Voice of the Jewish News: Hijacked by bigots

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Voice of the Jewish News: Hijacked by bigots

After Tommy Robinson showed up at last week's demo, we say this own goal gave the anti-Israel mob ammunition to falsely equate Zionism with far-right politics

It started well. An upbeat crowd brushed off the drizzle and an abusive counter-protest to show the Jewish community in a positive light and educate wider society about the true nature of the threat facing Israel. They listened to spirited speeches, proudly sung Hatikva and God Save The Queen, Shalom Aleinu and Od Avinu Chai. And then it happened. 

Word spread. Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League (EDL), was in the crowd – and he wasn’t alone. Former Britain First campaigner Paul Besser had also showed up like a bad smell, while the BNP and nationalist group Voice Of Wales were broadcasting live. Some of the most infamous far-right extremists in the country who peddle anti-Muslim sentiment had attached themselves like a cancer to the Jewish community, sending the rally’s organisers into panic mode. 

The Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Zionist Federation were all quick in their condemnation but by then the damage was done, the pictures taken, the connection made. The anti-Israel mob had the ammunition they required to equate support for the Jewish state with support for extreme far-right politics. It was, as one senior communal figure put it, “an appalling look”. 

British Jews will never have common cause with pariahs on the extreme right who sow bigotry and discord. Sunday’s hijacked rally did nothing to improve the community’s standing in this regard, and nothing to persuade onlookers that the only true supporters of Israel are level-headed and in search of peace.

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