Martin van den Bergh
My Response to Antisemitism
עודכן: 13 באפר׳ 2019
Last year I had the honour of addressing a full session of the Liverpool City Council in the UK on antisemitism. Following this the council adopted the IHRA definition on antisemitism. What was remarkable about this is the fact that the leaders of Liverpool City Council belong to the Labour Party, the party which has been bedevilled by the difficulty of Jeremy Corbyn and his closest supporters to fully accept that his party has a problem with antisemitism. Like other political parties in the United Kingdom, Labour is what is called a “broad church” which includes members with a wide range of views. Therefore, Labour includes those who subscribe to the notion that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish State, and those, like Corbyn who are vehemently opposed to the existence of Israel.
However, antisemitism is not only present in the Labour Party. It goes beyond the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, as well as beyond the United Kingdom. Of late it has also become a concern in other countries, including the United States, France, the Netherlands, Hungary and Belgium. This all comes barely 75 years after the Holocaust. Therefore, the increase in antisemitism is an alarming trend, even though Jews generally no longer face discriminatory restrictions in the public domain in Western countries, despite the existence of Israel as a member of the UN and the worldwide community, and the stated abhorrence of antisemitism by many world leaders.
The present trend of antisemitism is indeed concerning because it has four unique features. There is a denial that antisemitism exists not only in the UK Labour Party, but also in many parts of Diaspora Jewish communities. Despite assertions that antisemitism cannot be tolerated, in many circled there is an acceptance of antisemitism, even in universities. Expressions of antisemitism is not limited to non-Jews, but include what could be called self-hating Jews, who say: “I am Jewish, but…”. And possibly the most alarming feature of the present trend of antisemitism is its acceptance under the guise of anti-Zionism and anti-Israel sentiments, giving the excuse for much of the rise in antisemitism today.
Having lived for the last three years in Liverpool, I cannot say that I have experienced any antisemitic abuse, apart from a few Jewish name calling on the street. Indeed, I have found many people, especially in Town Hall to look very favourably on the local Jewish Community. However, we should be concerned about antisemitism, not only because of its implications for Jews of whatever persuasion, but also for society as a whole. Because, as Rabbi Sacks says, antisemitism is a barometer of the state of society. We can also not hide from the fact that antisemitism today is linked to attitudes against Israel.
The real question is – how can we counteract antisemitism. I personally think that we have two ways. Firstly, those of us who are Jewish, should not be cowered and made to feel ashamed of our Judaism. On the contrary we should appreciate our heritage which has and continues to contribute to society. And secondly, we should be proud of what Israel, the only Jewish state in the world, has achieved despite the many obstacles it had had to face. I am proud to be Jewish and living in Israel.