grounds, and dismissed concerns that such assertions would change the attitude towards Jews or Israel. He pointed to Prime Minister Tony Blair's strong support of Israel's right to defend itself and said that he didn't believe the fallout from Thursday's events would be all bad for Israel. He added that the foiling of the terrorist attack had had the benefit of taking attention away from what was happening in Lebanon, noting that one TV station had canceled a previously scheduled interview with him on the subject to cover the airport story. Jon Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, noted that sometimes events such as Thursday's reminded Britons of their shared experience with Israelis in facing terrorism. He said that this type of report "brings home to people how important the security situation is." But Carolyn Gazal didn't need it brought home. What she needed was to get home herself - to New York, one of the cities allegedly targeted by the intended hijackers. But she and her husband decided to put off their flight back from London out of fear that the long takeoff delays experienced by passengers on Thursday would continue Friday. They decided to push back their takeoff from Friday morning to Sunday so that they wouldn't have to spend the day at the airport only to cancel due to the risk of violating Shabbat if their flight left late. She said, though, that she wasn't particularly scared of the thought of heading to Heathrow Airport at the end of the weekend. "As Jews we're just used to it, the threats and terrorists," she said. "It's not something new to us."