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The Myth of British Exceptionalism

Britain’s former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reacts after the general election results of the Islington North constituency were announced at a counting center in Islington, London, Dec. 13, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Hannah McKay.

JNS.orgThat old image of the Jewish family with a packed suitcase at the ready in case they are compelled to suddenly leave their home has returned with a vengeance across Europe.

In France and Germany, home to sizable Jewish communities, the “Should we leave?” debate is raging in earnest. Both of these countries experienced record levels of antisemitic incidents in 2023, most of them occurring after the Hamas pogrom of Oct. 7 in southern Israel. Similar conversations are also being held in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Belgium and Spain—countries with tiny Jewish communities that are nevertheless enduring a painful rise in antisemitism.

What about Britain, though? It’s a pertinent question insofar as there has always been a “British exceptionalism” with regard to the continent. During World War II, the Nazis failed in their quest to conquer the British Isles, in contrast to the rest of Europe. After the defeat of Hitler, the British supported efforts to transform Europe into an economic and political community that eventually became the European Union, even joining it. Yet Britain was never fully at peace with its identity as a European state, and as is well known, the “Brexit” referendum of 2016 resulted in the country’s full-fledged withdrawal from the European Union.

When it comes to antisemitism, however, Britain is very much part of the European rule, not the exception. Again, that’s important because while the British don’t deny that antisemitism is present in their politics and culture, they don’t believe that it’s as venomous as its German or French variations. “It is generally admitted that antisemitism is on the increase, that it has been greatly exacerbated by the war, and that humane and enlightened people are not immune to it. It does not take violent forms (English people are almost invariably gentle and law-abiding),” wrote George Orwell in an essay, “Antisemitism in Britain,” penned towards the war’s close in April 1945.

At the same time, Orwell conceded that British antisemitism was “ill-natured enough, and in favorable circumstances, it could have political results.” To illustrate this point, he offered a selection of the antisemitic barbs that he had encountered over the previous year. “No, I’ve got no matches for you. I should try the lady down the street. She’s always got matches. One of the Chosen Race, you see,” a grumpy tobacconist informed him. “Well, no one could call me antisemitic, but I do think the way these Jews behave is too absolutely stinking. The way they push their way to the head of queues, and so on. They’re so abominably selfish. I think they’re responsible for a lot of what happens to them,” a “middle-class” woman said. Another woman, described by Orwell as an “intellectual,” refused to look at a book detailing the persecution of Jews in Germany on the grounds that “it will only make me hate them even more,” while a young man—a “near-Communist” in Orwell’s description—confessed that he had never made a secret of his loathing of Jews. “Mind you, I’m not antisemitic, of course,” he added.

I’d wager that were Orwell to tackle the same subject today, he would write a similar essay. The rhetoric he quotes echoes eerily in what we are hearing almost 80 years later, particularly the denial that recycling antisemitic tropes makes one an antisemite, as well as the digs against chosenness—because antisemites have never understood (or don’t want to understand) that Jewish “chosenness” is not about racial or ethnic superiority, but a duty to carry out a specific set of Divine commandments.

Last week, the Community Security Trust (CST), a voluntary security organization serving British Jews, issued its annual report on the state of antisemitism in Britain. The CST has been faithfully issuing these reports since 1984, and over the last few years, it has regularly registered new records for the number of offenses reported. 2023 was the worst year of all; there were a stomach-churning 4,103 incidents reported—an increase of 81% on the previous annual record in 2021, when 2,261 incidents were reported (largely due to that year’s conflict between Israel and Hamas for 11 days in May).

Instructively, the worst month in 2023 was October, in the days immediately following the rapes and other atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists on that black day. Oct. 11 was, in fact, the worst day, with 80 incidents reported. As the CST pointed out, “[T]he speed at which antisemites mobilized in the U.K. on and immediately after Oct. 7 suggests that, initially at least, this increase in anti-Jewish hate was a celebration of the Hamas attack on Israel, rather than anger at Israel’s military response in Gaza.”

