Yesterday, we posted about a Guardian op-ed by David Conn on Jan. 20th which accused British Jews who, in his view, express unwarranted alarm about the threat of antisemitism in the UK of being “ungrateful” to their country.
It turns out that, on the very same day, a similar charge was leveled by another British Jew, journalist Matthew Norman.
Writing in The Independent, Norman first notes the putative dearth of any fatal antisemitic attacks in the country.
And so it is with the greatest reluctance – it feels like sacrilege, in fact – that I tempt fate by pointing out that no Jewish person has been killed in Britain in an anti-semitic attack since … well, my possibly flawed internet researches find no fatality on record at all.
Norman’s internet research was indeed flawed. In 2008, a Manchester Jew was fatally stabbed by a man who later told police that he “needed to kill a Jewish person”. CST characterized the attack as antisemitic.
Then, after acknowledging the possibility that violent and even fatal antisemitic attacks may occur sometime in the future, Norman pivots to the topic of ‘alarmist Jews’:
Efforts can be redoubled, retripled and requadrupled, and some people will still hate Jews, as some always have and always will. This is an unalterable fact of life with which we must live.
The important questions, always, are who those people are and what power to indulge their hatred they have. The answers, in Britain, are that they are the malevolent imbeciles who infect online message threads with their semi-literate poison, and who use Israeli brutality as cover for a more primitive loathing, plus that minute proportion of fanatics who seek to glorify their faith by slaughtering innocents.
Their power, respectively, is to disgust, to alarm and to commit occasional acts of terrible violence. It is not to pose an existential threat to British Jewry, or even to plant a seed that could grow into such a menace. To imagine otherwise is more than paranoia. It is, unwittingly, a distasteful slur against this country.
So, those who don’t share Norman’s nonchalant attitude about the threat to British Jews posed by antisemitism are not only wrong, but evidently guilty of smearing Britain.
Norman finishes with this:
Spiteful things – amplified into shrieks like all spitefulness by social networks – will be murmured about Jews. Swastikas will be daubed on graves, hateful assaults will be made, and there may, God forbid, be murderous attacks. These are matters of policing. More casual antisemitism will ebb and flow along with events in Gaza and the West Bank. That is a matter of decency. But the British state will continue, as it has for so long, to cherish its Jews, protect them as best it can, and allow them every opportunity to rise to the pinnacle of every profession. That is a matter of fact, and to conflate a surge in individual viciousness with an existential threat is to degrade a country which deserves more gratitude and trust than that.
As we noted in our previous post, it’s one thing to criticize what’s perceived to be exaggerated rhetoric about antisemitism, and quite another to deride the fears of a tiny Jewish minority and suggest that they’re “ungrateful” to their own country.
What Jewish Britons are reacting to is a resurgent antisemitism, an increased threat of Jihadist violence throughout the continent and the sight of Jews fleeing previously safe European capitals. Many are no doubt concerned that – despite the best efforts of British law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies – London may be next.
It’s difficult to understand how Norman can so egregiously mischaracterize the attitudes of British Jews. They are not expressing contempt for their country. They are expressing a historically informed fear of antisemites.