Virulent new strain of anti-Semitism rife in UK, says Chief Rabbi

From The Times (U.K]
June 20, 2009

Britain is in the grip of a "virulent" new strain of anti-Semitism, according to the Chief Rabbi. Sir Jonathan Sacks told The Times in an interview that in January the number of anti-Semitic incidents reached the highest level since records began.

Jews have been physically attacked, schools targeted and cemeteries desecrated.

"I was in the synagogue a few months ago when one of the members came in visibly shaken: somebody had just shouted at him, "˜It’s a pity Hitler didn’t finish the job’," the Chief Rabbi said.

Although the new "mutation" was different from the anti-Semitism promoted by Hitler, it was dangerous because it was international, he said. "The internet means that we no longer have national cultures; we have global cultures and the new anti-Semitism is very much a phenomenon of the global culture."

Whereas in the past, hatred was focused against Judaism as a religion or Jews as a race, the focus this time was on Jews as a nation. The rise in the number of attacks in January took place at the same time as Israel’s assault on Hamas in Gaza.

"It begins as anti-Zionism "” but it is never merely anti-Zionism when it attacks synagogues or Jewish schools," Sir Jonathan said. "In the post-Holocaust world the single greatest source of authority is human rights "” therefore the new anti-Semitism is constructed in the language of human rights."

In a new book, Future Tense, he describes a "virulent new strain of anti-Semitism". A worrying alliance had developed between radical Islamists and anti-globalisation protesters, he said.

The UN had also fanned the flames. At the World Conference against Racism in Durban in 2001, he said, "Israel was accused of the five cardinal sins against human rights "” racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and attempted genocide. So the old myths are recycled they are alive and well but they are done in a new kind of vocabulary."

The media should also be more careful in coverage of the Middle East: "I do think too little of the history has been set out and people don’t really understand what’s at stake, so the Jewish community has felt quite vulnerable because of that."

Asked whether he thought the BBC had shown anti-Israeli bias, he replied: "No comment."

Sir Jonathan said that the mood had changed after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001. His daughter, who at the time was studying at the London School of Economics, "had gone to an anti-globalisation rally which quickly turned into a diatribe against Israel and Jews. She came home weeping and said, "˜Dad they hate us’. I never expected that to happen in the 21st century," he said.

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