It seems like the only thing of concern to British Jews at the moment is next week's planned demonstration by a handful of neo-Nazis in Golders Green to "end the Zionist occupation of Britain". Never before has the community been so united.
While the people behind the demo are clearly despicable attention-seeking antisemites deliberately trying to provoke trouble, I am somewhat bemused as to why this tiny piece of antisemitic theatre has so grabbed the attention of the Jewish community. On almost every day of the week on the streets of the UK there are much better planned and coordinated displays of antisemitism that use exactly the same pretext as the one planned in Golders Green (i.e. 'ending the Zionist occupation'). Just look at the future events on websites of organisations like the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Socialist Workers Party, the UK Boycott Israel Campaign, and the dozens of other trade unions and students associations. These events range from weekly (and even daily) protests against shops and businesses with any connection to Israel and those selling Israeli products through to protests to stop any Israeli performer from appearing or any person at all speaking in public in support of Israel. Often they are quite elaborate, lavishly funded pieces of real street theatre with the sole intention of convincing normal Brits that Israeli Jews are the most demonic and evil people in the world. Every one of these events has more antisemitic participants than the number likely to turn up in Golders Green. And, of course, these events pale into insignificance when compared to the daily mass (often violent) rallies of antisemitic hatred that fill the streets of London whenever Israel dares to defend itself from terrorist attacks.
What is common about all those antisemitic demonstrations (apart from the fact that they, like the Golders Green demo, are dressed up in the language of anti-Zionism) is that (unlike for the Golders Green demo) there has NEVER been any significant coordinated counter-demonstrations by the "official Jewish community" (such as the Board of Deputies, CST or the Jewish Leadership Council). Instead, in the small number of cases where there are counter-demonstrations they are organised and attended by the same small groups of heroes from independent organisations like the Sussex Friends of Israel.
What it comes down to is that Britain's 'official Jews' feel comfortable demonstrating against anti-semitism when the proponents are white racists, but will not get involved when the proponents - -in far greater numbers - are Muslims and socialists. By making the Golders Green counter-demo such a 'big event' we also now have the bizarre situation whereby among the fellow counter-demonstrators will be some of the very people and groups most prominent in the anti-Israel demonization (such as the dubiously named United Against Fascism and Hope not Hate**, as well as some Muslim Brotherhood fronts and even members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign). It has even been rumoured that George Galloway will attend the counter-demo (although, interestingly, he has been formerly invited to speak by the demonstration organiser Joshua Bonehill in his capacity as a 'fellow anti-Zionist'). In fact, the event even gives these people the publicity to claim that they are 'not antisemitic, only anti-Zionist'.What is also troubling is that the 'official Jewish community' has used up a lot of its political currency lobbying against the demo when there are far more robust legal grounds for lobbying against the multiple 'boycott Israeli goods' demos (something the 'official Jews' have never done - in part because some of them support the boycott of Israel).
So while I am not demeaning those who are organising counter-protests at Golders Green, perhaps we can hope that the thousands of Jews who have said they are going to Golders Green will also make the effort to counter-demonstrate at the many anti-Israel events (of which there are several planned in London even before next week).
**Update: A Facebook friend has posted this about Hope not hate (Hnh): "Hnh had a major project to discredit UKIP during the May general election. Hnh also teamed up with the BoD and LJF in July to run their joint "Golders Green Together" project, a module in the Hnh national "together" scheme, that said an attack on Jews is an attack on all ethnicities, thus diminishing the increasing rise of Antisemitism in the UK. Hnh is run by Haredi Jemma Levene. The BoD is elected by the Jewish community to represent its interests. Being a diverse community, Jews span the political spectrum.
Hnh received in 2013 £63,000 in government funding. Think about it: the representative organisation elected by UK Jews from all walks of life joins forces with an ultra left wing organisation that uses government funds to discredit a legitimate political party. So not only is the BoD remiss in its duty to represent all of the diverse Jewish community, but it supports a group of anti Israel lefties that abuses government funding to influence the outcome of a UK general election. It couldn't get worse."
See also: anti-semitism v ant-Zionism
Update 28 June: I posted the following question on the CST facebook page in response to one of their many postings about the Golders Green event:
Can somebody at CST explain why the Golders Green demo is seen as so much more of a threat than, say, the multiple (and much better planned and attended) antisemitic events that take place daily under the guise of 'anti-Zionism'This lead to the following dialogue:
Probably because it involves neo-Nazis in Golders Green using explicitly anti-Jewish language.Me:
Dear CST: By far and away the most serious threat to the Jewish Community in the UK comes from Islamists who are also explicit in their antisemitism. Yet CST's response to that is to 'engage with the Muslim community' which has involved teaming up with Muslim Brotherhood front organisations. The only difference between the MB and ISIS is that the former claim to want a non-violent shift to an Islamic state. Using CST's logic the way to respond to the Golders Green event would be to reach out to all 'non-violent' neo-Nazis - which curiously is what Bonehill claims to be. Also when it comes to the 'boycott Israel' events these often result in violence against Jewish owned businesses and have the very explicit aim of destroying the Jewish State by isolating it economically. Why is that not a concern for British Jews?CST:
We agree that the most acute threat comes from jihadists and tackling that threat is our top priority. We do this in lots of different ways, including counter-terrorist security for the community, pressing for appropriate policies from police and government, and working with Muslim allies who are trying to reduce extremism and antisemitism within their own communities. We do not work with Muslim Brotherhood front groups and if you read the CST blog you will see we have written extensively about the problems posed by the MB and their supporters.Me
I'd be very interested to know exactly which 'Muslim allies' you work with. The Muslim Council of Britain most certainly is a Muslim Bortherhood front organisation and since the BoD certainly works with them, I obviously assumed CST did. I know for sure you have worked with the disgraceful frauds "Tell Mama" - even after they were exposed by the Daily Telegraph. I also understand you worked with Baroness Warsi long after both her family's Muslim Brotherhood links and her anti-Israel obsession were exposed. I'd also be interested to know how working with the 'Muslim allies' has reduced the threat against the Jewish community. It also seems to me that, by stressing the concern about "anti-Jewish language", the CST is explicitly allowing itself to ignore the 'death to Israel' rhetoric of the leftists (and many Muslims).CST
We aren't going to start listing here all our interactions with Muslim allies. Many of them are confidential for obvious reasons. But several of your assumptions are incorrect. More generally, we do not accept your inference that we are soft on Islamist extremism. We have spent 25 years trying to raise awareness of this problem and we continue to do so.Me
Don't get me wrong - I have tremendous respect for the work CST does in keeping the Jewish community safe. If CST really has never worked with the MCB, Tell Mama, or Warsi then I'd like to know that, but it is a matter of record that the BoD has worked VERY CLOSELY with every one of those, and the new Chair of the BoD Mr Arkush has gone on record as saying he plans to extend the dialogue with Muslim groups. My concern is that groups and individuals which appear to be moderate (such as Tell mama and Warsi) turn out to be very much part of the problem. And there is also the unanswered question about why CST has never really been interested in confronting the 'boycott Israel' events.