Whilst most people in Britain are not prejudiced towards Jews, anti-Semitism is not taken seriously
It is not surprising to me that just this week London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone won his High Court appeal against a finding that he brought his office into disrepute when he likened a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard.
In March of 2004 Riaz Burahee, who described himself as a Muslim with strong religious beliefs, called me at my Synagogue in North London cursing Jews in the most denigrating and anti-Semitic manner possible. He asserted that he had placed a bomb in the Synagogue and it was about to blow up. A few minutes later he called again with a similarly hate filled routine.
It turned out that this anti-Semitic bigot called many Jewish institutions in London giving the same hateful message to all of them. Thanks to the combined efforts of the police and the Jewish Community Security Trust he was finally caught and the case went to trial in April 2005.
Amazingly however, the judge allowed Mr. Burahee to walk free. The defendant claimed mental illness and was sentenced to a three-year community rehabilitation order conditional to receiving further psychiatric treatment. I was stunned.
Even if he was suffering from mental illness it is inconceivable that a person who had committed such hateful crimes against others was able to walk free. He caused distress to many people, including members of my immediate family. He made hoax bomb threats targeted towards Jews.
I saw that whilst most people in Britain are not prejudiced towards Jews, anti-Semitism is not taken seriously and may even be tolerated by the British establishment.
Out of the frying pan into the fire
But things have become worse since then. We now have a Conservative Member of Parliament, Andrew Turner, who earlier this month made a statement in the Houses of Parliament comparing Israel to the Nazis. Although he has since apologized for this, the MP would never have made this comment had he not thought that his words would be acceptable.
Equally shocking are the blatantly anti-Semitic statements made recently by Liberal Democrat Baroness Tonge, who last year was elevated to the British House of Lords despite saying just a year earlier that if she was a Palestinian, she would consider becoming a suicide bomber.
At a fringe meeting of the Liberal Democrat conference last month she said, “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they have probably got a certain grip on our party."
Although the leader of the Liberal Democrat party, Sir Menzies Campbell, has distanced the party from the "clear anti-Semitic connotations" in her recent comments the fact that she was made a member of the Hose of Lords after suggesting that she would be prepared to blow up Jewish women and children is simply staggering.
In addition, the recent invitation to speak to students offered to the virulently anti-Israeli (and according to many observers anti-Semitic) MP George Galloway by some of London’s top private schools is further evidence that anti-Semitism is tolerated, or at least not taken seriously enough, by the British establishment.
I shudder to think what kind of message this disturbing and ongoing trend sends to other Jew-haters. This concern was certainly a factor influencing my family’s decision to move away from the UK.
However, it seems that Anglo Jewry as a whole is not fully engaged with this problem. If British Jews do not collectively wake up and engender significant change in the attitude the British establishment takes towards anti-Semitism and its derivatives, their future may well, God forbid, end up similar to that of the current state of French Jewry.