Rabbi Menachem Lester, Former rabbi of South London Synagogue

Rabbi Menachem Lester, Former rabbi of South London Synagogue

By Rabbi Menachem Lester, Former rabbi of South London Synagogue

As one who no longer permanently resides in the UK, reading the reports in the press – and particularly the Jewish News – makes me wonder.

Some contributors readily claim there is no anti-Semitism – or it’s negligible – while others express concern at the rise of “right-wing parties” or “extreme right-wing parties”.

Things have changed. Tories were once considered “right-wing”, containing at times views bordering on fascism. Yet today’s Tories are in effect “pink” with polices some way to the left of Harold Wilson’s Labour government, 50 years ago.

Essentially, the whole spectrum has shifted left with a drive to incorporate “social-democracy” and multiculturalism. In practice, all three traditional political parties espouse this policy.

To expect our elected Parliament to run our affairs seems a pretty basic democratic requirement; to restrict immigration to genuine refugees or those of benefit to the country, as in Australia, New Zealand and the US, seems pretty logical. I’m aware that UKIP spokesmen have uttered some crass statements.

However, it’s obvious UKIP is scrutinised rather more that its rivals, partly with a view to its destruction. In practice, many people make crass comments, especially when taken out of context. One good thing about Britain was always the determination to defend free speech.

This seems to be changing: a law recently promulgated promotes prosecution for uttering something that another finds offensive – it seems we’ve nurtured people who readily take offence.

Conversely, the police have turned a blind eye to those marching with banners to incite murder. The meaning of free speech has shifted. While anti-Semitism (AS) is said to have died out, you’d not believe it reading some of the press or the blogs associated with them, especially related to Israel. I’d say it is still going pretty strong. It was there in Old Britain, but it’s rampant in New Britain.

New Britain is represented by the extreme left-wing, the academics, intellectuals and much of the press. Whereas they don’t use traditional AS tropes labelling the Jew, it’s Israel that’s the butt of their hatred. Whatever it does is wrong – but others may do it.

Turkey may invade (Cyprus), drive out its Greek inhabitants (ethnic cleaning) and hold on to territory for which it has no right – yet it’s an honoured member of NATO. The EU has recently honoured Turkey with an agreement without strings attached, whereas Israel was made to jump through hoops for its agreement. Some powerful voices in Britain are keen for Turkey to be admitted to the EU, despite its record on human rights and curtailment of democracy.

Israel is the object of harassment from many, including the UN Secretary General and Human Rights Council and the EU’s Baroness Ashton. Today it is not primarily instigated by fascists or extreme right-wingers, but by Islamists. On Arab bookstalls, the leading book after the Koran, is The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion.

Some years ago, Egyptian prime time TV presented the 27-episode series, The Horseman, a characterisation of The Protocols. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who’s been persecuted since renouncing Islam, vividly describes in her book, Nomad, the anti-Semitic ethos dominating her schooling.

From early childhood, Jews are made the object of hatred and disgust; someone must be to blame for the Muslim world’s failures. The former Malaysian Prime Minister provides a good example when addressing conference. Malaysia is an Islamic country with natural resources, but lags behind its neighbours, such as Singapore.

I doubt if there is one Jew in the country, yet Mahathir Mohamad focuses on Jews as the source of the world’s ills (for example, www.youtube.com/watch?v=36c1PTAya2U). Another example, corroborating Hirsi Ali’s account is that of former terrorist Walid Shoebat: www.you tube.com/watch?v=1E6UwbTc8zQ.

This anti-Semitism is not primarily due to Israel, although that’s obviously contributory. Rather, it’s a process that was fed by the Nazis (leading to a pogrom in Iraq in 1943), which has gathered steam ever since. In the 1920s, the Egyptian government was more advanced than today and featured a Jew as a cabinet minister – something incredible in today’s atmosphere.

Until this problem is faced realistically, and the states of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation change fundamentally, anti-Semitism is here to stay.