Sir Mick Davis: British Jews Are Thriving, But Our Concerns Are Serious

On the 18th January 2015, JLC Chair Mick Davis wrote the following article in The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/11353918/British-Jews-are-thriving-but-our-concerns-are-serious.html).

The terrorists murdered cartoonists for caricaturing the Prophet, and police officers in their line of duty. But they murdered Jews at the kosher supermarket just for having the audacity to exist. At Charlie Hebdo, where one of the terrorists declared, “we don’t kill women”, the exception was the only Jewish woman present.

When Jews are murdered simply for being Jews, as in Argentina in 1994, Mumbai in 2008, a Jerusalem synagogue last November and Paris last week, Jewish communities everywhere feel shockwaves.

Hatred of Jews is central to Islamist extremism, the murder of Jews a defining goal of Islamist terror, wherever it is found. Tellingly, both the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, and Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorists, Hezbollah, criticised the Charlie Hebdo massacre but not that of Jewish shoppers.

How did Europe’s largest Jewish community become so embattled? How in the face of Islamist extremists did a permissive attitude to anti-Semitism prevail? This January, on Holocaust Memorial Day, I will present the Holocaust Commission’s report to David Cameron. To understand how six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators while many stood by we need to recognise how centuries of hatred for “the Jew” permeated the thinking of ordinary people.

France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls courageously asked last week: “How can we accept that when a child is asked ’who is your enemy”, the response is ‘the Jew?’ When the Jews of France are attacked, France is attacked, the conscience of humanity is attacked. Let us never forget it.”

French Jews had already been suffering. Ilan Halimi was kidnapped and murdered in 2006. In 2012, a jihadist shot dead a rabbi and three young children at a Jewish school in Toulouse. Last year supposedly “anti-Israel” rioters chanted “death to the Jews” and attacked synagogues. A Jewish woman was raped, racially abused and robbed in her Paris home. These attacks “did not produce the national outrage that our Jewish compatriots expected,” said Prime Minister Valls.In 2014 alone, nearly 7,000 French Jews fled to Israel.

British Jews are not suffering a comparable crisis. A methodologically flawed survey published last week by a Jewish activist group generated headlines and some panic. But a poll by the Jewish Chronicle and Survation revealed that 88 per cent of British Jews are content here. Still, we cannot ignore concerns.

Hundreds of British Islamists are fighting abroad. The 7/7 bombings and Lee Rigby murder made clear the home-grown jihadist threat. Many more plots have been thwarted. In 2012 a British Islamist couple were jailed for planning attacks on Jewish targets.

We take the threat seriously. The Community Security Trust (CST) tirelessly provides security to the Jewish community and, crucially, enjoys an excellent working relationship with the British police. CST and the police immediately stepped up communal security in response to events in Paris.

The Government and its opposition have also shown resolute commitment to Jewish safety. David Cameron told UK Jewish leaders this week that police and security services will examine what more can be done. Eric Pickles stated: “Anyone who peddles anti-Semitic views is attacking Britain and British values.” Ed Miliband wrote that “nothing can excuse anti-Semitism in any form.” And even prior to the Paris attacks, Tristram Hunt pledged that any future Labour government would “spend at least the same amount on protecting your community’s safety.”

The Jewish community’s concerns are, however, intensified when public figures denigrate them. The Liberal Democrat MP David Ward, who made no specific mention of the supermarket murders on twitter, tweeted that the presence of Israel’s prime minister in Paris “makes me feel sick”. “Je suis Palestinian”, he added. Ward has previously tweeted that were he Palestinian he would “probably” fire rockets at Israel and has seemingly faced no consequences from his party for these and similar outbursts.

It is also true that CST’s annual figures for anti-Semitic incidents in 2014 will show an alarming rise. “Anti-Israel” protesters have used anti-Semitic slogans and images. Attempts to boycott Israel, which most British Jews see as anti-Semitic, have increased. Jewish MPs have been threatened online.

These phenomena are facilitated by the singling out of the only Jewish state, Israel, as an unparalleled source of evil, when it is in fact an unparalleled source of democratic values in its region.

“There is a historical anti-Semitism that goes back centuries,” warned Prime Minister Valls, “but there is also a new anti-Semitism, born in our neighbourhoods, coming through the internet, satellite dishes, against the backdrop of the loathing of the State of Israel, and which advocates hatred of the Jews and all the Jews.”

France is learning the lessons of a tragedy that we should seek to avoid. But the response from the Jewish community, the police and the Government here is reassuring.

Moreover, British Jewish life is thriving, in our faith schools, synagogues, community centres and festivals. Research by Pew and the Anti-Defamation League reveals a Jewish community in Britain more integrated than any in Europe, and, despite some worrying trends, a less anti-Semitic society than its continental neighbours.

Jews will continue to exist here, to live and to thrive as a community, proud of our identity and committed to playing an active, positive role in British life. To do so alongside our fellow British citizens, Christian and Muslim, Hindu and Sikh, atheist and agnostic, is our act of defiance in the face of those who would do us harm.