By Andree Frieze
With the rise of UKIP and immigration dominating debate in British politics and media, it can be an emotive subject for Jews – many of whom are first, second or third generation incomers, married to one or count them among their friends.
Indeed, the story of the Jewish people has been one of migration, from the time of the Exodus through the diaspora to making aliyah in the present day.
Jews know what it means to be an outsider, to be looked at askance, to be feared and reviled and, ultimately, blamed for society’s wrongs. In times of crisis, like the current financial one, it is all too easy to direct ire upon foreigners.
As a recent YouGov survey found, support for UKIP is derived from emotions rather than reality: “The vast majority of responses suggest that hostility to immigration is driven by a general climate of fear and suspicion more than by specific experiences.” This fear is hard to refute, based as it is on intangibles rather than facts.
A recent study by University College London economists states immigrants pay far more in taxes than they receive in benefits. One in four NHS doctors are from abroad. Far from “sponging off the taxpayer” and adding to waiting lists, the impact of immigration has been to keep taxes down and the NHS running.
Most UKIP supporters don’t believe it. What can the Jewish – and wider – community do to counteract this anxiety? Two years ago I started a blog, Action Against Apathy, which works on the mantra that if we all do one thing, however small, collectively we can create change.
The silent majority doesn’t get heard because we assume sense will prevail, but our history as Jews demonstrates the opposite. We must stop UKIP setting the agenda for all political parties and next year’s General Election.
Write to your MP stating your support for EU migrants; email a news outlet to complain about their immigration coverage; sign the 38 Degrees petition to support all the political parties being included in the leaders debates; join an organisation fighting UKIP’s ascendency, or donate to Citizens UK, which works with Liberal Judaism and other faith groups to resettle 750 Syrian refugee families in the UK. Do one of these things today – even better do two. Then tell everyone about it.
• Andree Frieze is a Kingston Liberal Synagogue member and Green Party candidate for Richmond Park & North Kingston