Q: Is the Jewish community doing enough to challenge its own prejudices?
Gabriel Pogrund says…
“It’s the Muslims, the lot of them!”
I heard at last month’s rally against anti-Semitism.
The man next to me didn’t say this under his breath. He screamed and, what’s more, his comment went unchallenged until two men politely took him aside and told him his remarks made them very uncomfortable. I was one of them. He was unrepentant. This rally called for ‘Zero Tolerance for Anti-Semitism’.
Zero tolerance is a police concept, arguing that if minor crimes, such as dropping of litter, go unchallenged, this legitimises further law-breaking and a downward spiral of criminality. If Islamophobia can go unreported at a 3,000-strong rally against racism attended by community activists and leaders, then Islamophobia is not a dirty little secret.
It’s like litter dropping. If people can get away with it, we have a profoundly worrying problem on our hands.
Just imagine for a second if a middle-aged Muslim man shouted out “It’s the Jews, the lot of them” at an anti-Islamophobia rally – how would we respond? We rightly discuss the perils of everyday prejudice when it comes to anti-Semitism. I am desperate to see the same outrage and urgency when we are faced with prejudice in our own community.
• Gabriel Pogrund is a member of West London Synagogue
Edie Friedman says..
The short answer is, of course, no.
The Jewish Council for Racial Equality was founded to encourage our community to be more proactive in challenging racism and promoting the benefits of living in a plural multiracial society. It is, of course, difficult for any community to acknowledge that there is prejudice within it.
This is particularly so for a minority community such as ours. But I would argue it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to acknowledge that victims can also be perpetrators. This past summer threw out many challenges. It would be most regrettable if our response to anti-Semitism was to increase prejudicial views against others, particularly Muslims, and to turn inward.
In the run-up to the 2015 General Election, the atmosphere will be heavy with xenophobic rhetoric against migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. This period will provide an opportunity for Jews, Muslims and other communities to work together to show that xenophobia has no place within our society. But for now, we are in the middle of the High Holy Days, in which we are reminded yet again of the imperative to do justice. Working together to combat prejudice is one important way to do precisely this.
• Edie Friedman is founder and executive Director of The Jewish Council for Racial Equality