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Anglo-Jewry’s Social Revolution by Natalie Wood
Israel’s recent campaign in Gaza has highlighted not only an unprecedented surge in modern global antisemitism but a seismic shift within Anglo-Jewish politics.
As if out of nowhere, ordinary members of the community have seized the new democracy afforded by the Internet to organise pro-Israel, anti-Jewish-hate demonstrations in areas of London and Manchester densely populated by Jewish people.
The backlash follows their weary frustration with the slow, silent, covert tactics favoured by generations of established leaders working in the mould shaped by leisured grandees from an earlier age.
It is no surprise that those fronting the current social revolution include the child of a successful provincial Jewish politician. The spirit of public service surely courses through her veins. But most of her colleagues, for example those living in Manchester, are ordinary citizens spurred to action by the menacing anti-Israel – really anti-Jewish – demonstrations being held regularly in the city-centre. These continue even as I write.
The Manchester-based grass roots activists have now experienced many months of often ugly confrontation at Kedem, an Israeli-owned cosmetics shop and also at the city’s main branch of the international retailer, Marks and Spencer, which is a prime target because the company (whose founders were famous early modern Zionists) still has strong links with Israel.
Although not Manchester-born, I lived and worked there for many years before emigrating to Israel. Now, from the vantage point of objective distance, I fear that the campaigners’ over-simplification of the problems they face could end in disaster.
I appreciate that they are mostly mature adults, not naive youngsters and I agree that their ‘robust but restrained’ form of counter-protest has most likely won them and Israel many friends.
However they face a hidden danger along with the obvious threat of verbal and physical assault: Their opponents include professional thuggish protestors – the sort who appear at many other politically-motivated and cleverly planned demonstrations that have no reference to Jews or to Israel. Such people are paid handsomely by the extreme left to act as they do – all as part of a long-term concerted plan to break down international law and order.
These are the real villains with whom pro-Israel activists must contend.. They, too, use the immediacy and impact of social networking and they are known to the police. But the law is a tricky place – even for trained lawyers – and there are regular arguments as to whether the British police (mis)use their authority when employing Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 to limit peaceful protests.
Certainly, human and civil rights experts have advised members of Manchester Palestine Action about their rights. But this does not explain satisfactorily, for example, why members of a Community Police patrol present at an anti-Israel demonstration at Marks and Spencer during the summer simply stood inside the premises, doing nothing to stop the protestors. Some of us could not understand their motive as on other occasions, so pro-Israel activists claim, when demonstrators have been placed in restrictive areas or moved on, the courts have upheld the right of the police to do so. Answers to such conundrums are needed.
We may have progressed in technology since 1936 and the infamous Battle of Cable Street, when rank and file members of the Jewish community ignored the request of their leaders to stay away. But the fight for justice, both in Israel and abroad, must continue without cease.