Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Adar 5762 - March 6, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











U.K. Chief Rabbi's Warning of Rising Antisemitism Confirmed by Survey
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Jews in Britain are suffering from levels of antisemitism not known since the Holocaust, according to United Kingdom Chief Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks. Also, a report just published by the Community Security Trust, an organization dedicated to Jewish security issues, found that antisemitism has risen sharply in the past two years.

In a "cry of warning" on behalf of the Jewish community, Dr. Sacks urged swift action to prevent a descent into, "violence and bloodshed."

A worrying trend of antisemitic incidents can be seen in the UK since September 2000, according to the Community Security Trust. Although the number of incidents last year actually declined from the year before, the Trust sees the totals as part of an upward trend that began with the start of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000.

Dr. Sacks implicitly called on the Government to do more to protect British Jews and was harshly critical of the political Left, including sections of the national media, for publishing articles, "calling into question Israel's right to exist."

Dr. Sacks said that the antisemitic actions of some extremist Islamic groups had gone unchallenged by many sections of mainstream British society. He said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was being used as a platform for open displays of hatred directed against all Jews. He pointed to an increasing number of attacks on synagogues and to virulent anti-Israeli campaigns on some English university campuses.

Naming The Guardian, The Independent and the New Statesman, Dr Sacks also said that the The Independent and the New Statesman websites had become a focus for antisemitic discussion.

The Chief Rabbi noted that Jewish students at Manchester University claim to have been spat on and labeled "Nazis" and "baby butchers" during a bitter dispute over attempts by the university's Islamic Society to have Israel declared an apartheid state by their Student Union.

Dr. Sacks claimed that until recently he had never experienced antisemitism, and he said that its return to Britain and other parts of Europe was a tragedy. "I never thought this would happen to my children or to their contemporaries," he said. "The fact that I have chosen to speak indicates the depth of my concern. We know from all of history that words turn into deeds, prejudice turns into violence and eventually violence turns into bloodshed.

The Chief Rabbi said that it was essential to distinguish between legitimate criticism of the actions of the Israeli Government and comments which cross the boundary into hate and then to demonization.

"The ability to accept criticism is essential to a democracy and Israel is a democracy. You cannot deny people the right to criticize any nation-state. But what we are seeing goes way beyond that to become an attack on Jews, not just on the state of Israel. I certainly believe that denial of Israel's right to exist crosses the boundary."

Dr. Sacks said it was because he and most British Jews loved their country and its reputation for tolerance that they were very concerned that more has not been said by public figures to make clear that certain things are really unacceptable.

The 310 incidents that the Community Security Trust recorded in 2001 included attacks on "visibly" Jewish members of the chareidi community and the ripping of mezuzahs from the doorposts of homes. In 2000, the Trust recorded 405 such incidents against the community, up from 270 in 1999.

Tensions between Jews and Muslims in Britain rose following the Sept. 11 attacks. But Michael Whine, a spokesman for the Trust, said the trend dates back to the beginning of the intifada, when the violence between Israel and the Palestinians spilled over into the United Kingdom.

Violent incidents against Jews "always increase or decrease as a result of events in the Middle East," he said.

"In order to deal with such incidents, the Jewish community has instituted security measures that are proving very effective," Whine said.

The largest number of antisemitic attacks last year in Britain took place in September. According to the report, this was largely because "there was a widely held belief within Islamist circles that Israel had carried out" the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The report also found another source for the large number of antisemitic incidents, the British far right.

The British National Party, which advocates repatriation of all "non-whites" and maintains a staunchly antisemitic ideology, had its best showing in years in the general election of June 2001, though not enough to win any seats in Parliament.

Although right-wing groups like the British National Party have not played much of a role in Parliament, British Jews nonetheless are concerned about their influence.

Concerned about Islamic antisemitism, Parliament member Andrew Dismore has focused his sights on three clerics. His constituency in the borough of Hendon, in northern London, is home to a sizeable Jewish and Asian population.

Concerns surrounding the three Islamic clerics and their distribution of what Dismore calls antisemitic material have prompted him to send an open letter to Home Secretary David Blunkett.

Dismore, who is himself not Jewish, wants authorities to pay closer attention to three figures: Abu Hamza, the imam of a mosque in northern London; Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the radical Muhajiroun movement; and Abdullah el-Faisal, whose speeches are sold on cassette in Islamic bookshops in London.

The Al-Muhajiroun group has received a large amount of attention since Sept. 11 because of the outspoken views of its leader.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.