British Jews should not be expected to answer for the Israeli government’s actions
I should not be made to feel responsible for the Israeli government because I am a Zionist and want a Jewish state to exist.
There is very little that I have in common with Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact, the only thing we share is our religion: we are both Jewish. So why do I find myself answering for the actions of a man whose country I do not live in, whom I did not elect and whom I do not agree with on almost every issue?
During the escalation of tensions between Israel and Hamas over the past two weeks, the attention has turned to our own soil with British Jews facing not only questions about the behaviour of the Israeli government and even the existence of a Jewish state, but targeted attacks in public.
Antisemitic incidents have skyrocketed by 438 per cent since hostilities erupted on May 6, according to the Community Service Trust. We saw a convoy of cars drive through north London this weekend, flying Palestinian flags while shouting from loudspeakers that Jewish daughters, of which I am one, should be raped. This is simply antisemitic abuse; it does nothing to help the Palestinian cause.
Certain universities have been reluctant to adopt the internationally accepted IHRA definition of antisemitism that would protect Jewish students from attacks
A number of university Jewish societies have also seen increased reports of antisemitism, including death threats sent to Jewish students on campus, with one incident at University College London depicting an image of a Jewish student photoshopped under a guillotine. And yet certain universities have been reluctant to adopt the internationally accepted IHRA definition of antisemitism that would protect Jewish students from such attacks, with UCL’s own academic board voting to reject the definition in February and calling on the university to retract and replace it.
In fact, 48 of 133 universities are still yet to formally adopt the IHRA definition, according to the Union of Jewish Students. Even the National Union of Students was forced to apologise for a statement they issued which almost blamed Israel for antisemitic incidents on campuses across the UK. The statement read: ‘We are deeply concerned to hear of a spike in antisemitism on campuses as a result of Israeli forces’ violent attacks on Palestinians.’
I am very pleased that people in Britain feel so passionately for the Palestinian cause, because I for one cannot wait for the day when we have peace between Israel and Palestine. I just wish it did not spark such hatred towards a single religion. That is about as much as I will share about my opinions of the conflict itself, not only because I doubt I would be able to concise it into one article, but because as a British Jew I should not be expected or pressurised to say anymore.
What I can speak to, and what I do have experience of however, is the clear lack of understanding of antisemitism, Zionism and the current conflict. I should not be made to feel responsible for the Israeli government because I am a Zionist and want a Jewish state to exist. When I see people saying that all Zionists are akin to the devil as they must support the conflict, I obviously want to challenge these statements. But when it comes down to a topic that so many with so little knowledge want to argue about, or at least profess their own opinions, it is usually not worth the potential abuse it brings.
This is because a number of people appear to be getting their information from damaging infographics shared on social media that say British Jews have the personal responsibility to speak out to disown the state of Israel. These infographics, which try to condense a decades long conflict into a few photo on Instagram, appear to primarily be shared by other young people.
The pressure and guilt that myself and fellow young British Jews have felt seeing these messages be spread so widely and without a second thought, speaking on behalf of all Jewish people and attacking us for not sharing our own opinions, should not be underestimated.
You would not ask Muslims to apologise for Hamas (a terrorist group) or even the Palestinian Authority – and rightly so. So why are British Jews expected to answer for the Israeli government’s behaviour?