Voice of the Jewish News: It’s what you do, not what you say
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Voice of the Jewish News: It’s what you do, not what you say

This week's editorial reflects on the first Sara Conference at Westminster, which shone a light on antisemitism and misogyny,

Luciana Berger opens the Sara Conference at Speaker's House in Parliament
Luciana Berger opens the Sara Conference at Speaker's House in Parliament

Existentialism, the philosophical belief most closely associated with Jean-Paul Sartre, states that “existence precedes essence”. Existentialists say that when you’re born you have no meaning, no purpose, no definition – it’s only through action that you define yourself. In other words, it’s not what you say, it’s what you do. “Man exists and in the process defines himself and the world”.

This week it was Women defining themselves through their actions – and in the process defining the world as they wish it to be – at the first Sara Conference at Westminster, which shone a light on antisemitism and misogyny, and the intersection between the two, highlighting the appalling abuse faced by Jewish politicians.

Of all those who came and gave more time than they could afford – including Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick – one example stood out. It was that of Prime Minister Theresa May. On any other day her attendance would have been welcomed, her apologies understood. But she had just come from a gruelling two-and-a-half hour grilling in Parliament and her to-do list later that evening included saving the country from falling out of the EU without a deal. Yet still she came. ‘It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.’

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The event is named after Sara, the foremother of the Jewish and Christian religions, and organisers want to reclaim the name for those Jewish victims of the Nazis who were forced to adopt it as part of their title if their name sounded too ‘non-Jewish’.

Credit to Danny Stone, John Mann MP and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism for organising this event, which could not have been better timed. Two days earlier, the Sunday Times published research that underlined the threat by showing how one of the biggest neo-Nazi internet sites “has featured 9,000 threads related to feminism, of which more than 60 percent mention Jews”.

Antisemitism and the gendered abuse experienced by women must be stamped out, but just saying so won’t make it happen, as existentialists well know. That’s why we support concrete action, such as penalties for online hate.

A particular problem seems to be closed groups, a point not lost on Manchester MP Lucy Powell, who recently introduced the Online Forums Bill, which aims to make administrators and moderators of these forums legally responsible for removing illegal content on them. The Bill is now on its second reading and has an element of cross-party support.

It has our support too, because just as existence precedes essence, so too online extremism precedes offline extremism.

Just ask Pittsburgh.

Listen to this week’s podcast here:

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