Rising alarm over incidences of anti-Semitism

Danger: The 34% rise in the UK refers specifically to violent assaults against Jewish people.

Is anti-Semitism on the rise again? Protesters in Britain have accused Jeremy Corbyn of letting anti-Semitism fester in his party. Some say the prejudice is growing across the Western world.

“Rotten to the core.” That is the scathing view of the Labour Party from one of its own MPs, as Jeremy Corbyn tries to diffuse the latest anti-Semitism storm to hit his leadership.

It all started because of a Facebook post. Six years ago, Corbyn publicly supported the artist of a mural which included a racist depiction of Jewish bankers.

He was forced to defend his stance after it resurfaced last week. But the controversy only worsened. Many took the incident to symbolise deeper issues of anti-Semitism which have long afflicted the British Labour Party.

On Monday, protesters gathered outside Parliament demanding action, and Jewish leaders penned an open letter stating that “enough is enough”.

In response, Corbyn admitted that anti-Semitism had “surfaced” within Labour, and apologised for the “pain and hurt” caused.

While his subsequent actions will be closely scrutinised, the issue of anti-Semitism extends far beyond the confines of British politics.

This week, France was rocked by the brutal murder of Mireille Knoll — an 85-year-old woman who survived the Holocaust, only to be killed in what police have now called an anti-Semitic attack.

How this horrific incident fits into a wider picture is still being determined. Some statistics record a recent decline in general anti-Semitic crime in France. However, another report plots a specific rise in violent attacks against Jews.

And some fear this trend could be felt elsewhere too. Earlier this year, Angela Merkel spoke out on Holocaust Memorial Day to warn against creeping anti-Semitism in Germany — a nation deeply sensitive to the issue following the horrors of the Second World War.

America too has been the recent site of anti-Semitic outbursts. For example, last week lawmaker Trayon White Sr accused the Rothschild family of manipulating the weather to “create natural disasters”.

Does all of this mean anti-Semitism is rising throughout the West?

Old woes

Of course, some argue. Throughout history the Jewish people have constantly been scapegoated for the world’s troubles. But as living memory of the Holocaust fades, and as societies across the West become divided by nationalist populism, people are returning in ever greater numbers to their old instincts. Unless it is snuffed out, a dangerous future beckons.

History urges restraint, others respond. We must never forget the horrific suffering inflicted on the Jewish people by the Nazis — one aspect of that remembrance demonstrating how far race relations have come since. Worrying trends are developing which must be stamped out, but the outcries that now greet racist incidents suggest that society is better equipped to deal with the issue than ever before.

You Decide

  1. Are people becoming more or less tolerant?
  2. Can society ever be totally free from racism?

Activities

  1. In one minute, write down all of the words you associate with the term “racism”. Share your list with the class. Do any words come up repeatedly? If so, why? Which word do you think is the most meaningful in capturing what racism means today?
  2. Anti-Semitism has been called “history’s oldest hatred”. Do some research into how it has evolved over time, starting with The Conversation piece in Become An Expert. How has anti-Semitism changed, or not changed, in the 21st century?

Some People Say...

“Anti-Semitism has no historical, political and certainly no philosophical origins. It is a disease.”

Daniel Barenboim

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
We know that Jeremy Corbyn is seeking an “urgent meeting” with Jewish leaders in which to discuss tackling anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. In his response to the controversy he claimed that “early action” had been taken and that these procedures would now be sped up.
What do we not know?
We do not know exactly what further actions Corbyn intends to take as a result of the controversy, or if the measures will be satisfactory. Furthermore, it is difficult to assess and compare the precise extent of anti-Semitism in different countries. The EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights notes that there is “inadequate recording of hate crime incidents” across Europe, and that it is generally not possible to compare data due to the differing research methods used by different nations.

Word Watch

Anti-Semitism
Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as hostility to or prejudice against Jews. For more information on the subject, read The Day’s Briefing in Become An Expert.
Bankers
A notorious stereotype associates Jewish people with financial greed.
Defend
A spokesperson claimed the Labour leader was not condoning the mural, but announcing worries about free speech. Corbyn himself expressed regret he did not “look more closely” at the image.
Long afflicted the British Labour Party
For example, Labour MP Naz Shah and former MP Ken Livingstone were both suspended after making anti-Semitic remarks.
Statistics
According to the The French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, there were 335 anti-Semitic actions and threats recorded in France in 2016, compared with 808 the year before.
Violent attacks
According to a report by the French Interior Ministry, violent attacks against Jewish people rose from 77 incidents in 2016, to 97 in 2017.
Rothschild
Famous Jewish banking dynasty and one of the richest families in the world.

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