Of course, the present situation in the United Kingdom differs from Orwell’s time for two main reasons. Firstly, in 1945, there was no Jewish state, and antisemitism revolved around cruder tropes invoking supposed Jewish rudeness, clannishness, financial power and so forth. (Even so, Britain was also one of the first Western countries to experience antisemitic rioting linked to the Zionist movement and Israel; in 1947, after two British officers in Mandatory Palestine were executed by the Irgun, or “Etzel,” resistance organization, violence targeting Jewish communities broke out across the United Kingdom, thereby establishing the principle that all Jews, everywhere, are to blame for the alleged evils of Zionism.)

Secondly, in 1945 Britain was still largely a white, Christian society. In the interim, it has become far more diverse and is now home to nearly 4 million Muslims who constitute 6.5 percent of the population. Since the late 1980s—when the Iranian regime issued a fatwa calling for the death of the Anglo-Indian author Salman Rushdie, alleged to have slandered Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses—what was once a relatively docile population has become politically animated, with the Palestinian cause pushed front and center.

In the four months that have passed since the Hamas atrocities, with weekly demonstrations in support of Hamas in London and other cities, Muslim voices have been disproportionately loud in the opprobrium being piled not just on Israel, but on those Britons—the country’s Jewish community—most closely associated with the Jewish state. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every Muslim, and many of the worst offenders are non-Muslims on the left. Indeed, the Oct. 7 massacres have enabled the return to politics of a particularly odious individual whom I had forlornly believed had been banished to the garbage can of history; George Galloway, an ally of Hamas and one-time acolyte of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who is standing in the forthcoming parliamentary election in the northern English constituency of Rochdale for an outfit called the “Workers Party of Britain,” whose manifesto combines nationalism and socialism, but which would probably balk at the description “national socialist” in much the same way that some antisemites balk at the description “antisemitic.”

British Jews have weathered a great deal in recent years, especially the five years when the Labour Party, the main opposition, was led by the far-left Parliament member Jeremy Corbyn, who has since been turfed out of the party by his successor Sir Keir Starmer. Having survived that, the belief has spread that they can survive anything. But there’s another question to be asked: Is the effort worth it? Increasingly, and worryingly, growing numbers of British Jews are now answering “no.”

The post The Myth of British Exceptionalism first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Air Canada cancelled two flights to Tel Aviv due to the Iranian missile attack—leaving some travellers to seek alternatives, or consider postponing their trips

After a weekend overnight shutdown of Israeli airspace, during which time Iranian missiles and drones attacked the country, Canadians ware cautiously optimistic that travel to and from Ben Gurion Airport will resume regular schedules later this week. Air Canada cancelled departures from Toronto on Saturday and from Tel Aviv on Monday—the latter despite the airport […]

The post Air Canada cancelled two flights to Tel Aviv due to the Iranian missile attack—leaving some travellers to seek alternatives, or consider postponing their trips appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Harvard University Wants Antisemitism Lawsuit Dismissed, Denies Injury to Students

Students accusing Israel of genocide at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, Nov. 16, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Lawyers representing Harvard University in Massachusetts have requested the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by six Jewish students who accused the school of ignoring antisemitic discrimination.

According to The Harvard Crimson, the university said in a court filing that a lawsuit, as well as a period of discovery during which its conduct would be thoroughly examined, was not necessary due to the “tangible steps” it has taken to combat antisemitism in just the past few months. Additionally, the school argued that the civil suit, led by graduate student Shabbos Kestenbaum and Students Against Antisemitism, lacked standing.

“Without minimizing at all the importance of the need to address energetically antisemitism at the university, plaintiff’s dissatisfaction with the strategy and speed of Harvard’s essential work does not state a legally cognizable claim,” said the motion to dismiss, as quoted by The Crimson. “Consequently, the amended complaint should be dismissed.”

Harvard University recently received an “F” grade for its handling of antisemitism in a first-ever Campus Antisemitism Report Card issued by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, students have stormed the campus calling for the destruction of the Jewish state, terrorizing students and preventing some from attending class.

