Antisemitism Here and There

I know I’ve written in this blog about hate before, and I find myself thinking about it again as my two home countries experience waves of antisemitism. Some are saying that antisemitism has long been pervasive in Britain and France, but now people are being more forthright, aided by social media, in these contentious times. Perhaps that’s so.

In the UK, the Labour party has been dealing – clumsily and insufficiently – with antisemitism among its ranks and last week saw nine of its MPs leave the party, citing antisemitism (along with Brexit positions) as one of their main reasons. On the other side of the channel, the French are dealing with antisemitic attacks, which have risen from 311 to 541 in the past year. Whereas the British conduct their antisemitism in a subtle, office bullying sort of way, with the occasional MP making insensitive comments, the French have engaged in violent acts with the desecration of Jewish graves and images of Simone Veil, a holocaust survivor who later become a national heroine. The response has also been characteristically French, with tens of thousands marching against antisemitism in the streets of major cities, including my home of Nice (also, incidentally, the birthplace of Simone Veil).

SimoneViel 1
One of many images of Simone Veil in France.


When it comes to this form of hate I have only observations to offer. My own sense of this being wrong I know is shared by most, if not all, of my readers and perhaps that’s why I haven’t bothered writing about it until now. I don’t know if I have anything else to add to an argument that for me doesn’t seem real. The hatred of Jews feels like a throwback to WW2, acted out by a testosterone-fuelled fringe group. Or I could look further back still to the Middle Ages when Louis IX of France banished the Jews because they were money lenders. With these references, are a couple of reasons why being anti-Jewish became fodder for the bigotry of the far right and the anti-capitalism of the far left.

I admit with some embarrassment that I’ve also been slow to act on this issue. It was only last year that I attended my first ever anti-fascist/anti-racist rally, where antisemitism was part of a larger mix of hate. I wonder now, if that rally were only about antisemitism, would I have attended? Probably not. And probably, without articulating it even to myself, it would have been because I’m not Jewish. But that was then. They say a week is a long time in politics – therefore, a year must be akin to a decade. Having passed through a political decade, well, I’ll see you at the next antisemitism march.