Comment

“Galloway’s election is a symptom of the wider malaise”

Finchley Church End councillor Eva Greenspan says Jews in Britain are now worried about their safety

The UK houses of parliament, viewed from across the road at the top of The Mall
The palace of Westminster – home to the UK’s houses of parliament

I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors, having been born shortly after the end of the war. This country has, at least since the 20th Century, been a safe zone for Jews.

The Kindertransport which brought in 10,000 children to the UK from the tyranny of Nazi Germany is but one example of this care and support. If I had been born some years earlier, I would have potentially been on that journey.  

It is a frightening feeling that we as Jews are worried about our safety in a country which was a haven for everybody. 

The Community Security Trust (CST)’s Antisemitic Incidents Report 2023 shows 4,103 instances of anti-Jewish hate recorded across the UK in 2023. This is the highest annual total ever reported to CST. It is a 147% rise from the 1,662 antisemitic incidents in 2022.

These are harrowing figures and even more so for we who know too well the consequences when blatant antisemitism is not checked, challenged, and dismantled. That must be done throughout the entire body politic and must be ruthlessly chased out of civil discourse.  

It seems that even symbols of the star of David are now seen as offensive to those who are supposedly opposed to the state of Israel, these people are simply using the conflict to mask their pure antisemitic motives behind their actions. 

And here in Barnet, it seems that our local MP, Mike Freer, taking a stance against Hamas is deemed a problem and even more shameful, a baby’s birth certificate being torn because their father is from Israel. 

The election of George Galloway in Rochdale is a further sign of the tragic state of our times. It is terrifying that a man who unashamedly denied the Russian invasion in Ukraine, a man who shilled for Assad in Syria even after his attacks on his own citizens, a man who surrounds himself with antisemites and a man well known for portraying antisemitic tropes is elected once again because the party that could have stopped him failed to properly scrutinise their candidate. 

Galloway’s election is a mere symptom of the wider malaise of society that has always been lingering in the undertones of polite society. 

The play Giant which illustrates Roald Dahl’s antisemitism is evidence of this. In an article he wrote in the Literary Review in 1983, he attacked what he called ‘powerful American Jewish bankers’ who ‘utterly dominate the great financial institutions’.

He was quoted in the New Statesman in the same year he stated rather bracingly ‘’There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere.’’ And most appallingly: ‘’Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason’’.

In scarily similar tones to today, during the Israeli-Jordanian conflict, he also stated that the invasion of Lebanon was ‘’hushed up in the newspapers because they are primarily Jewish-owned,” he added, “I’m certainly anti-Israeli and I’ve become anti-Semitic’’.

That comment encapsulates the sentiment in those protests on the streets of London. The use of Middle Eastern conflict to mask core antisemitic beliefs is visible to anyone who has witnessed these marches across the capital and to those of us who have received emails from members of the public. 

Roald Dahl’s statements were well known but were somehow deemed acceptable in polite society and his works were lauded thereafter. Similarly, the approach to these protests and the hounding of Jewish people around the country, made it clear that concerns around antisemitism are second-tier.

This is a sad period in London’s history and even sadder that a lot of Jews who once saw this place as an oasis from the desert of antisemitism are once again considering if they belong. Jews who know nothing but Britain as their home. 

I wonder what those children aboard the kindertransport would think now of the place that provide them safety.

Eva Greenspan is a Conservative councillor for Finchley Church End ward.


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