• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Agenda:

British Jewry is no more responsible for the actions of Israel in Gaza than I as a Catholic am accountable for the decisions of government in a predominantly Catholic country or Muslims here are for events in Pakistan or Iran.

While there have been instances of an anti-Semitic nature in Scotland in recent weeks, these have mostly been from what I would call "the online and social media tyranny of stupidity crowd".

But we should never be complacent. If you went to church at the weekend, the biggest hazard might have been the rain. Often at Glasgow's Saturday synagogue services other concerns lead to the Community Security Trust, the Jewish community's dedicated volunteer security teams, standing guard outside religious services and Jewish events. As schools start back this week, it is unsettling to remember that Scotland's only Jewish school has often had to have similar patrols at its school gates.

With the horrible events in the Middle East, a tiny minority of anti-Israeli government sentiment takes on an air of anti-semitism. Like many people in Scotland, I'm not a supporter of the Israeli government and am desperate for a meaningful process that leads to the creation of an independent, democratic and viable Palestine.

It is crucial to be clear that being critical of Israel does not make you in any sense an anti-semite, any more than zionism equals racism.

One of the great strengths in our democracy is that we can argue passionately about the Middle East. With that freedom comes responsibility and we should speak out when some go beyond criticism of Israel into the entirely darker sphere of anti-semitism.

The Jew of the anti-semites' destructive imagination is simultaneously weak and inferior while also being all powerful. Perhaps uniquely, Jews have an alter image of being omnipotent and all powerful. And there always appears to be a utilitarian purpose for theories of anti-semitism. They have been blamed for many major European wars including the Napoleonic, First and Second World Wars. During the Boer War, some accused the Government of pandering to Jewish gold mine owners in South Africa. During the Russian civil war, Jews were interchangeably portrayed as being behind both the revolution and counter revolutionary forces.

But what is different about anti-semitism is that is has both predated and outlived many, if not all, other reactionary instincts. There are, of course, divergent philosophies that attempt to legitimise anti-semitism. Partly it is the tangible hatred of "the other". Every society has its "other"; the visibly, culturally, ethnically or religiously different individuals or communities that help a society form its own identity. For long periods in Europe the Jews were the only substantial "other".

But this is a twisted logic because, as we know, if our identity is formed by what we are not, it is a weak and fragile one. The Jewish community, sometimes discarded from societies as a "pollutant and contaminator", understands only too well the destructive power of the myth of the "other". Education is an important way to challenge this but in itself it is not sufficient. It can help undermine any mass movement based on anti-semitism. But we should remember that some of the most visceral anti-semites have also been amongst the most educated.

All good people had expected that anti-semitism that reached its catastrophic nadir at the "Arbeit macht frei" gates would also end there. After all, how could a sentiment that led to such industrialised mass murder survive?

But it has. Education, tolerance and perpetual vigilance are the antidote. Many Jewish constituents have been in touch with me in recent days. It shouldn't be left to Jews to speak out against the existence of anti-semitism in our midst. It is all of our human and democratic responsibility, no matter our faith and regardless of our views about the Middle East, to renew our opposition to the world's oldest hatred.

Contextual targeting label: 
Block list

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

254207