Last January the Spectator published a piece I wrote about the disquiet that had been gathering in me about the rise of antisemitism in the U.K.: the placards you could see at any demo calling for a Judenfrei Israel, or declaring that Hitler would have been improved, if only he’d gone further in his genocide of Europe’s Jews, and, of course, the noises coming from the Labour Party about how Israel was uniquely problematic, all the world’s troubles would dissolve, if only it weren’t for Israel.
This was only part of my reason to emigrate to Tel Aviv, but that’s what I did. I stayed for exactly a year, but it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t settle, it was too hot, too expensive, too difficult, and I missed London too much. I never stopped calling it ‘home’.
I spent two months in Frankfurt on my way back, but eventually set down at City Airport, very happy to be here. And what did I find? There are, if anything, greater problems with antisemitism, which come to some sort of noxious head with Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, his membership of antisemitic Facebook groups, and his endorsement of a mural that might make a Nazi blush in its depiction of Jews. (At least, I hope we’ve seen the worst of it).
His response was, of course, it always is, watery, dull, insufficient. How such a damp squib can inspire such fierce loyalty is a mystery to me, and after two and a half years of his leadership we, Jews, had had enough. A demonstration was organised, on College Green, in front of Parliament.
I didn’t go because I believe demos achieve much, I went because of me, I wanted to stand up, I was happy to be counted.
There were fifteen hundred or so people there, not a huge number. There aren’t many Jews in Britain, just 263,346 at the last census, barely a minyan in a population of over sixty million. How, you might ask, does this tiny group of people attract so much attention? How do we inspire such hatred?
Some people spoke, the Labour MPs, Luciana Berger, Wes Streeting, John Mann, and others. I can’t imagine the abuse they’ve received, online, in the post, to their faces, because theirs are some of the few voices in the Labour Party to say the hatred of Jews is wrong, and the relationship between antisemitism and anti-Zionism is too close. I don’t doubt their aims, but, Join the Labour Party to help fight this, we can make it better, is unconvincing and uninspiring. It takes more than that to stop the Jew baiters and haters. I wish I knew what would work.
Antisemitism is, of course, a problem for everyone, it poisons all the wells. Not everyone at the protest was Jewish, and I love them for coming. I shook John Mann’s hand, he has a good, firm grip, and saw Peter Hain, David Lammy, Sajid Javed, other MPs, too, both left and right.
It was a fine early evening. After the speeches were finished, and the clapping done, this, mainly being a gathering of Jews, people stood around after to talk, to kibbitz. I was thrilled to recognise Chris, a friend from twitter, just from his avatar. and we spoke for a pleasant thirty minutes. We said the things that any new friends would say, getting to know each other, shrugging at the insoluble, although he was more hopeful than me. You never know, he said, but I fear I do. I am pessimistic that Jeremy Corbyn and his Party will do anything to stop the hatred.
It may surprise you that not everyone there was demonstrating against antisemitism. On my way to the station I passed a small group of people protesting the protest. Anti- anti- antisemites, I guess. They sang that Oh Jeremy Corbyn song, you may like it more than I do, I hear it in my nightmares. They danced, and laughed, and looked pleased with their bravery, their iconoclasm, and themselves. I guess they had their reasons, but they were opaque to me, I could only think of them as hateful idiots.
My blog about my life in Tel Aviv is White Meat