An Evil Wind

The threat posed by radical Islam to Britain is palpable and real but the danger isn’t limited to fundamentalists. Anglo-Jewry, take heed: now that anti-Israel rhetoric has infiltrated all levels of British intelligentsia, it may be time to leave.

British Anti-Israel Protest 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
British Anti-Israel Protest 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There is an evil wind blowing through England’s “green and pleasant land” – one that bodes ill for the future of its prosperous and relatively well-integrated Jewish community. The problem is not entirely new or unexpected.
For many years now, no other religious or ethnic group in Britain has had to undertake (largely at its own expense) such extensive protective measures as Anglo-Jewry for its synagogues, schools, communal institutions or cultural centers. I was reminded of this recently on a visit to London when I spoke with younger English Jews who find themselves on the front line in defending Israel against the never-ending barrage of calumnies, insults, half-truths and nasty innuendoes that have become the norm in many British campuses. This is no easy task since Britain today has become a world leader in repeated efforts to boycott the Jewish State, led by powerful unions with hundreds of thousands of members.
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In the last few years, the Transport and General Workers Union (Unison), the National Union of Journalists and the Universities and Colleges Union have all passed measures supporting a boycott of Israel for its policies towards the Palestinians. They have not done so in any other case – studiously ignoring the genocide in Sudan and massive human rights violations from China to Iran, Africa and the Arab world. Jewish students have to contend not only with the academic unions, but also with a liberal consensus in the BBC, The Guardian, The Independent, and public opinion which all too often smacks of double standards and contains an insidious edge of withering contempt towards Israel. This is especially true on the British Left which seems to have become completely unhinged by its uncritical embrace of the Palestinian narrative.
Events surrounding the Gaza flotilla last summer envenomed an already toxic discourse which presents Israel as if it were a criminal neo-Nazi State and the greatest single threat to peace in the Middle East. Such views are articulated not only by the pro-Palestinian Left in Britain but are also regularly highlighted in prestigious and widely circulated literary magazines such as the London Review of Books. Naturally enough, these and other anti-Israel publications make sure that the prime accusers of the Jewish State are themselves Israelis or anti-Zionist Diaspora Jews (the kind who are proud to be ashamed of their Jewishness). The generous platform offered to the “Alibi-Jews” is then used as a shield against any charge of anti-Semitism. It should be added that in literary, artistic and intellectual circles today, “Zionism” has become little more than a word of abuse almost automatically bracketed with “apartheid,” “fascism,” and the worst kind of “settler-colonialism.”
The shameful Israel-bashing of the British intelligentsia goes together with its predilection for treating Islamist terror and fundamentalism (whether in the Middle East or Britain) with velvet gloves. But on this point the literati seem to be losing touch with the grassroots in Britain and the rest of Western Europe. Ordinary Britons and Western Europeans who bear the brunt of the demographic changes resulting from large-scale Muslim and Third World immigration, are increasingly restless. This cannot be explained merely as “Islamophobia” or white racist reflex. Nearly half of British Muslims, according to recent polls, would welcome the imposition of Sharia law in England. Many of those influenced by Islamic fundamentalism, exhibit hostile attitudes to gays, women’s rights, Hindus and Jews, and are themselves extremely bigoted.
The threat posed by radical Islam to Britain and the rest of Europe is by no means an invention of populist xenophobes. It is palpable and real. Unfortunately for Anglo-Jewry this state of affairs presents yet another alarming signal that its present and future prospects are more than uncertain, even in the best-case scenario. Thirty years ago, in leaving a much more hospitable Britain, I made my own choice and opted for Israel. I have never regretted that decision. Frankly, I would advise young British Jews who truly care about their own future (and that of their children) to make a similar choice now rather than wait for things to get worse. For those who can read, the writing is on the wall.
The writer is Neuberger Professor of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (Random House).