The issue of modern anti-Semitism – how common is it, what does it really mean and is it used to shield Israel from legitimate criticism – is a worthy subject of discussion.
Here’s Anne Karpf in the Independent arguing that society (and Jews especially) should be careful before throwing the term around:
Is the closed season on Jews over? Are English Jews facing rising levels of violence and abuse? Anthony Julius certainly thinks so. The lawyer, best known for representing the late Diana, Princess of Wales in her divorce, but also the author of a book on T S Eliot and anti-Semitism, has written a capacious history of anti-Semitism in England, Trials of the Diaspora, out next week. In it he expresses his “provisional judgement” that the situation facing Anglo-Jewry “is quite bad, and might get worse”.
Coincidentally, the report on anti-semitic incidents in 2009 by the Community Security Trust (CST), was published last week. At first view, it makes alarming reading, and seems to confirm Julius’s worst fears. CST recorded 924 anti-Semitic incidents in 2009, the highest annual total since it began recording such incidents in 1984, and – after two years of falling numbers – an increase of 69 per cent from 2008.
But peer closely and the picture is more complicated. The main reason for the surge, CST noted, was the unprecedented number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in January and February 2009, during and after the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Of course, this is no reason to rejoice: if someone is trying to thump you, the fact that they’re screaming that it’s revenge for what Israel is doing in Gaza isn’t going to make you feel a whole lot better. It didn’t help that during Israel’s 2006 war with Lebanon, the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: “I believe that this is a war that is fought by all the Jews.” If the Israeli government (wrongly) elides Israel with all Jews, it’s hardly surprising if anti-Semites do too.
We should never be complacent about anti-Semitism, but neither should we allow some Jews to exaggerate it, regard it as inevitable, use it to try and delegitimise criticism of Israel or see it as an altogether different kind of animal from other more socially accepted kinds of racism such as Islamophobia. Those who hate are rarely so discriminating.