My correspondent was clearly upset. His message to me was overflowing with feelings of pain and distress.
Given that he was writing in the days following the killing of George Floyd in the US and a wave of protests and riots, my first thought was that he was writing on the subject of racism, discrimination and inequality.
Only on reading the link he attached did I learn about the event he had witnessed that day.
My friend, a religiously committed French Muslim, had been marching in an anti-racism protest in Paris, together with Christians, Jews and others.
They passed some counter-protesters, at which time vile antisemitic slurs began to be shouted – not at, but by, self-ascribed anti-racists.
Although receiving far less media coverage, there were also first-hand reports from a Los Angeles protest – which morphed in places into a riot – of chants of “F–k the police and kill the Jews”, before looting and anti-Jewish vandalism took place there.
In London, Nazi salutes were directed at the anti-racism protestors – bizarrely by those identifying themselves as the protectors of the legacy of Winston Churchill, despite Churchill’s positive legacy resting mainly upon his leading Britain against Nazi Germany.
A number of commentators, on both sides of the barricades in the battle over the future of race relations and the call for the recognition that Black Lives Matter, have noted the way some have tried to hijack an anti-racist agenda to push a radical anti-Israel barrow. In the process, they have inserted ignorance and immorality into calls for honesty and education, but that is not the matter I am addressing here.
It may take time, but the parasitical behaviour of the anti-Israel advocates will do what it has done to other causes to which it has cynically and opportunistically attached itself over the decades – either destroy the cause acting as its host or be rejected by those concerned with the health of that cause.
My concern here is with a far more ubiquitous and dangerous phenomenon – the unabashed anti-Jewish movements which try to exploit each and every issue to promote direct hatred for, and contempt often leading to violence against, Jews.
Just as Jews are being blamed, in an ongoing way, for everything bad related to the COVID-19 pandemic and responses to it, antisemites of varying stripes have involved themselves in the global responses to the deaths of George Floyd and the far too many others being mourned now.
In Los Angeles, there was not just antisemitic invective from rioters, but the leaders of one synagogue had to remove bollards protecting their building because of fast-spreading rumours that the bollards were actually stockpiles of rocks provided for antifa rioters!
Meanwhile the notorious long-time hate preacher Louis Farrakhan – never one to miss an opportunity to find gullible and ignorant people to sing his praises on temporal issues while simultaneously remaining prominent for his misogyny, antisemitism and homophobia – found a handful of politically illiterate celebrities to promote his “wisdom” to more than 10 million followers.
Not too far removed from Farrakhan was the rapper and actor known as Ice Cube, who seemed equally comfortable promoting far-left, far-right and simply far-out conspiracies – as long as the ultimate target was Jews.
It isn’t too difficult to find claims on the internet that Jews were responsible for the systemic underpinnings to the actual killing of George Floyd, or that Jews are responsible for the Black Lives Matter movement.
With so much information available to undermine claims of Jewish conspiracy or culpability, it can sometimes seem that only the most malicious and malevolent, or the most simple-minded and superficial, could accept the slurs and lies.
Unfortunately, the veracity of claims seemingly bears little relationship to the damage they can cause.
This is not to argue that anti-racists should change their priorities – but that any strategy which is genuinely anti-racist will not only reject, but will actively fight, anti-Jewish rhetoric and activity.