Progressively Speaking: The hidden trigger behind the rise in anti-Semitism

Progressively Speaking: The hidden trigger behind the rise in anti-Semitism

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers reflects on a topical issue with a progressive Jewish angle

Antisemitic graffiti in London
Antisemitic graffiti in London

The CST’s latest report makes grim reading: 1,309 incidents of anti-Semitism, 107 of them violent, the highest rate since such statistics began to be recorded. One of the curious things according to the CST’s own analysis was that there wasn’t one identifiable trigger event as in previous years.

May to December was particularly worrying, with more than 100 recorded incidents each month. But this makes me wonder if perhaps there was indeed a trigger factor – especially as there wasn’t only a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes.

According to the charity Galop, July to September 2016 saw a 147 percent increase in homophobic hate crimes. Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe says there was a 16 per cent increase in hate crime in the year to August.

He has also said that in the 38 days after June 23 there were more than 2,300 recorded race-hate offences in London, compared with 1,400 in the 38 days before that date. What was that date? The EU referendum.

But Brexit can’t be blamed for everything. We seem to be living in an age where anger and violence are a legitimate response to disagreement, and where stereotypes, hatred, old tropes and new vilifications are emerging not just against Jews, but against many minority groups.

Politicians, intending to or not, have added to the hysteria. Our ability to deal with each other’s differences and to treat one another with a basic level of decency even in disagreement is a key skill we could all learn better.

But we also need to face a growing reality, of which anti-Semitism is part, that we have reached a point where so many are dehumanising their neighbours and fellow humans that hate crimes are rising across the board.

We must stand up against all of them, and I hope they too will stand up for us.

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers is the community educator for Reform Judaism

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