I FIRST encountered the plague of anti-Semitism currently disfiguring the UK in a letter that a Jewish friend had shared with me.

Only a few days previously, Hamas savages had raped, tortured and slaughtered 1200 mainly Jewish people at the Re’im music festival in southern Israel and at villages adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The letter - from a Glaswegian chum – expressed sorrow that, for the first time in her life, she was afraid to wear anything identifying her as Jewish. Others had begun speaking about packing up their belongings, selling their properties and moving to Israel.

Like many other Jewish people from around the world who have made their home in Israel they were beginning to think that perhaps, after all, this was indeed the only place on Earth where they could live openly as Jews free from harassment and hate. My initial reaction was one of profound sadness that Glasgow, my beloved city, could be host to such sentiments and that our Jewish community felt unsafe here.

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My later reaction was a complacent one: that the rise of raw, implacable, Jew-hatred could never occur again because, well, you know … the Holocaust, the Nazis the swastika and the jackboot. And then there were all those warning signs my parents had once flagged up: the racist tropes and jokes about Jews; the ancient blood libels and all those other historic calumnies hurled at this people that insinuate themselves clandestinely into otherwise unremarkable conversations.

I remember my dad giving me an early version of a trigger warning when I told him we were reading The Merchant of Venice in our 2nd Year English class. It was the first time I’d been made aware of how old hatred of Jews was and the principal reasons for it. And that much of it was rooted in the Catholic Church and avaricious kings and princes seeking to divert attention while they were all robbing their own people blind. It’s been four months since Hamas’s unprovoked slaughter of the Jewish innocents, the worst atrocity this people had suffered since the Holocaust. In that time the rise in anti-Jewish sentiment amounting to outright hatred has been sickening to witness. In my liberal, hand-wringing complacency I’d thought this evil had been vanquished. Instead, it appears only to have been dormant, waiting patiently for the right opportunity.

In this case the right circumstances have been provided by justifiable anger at the Israeli Government’s reprisals in Gaza. And of course, it’s legitimate to ask if the sheer scale of devastation and human suffering of innocent Palestinians can ever be justified by what happened on October 7.

We now know that Hamas - under the benevolent gaze of the UN - was spending millions constructing the world’s largest underground city. And that this was partly being deployed to turn their own people into human shields and to provide the cowards of the Hamas leadership with a degree of comfort and luxury. Yet, not even this, I think, justifies the scale of the suffering wrought by Israel’s bombardment.

And certainly, as George Galloway pointed out last week when I interviewed him, in a liberal democracy you must be free to criticise the state of Israel and its historic conduct in the region without being accused of anti-Semitism. Mr Galloway already has a High Court judgement in his favour over false accusations of anti-Semitism. He also pointed to the implicit dangers in making false accusations of anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism is real,” he said. “And the danger in calling anyone anti-Semitic who condemns some of Israel’s actions is that you end up giving a pass to the real anti-Semites who can crawl under the fence. I love Judaism and the Holy Books, but I hate the political ideology of Zionism, a political construct that failed. The Zionist construct of Israel has no more right to exist that any other political construct. I’d rebrand the entire territory The Holy Land and have one state between the river and the sea with equality for all.”

Some have interpreted this as denying Israel the right to exist. Others would claim that any solution guaranteeing the safety and aspirations of all peoples in this region is a noble one. My own view is that as Jews have historically been kicked out of many of the states that surround Israel, Mr Galloway’s land of milk and honey solution is a fantasy, though not anti-Semitic.

But where Mr Galloway has merely been uncompromising many others have undeniably expressed outright hatred of Jews, and on an almost weekly basis. In the last few days the Star of David necklace on the statue of Amy Winehouse - representing her religion - has been defaced by a pro-Palestinian sticker. A LibDem councillor in Yorkshire has described Jews as “evil”, “vile” and “a disgrace to the world”. A Conservative mayor in England has been expelled from the party for suggesting that Jews were responsible for killing Jesus. This old libel has been kicking around for 1500 years.

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Research by Jewish community groups shows that 2024 is already the worst on record for anti-Semitism in the UK. This is manifest in steep rises in recorded assaults; damage to property and threats and hostility targeting Jewish school pupils and university students. The volunteers on the Glasgow Friends of Israel stall which has operated peacefully in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street for several years have recently encountered outright hatred being spat in their faces and an elderly Christian sympathiser knocked to the ground.

It’s now become commonplace for Jews to be publicly accused of “weaponising the Holocaust” simply for pointing out these numbers. If that’s not anti-Semitism then it occupies the same territory. The centre of Glasgow has become a no-go area for Jewish people as thousands of people expressing hatred for Israel have become a routine occurrence.

These marches of themselves may not reach the anti-Semitism threshold but Jews feel that they create a hostile environment where it didn’t previously exist. Unconscionably, at no time during these last few months has there been any profound sorrow expressed for the fate of the hostages still held by Hamas or for the barbaric slaughter of their friends. In time, I pray that the peoples of the Middle East can find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Gaza. And that there can eventually be a real and lasting ceasefire.

In Britain meanwhile, the ancient and almost supernatural evil of anti-Semitism is now abroad and evident at all levels of society. Until we cleanse this land of it we do not deserve to be called decent or civilised.