Like most newsmen, BBC reporter Tim Willcox covers all manner of subjects in the course of his duties, and is not expected to be expert in all.
This much he proved most ably in Paris on Sunday, when he challenged an Israeli woman’s view that “Jews are the target now” by relating anti-Semitism to Israel’s hand in “Palestinian suffering”.
It showed a level of ignorance not unique to Mr Willcox. We hope his apology serves to educate others. More interesting by far was what the woman had been trying to say. She was, between Willcox’s interruptions, making the point that the level of anti-Semitism on the streets of Europe was now approaching that of the 1930s.
In her thoughts, she is not alone.
A huge survey commissioned by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, published this week, shows more than half the British Jews polled felt the same.
A few years ago, this would have been a melodrama, an over-reaction, a needless and self-defeating cry of ‘Wolf’. No longer.
Why? How did it come to this, where 45 percent of British Jews feel they have no long-term future in the UK?
In the 1930s, a firebrand lunatic exploited an ailing economy to further his own racist fantasies. Now, 80 years later, is the situation so different?
Has radical Islam – a perversion recognised for what it is by most Muslims – replace Nazism? If so, can the threat of both really be equated?
Is Hitler’s racism now most readily represented by that of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and those who serve him? Jewish commentators familiar with the situation in France this week made the point that radical Islam was facing off against the far-right, with extremists on both sides “driving a wedge through the heart of French society”.
In the UK, this is not (yet) the case, but across the Channel, there are four million French Muslims, half a million French Jews and an incredibly popular far-right political party (Front National, led by Marine Le Pen).
The Middle East is far closer to Paris than distance suggests. Against this backdrop, interfaith initiatives face an uphill battle against news of jihadi terrorists beheading their way to a ‘caliphate’ and exporting their hate to the streets of Europe. The situation is still evolving, and nobody can predict how it will change.
All we as a community can do is react accordingly. What we see is an increasing hatred against Jews, and how we react is a twofold choice, one so old that our bodies developed a special hormone called adrenalin just to deal with it.
The choice is fight or flight. True, French Jews are leaving (10,000 predicted in 2015), but the vast majority will stay and fight. And a fight it is.
Not a physical one, as the terrorists think, but a moral one, an ethical one. It’s a battle against hate, a battle of resolve, of will, and of heart. It’s a battle that rallied a million foot-soldiers on Sunday.
Je suis Charlie.
Je suis juif.