Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Antisemitism is Back - Denis MacShane, MP

An all-party Parliamentary commission (none of whose members is Jewish, incidentally) has just released an important report on anti-semitism in Britain. Its conclusions are neither panicky nor sensationalist, but definitely concerned. The basic picture is summed up below in an on-line Guardian "Comment is Free" web-page by the Chair of the All-Parliamentary into Antisemtism, Denis McShane (reproduced on the Engage website).

As McShane notes in this piece, "I know what the comments below this short blog will be before they are posted."

Already the emails are pouring into my parliamentary inbox denouncing Israel in terms that will be familiar to all readers of Cif and Guardian comment pages. [....] But please, will those already gearing up to attack the report, read it? It is not about Israel and the Middle East. It is not about the behaviour of Israel in Lebanon. It is not about 1948, or 1967, or 1973. Nor is it about Hamas, Hizbollah, the intifadas. [....]
Can I just respectfully ask [....] readers to hold back a while and read our report. If you write to me at the House of Commons I will send a hard copy or you can look at it on http://www.thepcaa.org.

=> Of course, as I noted in another recent post (Britain - "Attacks on Jews soar since Lebanon"), many people will have no trouble seeing through these excuses. Obviously, if there is an increase in anti-semitic attacks, the Jews themselves must be to blame somehow--if not the Jews in Britain, then the Jews in Israel & the US, or if not all Jews, at least the Zionists. But read the report anyway.

--Jeff Weintraub
=========================
Guardian on-line, "Comment is Free" (via Engage)
September 7, 2006
Antisemitism is back
Denis McShane


[This piece, by Denis MacShane, the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, is on Comment is Free.]

Our parliamentary report finds that many British citizens who happen to be born Jewish face unacceptable harassment, intimidation and assault

Anti-semitism is back. Today an all-party commission of enquiry has published a report on anti-semitism which sets out in stark terms the problem. The Commission had 14 MPs on it. None is Jewish. None is active in Middle East politics. The work was carried out in a traditional parliamentary manner - open witness sessions, scores of written submissions, visits outside London.

The conclusion is inescapable. Too many British citizens, who happened to be born Jewish, now face harassment, intimidation, and assault that is unacceptable in democratic Britain. Their synagogues are attacked. Their children jostled and insulted going to school. Their social events requiring levels of security protection that no other faith or community has to undertake.

There are not that many Jews in Britain - a total community of between 250,000 and 300,000. The Chief Rabbi told the Commission that Britain was the best country in Europe to live in. But unlike other faiths or diaspora groups in Britain, British Jews are not allowed to live easily and freely with their religion, their culture, their history and their affiliation to other Jews in other countries, notably Israel.

Already the emails are pouring into my parliamentary inbox denouncing Israel in terms that will be familiar to all readers of Cif and Guardian comment pages. (By the way, why was the Guardian's coverage of our report quite as titchy as it was? The other broadsheets gave it full whack but it was a surprise to me that the Guardian reduced an important report based on a year's parliamentary work to a tiny news story.)

But please, will those already gearing up to attack the report, read it? It is not about Israel and the Middle East. It is not about the behaviour of Israel in Lebanon. It is not about 1948, or 1967, or 1973. Nor is it about Hamas, Hizbollah, the intifadas.

What we did is what Parliament exists to do. We examined a problem. We heard witnesses. We read submissions. One MP, the West Midlands Labour MP, Bruce George told one witness : "You are describing a Britain that my constituents do not know exists."

Precisely. There is a tiny slice of Britain - less than a quarter of a per cent of the population - who feel the quality of their lives, their right to their religion, their sense of history, the causes they support is being denied to them because they were born Jews, not Catholics, or Anglicans, or Muslims or Hindus.

I understand all the anger that people may feel about what happens overseas. Many hate America. But we do not throw bricks through schools for Americans in London or seek to desecrate the graves of Americans in Britain. My constituents of Kashmiri origin feel passionately about the behaviour of India in Kashmir. But this does not lead them to attack British Indians, or jostle a British Indian citizen who wears the marks of faith or community.

We make clear that criticism of Israel is to be expected. There is a double-standard at work, in that criticism of other regimes with terrible records of human rights abuses against Muslims (or whose planes have killed scores of children as Sri Lankan air force warplanes recently did in attacks on Tamil areas of the island) never get the same front-page coverage.

We are where we are with Israel. But we know of no mechanism that visits upon a community in Britain the responsibility for the actions that a sovereign state and UN member takes, however angry many are over Israel's behaviour. Our universities should be as open to Jewish students to say what they want as they are to other faiths. Our newspapers should watch language and images so that there is not a crossing of a line into attacking Jewishness. In the 1930s, the language was of the Jewish "cabal." Today, it is the Jewish "lobby" that is all-powerful. The demonisation of Jews was meant to have died in 1945. Alas it did not.

Instead we have to examine the acts against Jews and see them for what they are: racist attacks on individuals of a faith. We need to look at language and images especially those available on the internet, or via satellite and DVDs. Libertarians will have no problem with copies of the hideously anti-semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion being on sale in Arab shops in London's Edgware Road.

But as someone who has fought against racial prejudice and language that demeaned British citizens of black or Asian backgrounds, and as someone who denounces and exposes islamaphobia, I cannot stand silent when I see anti-semitism back in 21st century Britain.

I know what the comments below this short blog will be before they are posted. Can I just respectfully ask Cif readers to hold back a while and read our report. If you write to me at the House of Commons I will send a hard copy or you can look at it on http://www.thepcaa.org.

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