By Roslyn Pine
Last week saw the routine anti-Israel, anti-Jewish hate fest known as Israel Apartheid Week now in its eleventh year, pass almost without murmur from the cowed British Jewish community, which has come to accept it as a permanent fixture in the calendar.
Leaving aside the obvious fact that Israel is as far removed from an apartheid state as it’s possible to be and that it’s the only free country in the Middle East as defined by the American NGO Freedom House, it is inconceivable that there could ever be a Saudi, Qatar, Syria or Iran apartheid week, just to name some of the worst human rights abusers. The Muslim community would never allow it.
Each year the provocation intensifies to see what new outrage the organisers can get away with. And they always can.
This year the charity, War on Want, a practised Israel demoniser advertising its ‘rallies, cultural performances, film screenings, multimedia displays, creative actions and BDS’ decided to give dramatic form to students, issuing them with outsize cardboard guns to enact the ‘brutality’ of Israeli soldiers as well as loaning its props of wall panels complete with watch towers bearing a magen david atop depicting Israel’s ‘apartheid wall’ & checkpoints.
Who would ever know about the other ‘apartheid’ walls like the Gaza/Egypt, Kuwait/Iraq & Saudi/Yemen walls, to name but a few?
Jewish students have come to dread it, a Leeds student reporting that it got to the point of physical violence.
Others say it is intimidating, stressful & they feel isolated. One mature student reported that the SOAS Israel Society has been hijacked by pro-boycotters.
Why are events like these & indeed marches on London’s streets calling for Israel’s destruction permitted?
Some answers were given by the non -Jewish panellists at a recent debate on “The New Antisemitism” at London’s Central Synagogue.
Brendan O’Neill said that the media and cultural elites not only fail to condemn anti-Semitism but imply it’s the Jews ‘ own fault because they fail to confront Israel’s ‘policies’.
He elaborated that attacks on Muslims make the opinion- forming set angry in a way that attacks on Jews just do not and thought that nowadays the line between anti-semitism and anti-Israel activism has all but disappeared.
At the Board of Deputies monthly plenaries the honorary officers often report on inter faith initiatives with Muslim and Christian groups and work done in this sphere, yet one is left wondering what the tangible outcome is.
Things seem to go in the opposite direction in a downwards spiral.
In recent weeks there have reportedly been meetings between university Vice Chancellors and the Board’s and Jewish Leadership Council representatives, but thus far Vice Chancellors have been reluctant to act using the pretext of free speech.
Freedom of speech can only ever mean the freedom to criticise belief systems, ideas, religions etc but must never be the excuse to allow harassment, intimidation and verbal or physical threats against people.
Nor is it the selective obstruction of mainstream speakers such as an Israeli embassy diplomat prevented from speaking at Glasgow university.
The only recourse to a remedy is to bypass the universities and demand action from the heads of government and to let them understand that the Jewish community will not rest until these despicable events are stopped.
The good news that in the wake of the Emwazi exposure the Prime Minister is now determined to prevent our universities from hosting extremist speakers.