There are times in life when you cannot believe what you are hearing on TV or on the radio and you want to shout at the person how wrong they are. Unfortunately, it is an occurrence that is happening more and more as the political and academic spheres in this country moves closer towards embracing anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist views.
However, today it reached a new low with the James O’Brien talk show on LBC. I did try and call to remonstrate with him – but unfortunately was not able to get through. He told his listeners that he was going to have a discussion on anti-Semitism. I was very heartened by this and even more so when he started speaking about recent events and the disgrace of Ken Livingstone and David Ward. Finally a good discussion about how an ancient hatred has been reborn and how we are now realizing that a vitriolic hatred of Israel has a name – and that name is anti-Semitism.
That is not what happened
O’Brien gave us a theory, a preposterous, dangerous theory which was nothing to do with the current global rise in anti-Semitism and everything to do with attacking Israel in a new way.
Let me explain
O’Brien began by detailing quite correctly the history of anti-Semitism and how we have been the most persecuted nation for millennia, persecuted for over 2000 years. He then moved onto saying that the creation of Israel post holocaust was finally a place we could go to in order to escape persecution and hatred.
Still in agreement
Then it went pear shaped. He told his listeners that this is the reason why Jewish people cannot see anything wrong with the State of Israel, why they ‘switch off their moral compass’ and cannot see the occupation, the barbarism etc. At this point I called in and told the receptionist that I strongly disagreed with James and as the CEO of Mizrachi who represents Religious Zionism here in the UK – I wanted to have a chance to refute his claims.
No such luck, but at least Gideon Falter, the chair of the campaign against anti-Semitism spoke powerfully about the simple fact that Jews do criticize Israel and are rightly appalled by any crimes done by Israelis towards anyone, but the real problem is those who call for Israel destruction on our campuses and in the media – that is the new anti-Semitism.
As Rabbi Sacks powerfully stated in his recent YouTube clip ‘The Mutation of Antisemitism’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UAcYn4uUbs
So, what is anti-Semitism? Let’s be clear – not liking people because they’re different isn’t anti-Semitism. It’s xenophobia. Criticizing Israel isn’t anti-Semitism: it’s part of the democratic process, and Israel is a democracy. Anti-Semitism is something much more dangerous – it means persecuting Jews and denying them the right to exist collectively as Jews with the same rights as everyone else.
It’s a prejudice that like a virus, has survived over time by mutating. So, in the Middle Ages, Jews were persecuted because of their religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries they were reviled because of their race.
Today, Jews are attacked because of the existence of their nation state, Israel. Denying Israel’s right to exist is the new anti-Semitism.
When the media such as James O’Brien turn the serious issue of anti-Semitism into another attempt to smear the State of Israel and to completely ignore the actual problem growing due to BDS and other nefarious groups, we are concerned.
We find ourselves this Shabbat at the halfway point of two seminal Jewish events. Yom HaShoah last Monday and Yom HaAtzmaut this Monday. Two events that took place within 3 years of each other, two events that detail a journey ‘mitzara lirvacha um’afaila l’orah umishibud lig’ulah’ ‘from distress to comfort, from darkness to light, and from subjection to redemption’.
This Monday our thanks to Hashem will know no bounds as over 1000 of us will sing Hallel at Kinloss with Bnei Akiva as we realise and thank God for the miracle of our return. I wish James O’Brien could come and see that our elation of our return to our ancestral homeland does not mean we are blind to the imperfections of the State of Israel or blind to the vitriolic hatred of our enemies. Therefore, we are determined to make sure that evil does not triumph which means standing up against the true enemies of freedom who demonize the state and its citizens.
You want to truly understand our story, truly understand anti-Semitism – just look back to seder night and ‘vehi sheamda’ – ’Ela sheb’chol dor vador, omdim aleinu le’chaloteinu.Vehakadosh baruch hu matzileinu miyadam’. But that in each generation there are those standing up against us to destroy us. But the Holy One Blessed Be He saves us from their hand.
He did it then, He will do it now – we thank Him on Monday night but we realise there is still a journey to go, the final geula is within touching distance and we have many enemies who will try to stop us. Some of those enemies are obvious and open, others are more cunning and sly and others if only they knew the truth would turn from their opinions and embrace the only democracy in the Middle East.
I hope James O’Brien is the latter.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach
P.S If you really want to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut in the full way then:
1. A) Join us Monday night 7:30pm at Kinloss with Bnei Akiva
2. b) Join us Tuesday lunchtime in Town with Rabbi Benji Levene – https://www.mizrachi.org.uk/events/yh/
3. c) Join us Sunday week for the amazing Day of Inspiration at Kinloss – https://www.mizrachi.org.uk/events/doi/