UK: Rabbi Sacks warns of new wave of anti-Semitism

The chief rabbi of Great Britain gives new vent to the depth of his fears about global anti-Jewish feeling.

uk rabbi sacks 88 (photo credit: )
uk rabbi sacks 88
(photo credit: )
The chief rabbi of Great Britain, Jonathan Sacks, has given new vent to the depth of his fears about global anti-Jewish feeling by warning of a "tsunami of anti-Semitism." In an interview with the BBC that was broadcast on Sunday, he also spoke out against mixing religion with politics, saying that it was "a recipe for disaster." Sacks conjured up the tidal wave imagery after being asked by interviewer Edward Stourton what he thought of remarks made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said last month that "we don't accept the claim" that millions of Jews were killed in the Holocaust. "Sadly, I wasn't surprised, because Holocaust denial and other forms of anti-Semitism, from the Blood libel to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, have been circulating in best-selling books and prime time television in parts of the world now for several years, and this is all a kind of tsunami of anti-Semitism which is taking place a long way from this county but to which Europe seems unaware," Sacks said. "I don't say it lightly - I am very scared by, and I'm very scared that, more protests have not been delivered against it, but this is part of the vocabulary of politics in certain parts of the world," he continued. The comments were broadcast less than a week after the first anniversary of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, which killed more than 183,000 people and left over 40,000 missing according to UN figures. Relief Agencies such as Oxfam and Save the Children declined to comment on Sacks's use of language, while the UK's Foreign Office and its Department for International Development also gave no reaction. Officials from the British Board of Deputies were not available for comment by press time. In addition to warning about anti-Semitism "a long way" from Britain, Sacks expressed his concern regarding the situation closer to home, pointing out that throughout Europe, rabbis have been assaulted and synagogues desecrated. "It's that kind of feeling that you don't know what's going to happen next that is making at least some European Jewish communities uncomfortable," he said. While saying that the UK is "obviously" not an anti-Semitic country, Sacks noted that there have been attempts to ban Jewish societies in universities because of their support for Israel. "(This) is quite extraordinary because…British Jews see themselves as British citizens," Sacks said. This is not the first time in recent months that he has spoken out about UK anti-Semitism, having expressed his fears in his annual Rosh Hashana message in October. "There have been times, the first in my memory, when it has been uncomfortable to be a Jew in Britain," he said. In the interview with the BBC, Sacks criticized those who use Israel as a scapegoat for various conflicts around the world, saying that if the country didn't exist, there would still be problems in places such as Chechnya, Ossettia, and Indonesia. "To make out that this conflict, where the two sides have worked now for 12 years in a process of peace, to make it the epicenter of global politics is not merely wrong - and ridiculously wrong - but is also quite troubling," Sacks said. While most of his comments appear to have been aimed at an international audience, Sacks made remarks that could just as equally apply to Israel specifically, saying he was "utterly opposed" to mixing religion and politics. "I think that's a recipe for disaster. Religion is good at community building and we make a huge mistake when we think the only real domain of society is politics - politics is about the state but national identity is about society," he said. However, the interview wasn't all doom and gloom. This year will mark the 350th anniversary of the re-entry of Jews to Britain, which Sacks views as a cause for celebration.