In November, a mob of anti-Zionists — including Ibrahim Bharmal, editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review — followed, surrounded, and intimidated a Jewish student. “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!” the crush of people screamed in a call-and-response chant into the ears of the student who —as seen in the footage — was forced to duck and dash the crowd to free himself from the cluster of bodies that encircled him.

In February, a faculty group posted on social an antisemitic cartoon which showed a left-hand tattooed with a Star of David dangling two men of color from a noose.

These incidents, and more, are currently being investigated by the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is probing Harvard’s handling of skyrocketing instances of antisemitic intimidation and harassment on campus.

Proclaiming that Harvard “failed Jews repeatedly,” Kestenbaum told The Crimson that he would not stand down.

“Harvard’s meritless motion to dismiss our lawsuit only proves our point: It has never taken the concerns of us Jewish students seriously, and has no plans to start now,” he said in a statement. “We will continue to apply maximum pressure in both the court of law and the court of public opinion … We hope that donors and prospective students follow closely.”

No Ivy League school earned better than a “C” in the ADL’s landmark report, a grade awarded to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Four others — Columbia University, Brown University, Cornell University, and the University of Pennsylvania — received “D’s” while Harvard and Princeton University both received “F’s.”

“Every campus should get an A — that’s not grade inflation, that’s the minimum that every group on every campus expects,” ADL chief executive officer Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement announcing the report. “They deserve a learning environment free from antisemitism and hate. But that hasn’t been the experience with antisemitism running rampant on campus since even before Oct. 7.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Harvard University Wants Antisemitism Lawsuit Dismissed, Denies Injury to Students first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Israel Sets New Standards for Saving Wounded Troops in War

Israeli soldiers scan an area while sirens sound as rockets from Gaza are launched towards Israel, near Sderot, southern Israel, Oct. 9, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The Israeli army’s chief medical officer told a recent gathering of NATO and allied officials about the striking success of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in saving injured soldiers during the war against Hamas in Gaza.

According to IDF Medical Corps chief Elon Glassberg, the army has brought the time between the moment of injury and seeing a senior medical practitioner to under four minutes, and in many cases under one minute. One reason for the speed is that the IDF has changed its strategy for treating wounded soldiers from the typical field hospitals to which soldiers are evacuated and treated — and in serious cases transferred via helicopter to a hospital — to a system that brings doctors to the battlefield with soldiers.

The new system has, according to Glassberg, more than 670 doctors and paramedics embedded within combat groups in Gaza. As a result, wounded soldiers are given immediate care.

Additionally, the new policy calls for airlifting every wounded soldier to a hospital via helicopter, which are on standby at all times and outfitted to be like flying emergency rooms, staffed with surgeons and intensive care doctors.

The IDF has conducted over 950 such operations in the helicopters, according to Glassberg, bringing approximately 4,200 soldiers to hospitals. In the field, 80 soldiers were saved due to quick doses of plasma and 550 had bleeding stopped before the flights.

Of course, helicopter times to hospitals vary and are not predictable on the minute. The current time from moment of injury to arriving at the hospital stands at one hour and six minutes. This is in comparison to an average time of two hours and ten minutes during the 2014 Gaza War, also known as Operation Protective Edge.

The new processes by the IDF are saving lives. According to Glassberg, the current rate of death among wounded soldiers is 15 percent. In Gaza today, however, 6.3 percent of soldiers who are injured end up succumbing to their wounds, showing how quick action is key in ensuring the injured soldiers can return home after the war — or, in many cases, back to the battlefield.

Glassberg also pointed out how the IDF is continuing to learn how to best protect soldiers in the future. For example, he noted, a majority of deaths occurred due to injuries to parts of the body that are not protected by bulletproof vests. Therefore, Israel is already discussing new vests to give to soldiers to lower the casualty count.

The post Israel Sets New Standards for Saving Wounded Troops in War first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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