Thursday, January 22, 2015

22-Jan-15: Sleeping lions, hidden vipers: Jewish anxieties are rising in London

Stamford Hill, London: Haredi men walk home from prayer
services last Shabbat [Image Source
Jewish life in Europe is going through its most testing phase since the end of the Nazi Holocaust in the Eastern and Central parts of the continent. As happens when people pass through periods of great historic significance, the implications are unclear and confusing now. Time will provide the perspective and context that are eluding people for now. But the signs are there if we only give them our attention.

Several immediate instances to share, all relating to the UK. The first is from a month ago, before the latest murderous outbursts of Islamist violence in Paris:
BBC chief: Anti-Semitism makes me question Jews’ future in UK Times of Israel | December 21, 2014 | The director of BBC Television said rising anti-Semitism has made him question the long-term future for Jews in the UK. Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem on Sunday, Danny Cohen said the past year had been the most difficult for him as a Jew living in the United Kingdom. “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I’ve felt in the last 12 months. And it’s made me think about, you know, is it our long-term home, actually. Because you feel it. I’ve felt it in a way I’ve never felt before actually,”... “And you’ve seen the number of attacks rise. You've seen murders in France. You've seen murders in Belgium. It’s been pretty grim actually. And having lived all my life in the UK, I’ve never felt as I do now about anti-Semitism in Europe.”
Cohen, who grew up and went to school in London — including to a Jewish elementary school — is a TV whiz kid. Still only 40, he was previously the controller of BBC1 TV, the youngest appointee to that post, before taking over a director of BBC Television last year.
London: Armed police on the streets [Image Source]
Yesterday, we saw some quantitative evidence to back up the BBC man's gut feel:
Scotland Yard reveals huge rise in antisemitic crime in London | Rosa Doherty | The Jewish Chronicle | January 21, 2015 | Hate crimes against Jews in London have more than doubled, according to the latest figures from Scotland Yard. The statistics showed there were 299 hate crimes against Jewish people between the start of April and the end of December. That represented a rise of 128 per cent on the same period in 2013, when there were 131 hate crimes. The period in question included the months during the Gaza conflict last summer which led to a substantial increase in antisemitic incidents in Britain. Police said last week that they were increasing patrols in areas with large Jewish communities following the terror attacks in Paris. Scotland Yard said officers were continually liaising with the community. They said they were also reviewing overall security measures and looking at the safety of other minority communities including Muslims, as well as the force’s own officers. Assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said: “The global picture of terrorist activity does give us heightened concern about the risk to the Jewish community in the UK. We are seeing continuing antisemitic rhetoric from extremists and attacks on this community in France and elsewhere.” The new data shows overall hate crime was up 22 per cent to 9,103 incidents between April and the end of December.
While there will always be parts of the mass media that put a sensational spin on the events of reality (for instance, "Britain on beheading alert: Security stepped up for police and Jewish schools", Daily Mail, January 16, 2015; "Could London suffer an attack like Paris? British Jews on alert" in Haaretz, January 15, 2015), it's plain that reality is going through some seriously impactful changes.

Here below, captured inside a London Jewish school (established by Holocaust survivors, it's worth noting) by the BBC, is how those statistics and anecdotes and the visceral anxiety all translate into reality for Jewish children in today's United Kingdom.

As you will hear, they are being taught to act like sleeping lions which may sound morale boosting and vaguely uplifting. It's the exact opposite, and you can hear that the children know it. Click below for the radio program audio, or click here to go to the BBC article page.

One more angle.

When a branch of the J. Sainsbury supermarket chain in London removed all its identifiably-kosher products from  shelves during this past summer, the branch manager of the store in Holborn, central London, justified the astonishing move because of "fears that anti-Israeli protesters would attack it".

A report at the time ["Sainsbury's removes kosher food from shelves amid fears over protesters", The Guardian, August 17, 2014] illustrated how perfectly normal such measures can seem if you are in the mood for them:
"...A staff member defended the decision, saying: "We support Free Gaza"...  A spokesperson for Sainsbury's said it was "an absolutely non-political organisation" and said the food was returned to the shelves "as soon as was practically possible". "It was an isolated decision made by in a very challenging situation," she said. "It was chilled food and he was simply trying to preserve it." ...There would be no investigation or action taken against the branch manager. "It was the manager's decision there and then – not company policy at all. We have had similar demonstrations at stores where people have gone in and removed goods, though no great damage was done. A decision was taken by a store manager faced with a challenging situation outside the store."
In London and the UK and probably Europe too, we fear Jews can expect business managers and public officials to pay very close attention to the preservation of chilled food, and possibly a little less to the rights of people in those societies to go about their lives free of hateful intimidation and life-threatening violence.

The Jewish future in Europe is not what it used to be, and probably never will be again.

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