Anti-Semitism is eroding British society

People hold Israeli and British flags during a march against antisemitism
People hold Israeli and British flags during a march against antisemitism
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With every week that passes, more and more people in this country are discovering that it is permissible to exhibit hatred towards Jews. Too often they are getting away with it.

Two weeks ago in a British court Judge Tan Ikram found three women guilty of an offence under the Terrorism Act. The women had attended a pro-Palestinian march with symbols that appeared to celebrate the method by which some Hamas terrorists on October 7 entered Israel to kill and rape as many Jews as they could find. But the Judge did not feel that a conviction of this kind deserved a prison sentence.

A mitigating factor, the Judge said, was that emotions were running “very high on the issue”. It seems from this judgement that it is ok to commit offences in Britain against Jews if you are feeling emotional.

It emerged soon after that Judge Ikram had liked a post on social media that described Israelis as “terrorists”. This rightly raises questions around judicial impartiality.

Our judicial system is not the only profession through which the poison appears to be spreading. Earlier this month, Dr Dimitrios Psaroudakis – who had said that Hammersmith would be better if it was “Jew free” – was found not to be racist but instead to be “comfortable with discriminatory language” by the General Medical Council’s independent tribunal.

So, a man who wanted to rid an area of London of Jewish people was deemed not to be racist. When you hear something like this as a British Jew it is hard to absorb at first. It seems both impossible and yet ever more likely since the October 7 pogrom.

Of course, it is very hard to imagine the tribunal coming to a similar conclusion if the racism had been directed at members of the black or Muslim community.

It appears clear to me that people in positions of power in Britain feel increasingly able to treat Jews very differently when it comes to prejudice and discrimination.

To add salt to this particular wound, Dr Psaroudakis was suspended for a pitiful three months and will be back at work soon. Those who have paid attention to his particular case may well feel emboldened by the signal that when it comes to racism against Jews, the normal rules do not apply.

In other cases, it is intimidation that begins on the streets that is infecting our institutions. Last week, journalist Dan Hodges disclosed that an MP had weighed up his own physical safety when deciding how to vote on the Gaza motion in Parliament.

That this was a serious consideration for an MP tells us that something is now very broken in our society when it comes to anti-Jewish racism. It means that the mob is getting a grip on our democratic process.

This is no exaggeration. It is not an isolated incident. In announcing his decision to stand down as an MP last month, Justice Minister Mike Freer said that he had chosen to do so because of the death threats and intimidation he had faced due to his pro-Israel views.

Mr Freer is not Jewish himself but has voiced strong support for the Jewish community and his constituency of Finchley and Golders Green has a large Jewish population. Things had got so bad for this MP that he wore a stab vest when attending constituency events.

Such is the experience of a democratically elected and honourable man who had spoken up for Jews and the Jewish State.

The poison continues to spread through other institutions too. Jewish schools require security. Synagogues have to be protected. Jewish students feel unsafe on university campuses.

The question of course is what is the antidote? How do we stop this toxicity from spreading further? I believe that the current government is committed to the fight against antisemitism. But more work is needed and fast.

This must become a major government priority right across Whitehall with a heavyweight task force empowered to stop the rot.

It is not just the safety of the Jewish community that is at stake. Nothing less than the British values of tolerance, respect and fairness are now at risk.

Danny Cohen was the director of BBC Television

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