Australia/Israel Review

The Last Word: Not Normal

Dec 21, 2023 | Dave Rich

Paul Kessler: Fatally struck down by a pro-Palestinian protester in Los Angeles (X/ Twitter)
Paul Kessler: Fatally struck down by a pro-Palestinian protester in Los Angeles (X/ Twitter)

It is often said that antisemitism is a light sleeper lying just beneath the surface of society, ready to raise its head whenever the opportunity arises – and the last two months have proven this. 

There have been arson attacks on synagogues in Germany, Tunisia and Armenia. In Canada, there have been three different fire-bombings of Jewish buildings and shots fired at two Jewish yeshivot (religious schools). Terrorist plots targeting Jews and Israelis have been foiled by police in Germany, Cyprus and Brazil. Angry protestors have burnt Israeli flags in Spain and Sweden, not outside the Israeli embassies in those countries, but outside synagogues (in Malmo they chanted “Free Palestine, Bomb Israel”). 

In Vienna, part of a Jewish cemetery was set alight and swastikas daubed on the walls. In Paris and Berlin, multiple Jewish homes were marked with antisemitic graffiti. In Turin, a man with a knife shouting “Allahu Akbar” was stopped by police outside a synagogue. In the United States, a man fired shots outside a synagogue and when he was arrested, he declared “Free Palestine” to the police. Elsewhere in the US, a woman drove her car into a school building, wrongly believing it to be a Jewish school. 

In Russia, a mob stormed an airport looking for Jewish passengers to attack. Most tragically of all, Paul Kessler, a 69-year-old Jewish man, died after being struck on the head by somebody at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Los Angeles.

In Britain, there has been graffiti on synagogues, Jewish schools, a Jewish cemetery and a Holocaust research library, alongside an unprecedented wave of verbal abuse and threats directed at Jewish people in the street. 

Thankfully the level of violence described in the paragraphs above has not (yet) hit the UK, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. What has happened is bad enough: a record increase in anti-Jewish harassment. Antisemitic incidents recorded by the Community Security Trust since October 7 have exceeded the total for all of 2022. 

The police recorded 533 antisemitic hate crimes in London alone in October 2023, compared to just 39 in October 2022. It is as if for some people there is a belief, a sense of excitement even, that the conflict over there also belongs here. 

“The war is starting – free Palestine,” is what one antisemite shouted at a Jewish man walking in north London a day or two after the Hamas terror attack. 

It’s important to acknowledge just how abnormal this is. No other foreign conflict triggers waves of hate crime against minority communities in the way that the Israel-Palestine conflict does (there has been an increase in anti-Muslim hate crime since October 7 as well, although not to the same degree). The scale and intensity of the reaction to this conflict from people who have no personal connection to either Israel or Palestine suggests that something different is going on.

It would be staggering if a global movement to condemn the world’s only Jewish state as a unique transgressor of all moral and human values didn’t attract people who dislike Jews. We’ve had Zionists supposedly controlling the government and the media, the blood libel allegation that Jews consume the blood of children, Israeli leaders as devils, an Israeli snake wrapped around the globe, swastikas entwined with Stars of David, and, of course, the ubiquitous comparison of Israel with Nazi Germany. 

We’ve even had a Palestinian baby Jesus on a cross, juxtaposed with a placard declaring Zionism – the national movement of the Jewish people – to be “White Settler Colonialism”. You couldn’t get a more apposite image of the old and new forms of antisemitism entwined.

Dr. Dave Rich is Head of Policy at Britain’s Community Security Trust (CST). His latest book is Everyday Hate: How Antisemitism Is Built Into Our World – And How You Can Change It. Reprinted by permission of the author. 



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