There has been much unease recently amongst British Jews about our major cities, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, being no-go areas on Saturdays because of the protests calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and justice for the Palestinians, often tempered with the call for some kind of hostage swap, dependent on the ceasefire. British politicians and indeed government have fanned these fears by calling these demonstrations anti-Semitic, extremist and race hate.

As a Scottish, Glaswegian Jew I find this Jewish fear of our cities strange as I’ve been on almost every march, sometimes as part of a Jewish bloc, comprising mainly of Jews under a loose heading of "Scottish Jews stand with Palestine" and found no hostility whatsoever towards me or indeed towards any Jewish people. I’m a Jewish socialist in favour of Palestinian rights, so might not be objective in this - they would welcome me; but many Jews on the marches are from a liberal Jewish synagogue tradition and whilst I can’t speak for all, those whom I have conversed with feel the same. It would be naive to think that there is no anti-Semitism, but it is rare, not ubiquitous. Unless of course your definition of anti-Semitism and hatred to the Jews is confused with opposition to Israel, whose actions for many on the march are seen as genocidal, certainly in language but also in practice.

Let me give one example. As thousands parade through Glasgow, the march passes by the Confederation of Friends of Israel stall, often as close as about 20 metres. There are few police about. There is no vilification, nor assaults on the stall. If you consider chants of "ceasefire now" or "Free Palestine" or "From the river to the sea" to be anti-Semitic and personally offensive, then you might be discomfited. If, however, like 75% of the British population you agree with a ceasefire - and many Jews do too - you might be more discomfited by what we witness happening in Gaza before our eyes and, at the very least, the language from Israeli government ministers. This is the offence to humanity, not the chanting of the demonstrators.

And this it seems to me to be the real problem. Palestine supporters and the left are seen to be the main perpetrators of anti-Semitism, whilst the far right who peddle a hugely dangerous theory of "replacement", a viciously anti-Semitic trope of Jews undermining white Christian Europe, are trumpeted as being friends of Jews. Why? Because the far right supports Israel; this has become the test of anti-Semitism and it is dangerous.

I would urge my Jewish friends and neighbours who are fearful of the city centre to come in and see for themselves the peaceful nature of the demos. You may not like some of the slogans but that is not dangerous anti-Semitism. There are demonstrations in Tel Aviv calling for a ceasefire too. And, some of the official language coming out of Israel about the Palestinians being "human animals" should worry us more. They are horribly reminiscent of the worst time in our Jewish and world history.

 Henry Maitles is Emeritus Professor of Education, University of the West of Scotland

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