This weekend, along with my wife, some of our children and young grandchildren we ate our Friday night Shabbat dinner with my 88-year-old mother-in-law at the Jewish care home she lives in. The charity that runs it has, for over 150 years in various incarnations, cared for the most vulnerable and in need in the Manchester Jewish community.
This incredible history illustrates just how long Jews have lived in our great city. We have, since the 19th century, been civic leaders, economic drivers, educators, artists, physicians and generally contributed to the development of Manchester, just as Jews have done across the UK in every area that they have, or do, live. We have been – and we are – proud residents of Manchester and citizens of the United Kingdom.
Until recently I easily saw a bright future for my children and grandchildren in Manchester and the UK. Now I do not. I am scared for them. It is true that during the time Jeremy Corbyn was leader of the Labour Party many contemplated leaving if he ever became Prime Minister but the fear I – and many others – felt is nothing compared to what we feel right now, today.
Three weeks ago, when the genocidal terrorist group Hamas brutally murdered 1,400 Israelis and kidnapped 224 more, we, the UK Jewish community, felt the same pain as Israelis. Many of us have family and friends who live in Israel, and we were incredibly grateful for the concern and support many of our non-Jewish friends and colleagues demonstrated to us.
We felt, in some way, that the support many have shown in the past for causes such as Black Lives Matter and Ukraine was now finally being shown to us in light of the biggest murder of Jews in one day since the Holocaust.
National and local politicians rushed to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish community at vigils and pledged not to let the conflict affect the Jewish community in the UK.
How quickly things change. Despite the video evidence of the gruesome, barbaric attack of Hamas and the fact that babies, children, women, and men are still being held captive in Gaza with no sign of them being released we have now seen, for three consecutive Saturdays, huge demonstrations on our streets that chill me – and our community – to the bone.
We have witnessed hundreds of thousands of people, walking on the streets of the oldest democracy in the world, chanting hate including “Khaybar Khaybar ya yahud, jaish Muhammad soufa ya’oud.” which translates to “Khaybar Khaybar oh Jews, the army of Muhammad will return”, an ancient battle cry to murder Jews.
We have seen calls for “Jihad” – often when aimed at Jews this is a call to carry out a holy war against them. We have seen them screaming that “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a clear call for the destruction of Israel and the genocide of all the Jews who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – and they have been celebrating the “resistance” of Oct 7 – in effect the murder of more Jews in one day than since the Holocaust.
Alongside that there is consistently widespread support vocalised for Hamas, whose charter calls for the murder of Jews anywhere in the world. There have been calls for an “intifada from London to Gaza” – let us remember the intifada was mass suicide bus bombings – and signs telling Jews that “one Holocaust was enough” and Israel should stop carrying out another along with stating that Benjamin Netanyahu is Hitler.
Prime Minister Rishu Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman are pictured on placards with Hitler moustaches and signs saying “Heil Sunak” were displayed.
When posters of the hostages held by Hamas were displayed across the country they were ripped down. At universities across the UK, which are supposed to be places of education, tolerance & enlightenment, Jewish students have had to cower in fear as their peers – the future leaders of our country – attack them for being Jewish & Zionist. And finally, we have seen numerous videos of imams in the UK preaching support for Hamas and the murder of Jews at recent Friday prayers. It has been a tsunami of hate directed at Jews. Period.
And how has this affected Jews in the UK? People are hiding easily identifiable jewellery such as their Star of David when they go out. They are discussing whether to remove the “mezuzah” – the parchment Jews place on their front doors as a sign of faith – as it identifies their homes as Jewish.
Parents are openly scared to send their children to Jewish schools and at those same schools’ young children are taught what to do in the event of a terror attack. My wife wears a necklace with her name in Hebrew and she decided to hide it whilst in the gym. Antisemitic attacks have risen by over 1,350%. This is not Germany in 1938. This is the UK in 2023 and it is horrific.
And what have national and local politicians, along with police forces across the UK, done. At best, paid lip service to challenging this hate. The Prime Minister, Home Secretary and other government ministers have repeatedly said this behaviour is unacceptable, yet it is allowed to continue unabated.
Police forces promise action yet are too afraid to act in the moment during these rallies and continue to allow this Jew hate to carry on without pause. None of these imams who incite hate and violence from their pulpits against Jews have been arrested. And local politicians – the mayors of Manchester and London among others – now seek to appease some of their constituents by throwing the Israeli hostages under the bus and morally equating their release with a ceasefire rather than demanding their freedom before any halt to hostilities.
These same politicians also fail to hold their police forces to account and are equally culpable in fostering the fear that their Jewish communities feel.
If our elected leaders and law enforcement agencies can fail so monumentally to protect the Jewish community by arresting the perpetrators of everything highlighted above, despite the overwhelming evidence presented to them, one must ask just how much they value the Jewish community’s presence in the UK. It is scary and incredibly worrying.
If this is the situation today then in a generation’s time it will be much, much worse as those we see chanting hate on our streets and campuses become our politicians and leaders. If we saw unequivocal action being taken now to tackle every instance of hate, I might feel more confident in our future here as Jews. But the inaction is telling. And very scary.
And it only reinforces why the existence of Israel is an absolute necessity to Jews everywhere and why Golda Meir’s was so correct when she said “”If we have to choose between being dead and pitied, and being alive with a bad image, we’d rather be alive and have the bad image.”
- Raphi Bloom, is co-chair of North West Friends of Israel
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