The ‘new’ or ‘post-modern’ antisemitism is not a phenomenon easily addressed in a world looking for simple certaintieswith which to counter increasing complexity. Antisemitism is the oldest hatred, but it was only in 2004 that Europe’s racism monitoring centre came up with the working definition used today: Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
Today the issue of antisemitism has slightly fallen off the radar. Islamaphobia has become more ‘fashionable’, if that is the right phrase. The effectiveness of Holocaust education in schools means that new generations are growing up aware as never before of the implications of such prejudice. Out there on my ‘beat’ as Time religion correspondent, at dinner parties, over coffee, I increasingly encounter the view that antisemitism is no longer the ‘problem’ it was. ‘It is time for the Jews to move on,’ an acquaintance told me recently. If only it were that simple!
In fact the problem is in some respects as bad as it has ever been. But it is more complicated and, as a result potentially more dangerous. The latest rise in antisemitism is connected to the conflict in Gaza. But even in the last months of this year, the average number of incidents being reported has been higher than usual.
Anti-Zionists defend their stance with well-known arguments and it would be unreasonable to argue that all, or even any anti-Zionists, are antisemites. A few are themselves Jewish. The problem is that anti-Zionism can feed into strands of innate antisemitism in society where they might still exist, even in our post-Holocaust world, and hence the upwards blip in attacks whenever Israelc omes in for strong criticism in the news.
Irish people were not targeted in Britain when the IRA was rampantly terrorist. Russians are not targeted here when Russia is in the news for controversial action in Chechnya. People of Chinese ancestry are not beaten up each time the Chinese government moves to crush dissent. Muslim friends of mine do, however, find themselves harrassed in a number of ways after controversial events abroad, sometimes to the point where they are afraid to leave their homes. Racism has to be resisted, under whatever guise it appears. It is a matter of basic human rights that Jewish people in Britain, be not held to account for actions committed in a conflict overseas. Equally, Jewish people like everyone else have the right to hold any view they wish about the conflict in Israel, and even if they support Israel and identify completely with Israel as a state, they have the right to take that position without being assaulted for it.
Really what we have today is not a ‘new’ antisemitism, so called by the Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks. It is the old antisemitism, back in a new form. As CST’s Mark Gardner says: It is different. It is more complicated. It is postmodern.’