You People

It’s been a while since I posted and for any of you that have missed me – apologies but there’s been a bit of a drought chez moi! Its the get- up- and- go thing that has got- up -and -gone. Leaving my head somewhat empty of ideas. But when I heard one of my close friends recount a recent experience I was drawn back to Serendipity

It’s a while since I have heard the expression ‘you people’ but I guess it’s not surprising in the current climate. Recently a girlfriend interviewed an eminent retired journalist from a well know broad sheet and not a right wing one – who in answer to one of her questions said “Well you people don’t want to spend your money ”.  Of course ‘you people’ could mean lots of different things but in this particular instance it was immediately understood what he meant by ‘you people’. Perhaps the give away was ‘don’t want to spend your money’.

My friend was stunned firstly by the seemingly unprovoked attack and also at how easily it slipped from his lips – without any forethought.   He, of course, realized immediately he had said the wrong thing. But here’s the thing, anti-Semitism is just bubbling underneath the surface and right now and with the anti-Israel feeling running high anti-Semites feel they have a free get out of jail card. And if even this so-called well educated, respected journalist can express such bigotry well…. I wish I could name and shame him – but I won’t.

Am I scared by the rise in anti-Semitism? Am I thinking I might leave the country? No this is not Germany in the 30’s and I don’t believe the government here – or in fact any British government would allow the rise of anti-Semitism?  But I do think it is time that we all shout out.  Keeping our heads down and hoping it will disappear is not enough. Silence is violence and just like the Black Life Matters which I have support 100% so do Jewish Lives Matter.  Would this journalist have said to a black person ‘you people’ and had he done so I doubt I would be writing this anonymously. But somehow it is deemed acceptable to make Jewish jibes.

I have never really understood why people dislike Jews – maybe they have met one Jew they did not like, or had a bad experience in the work place with a person who was Jewish but we are not a homogenous race.  Like any group of people there are good and bad. Unlike David Baddiel, I do not see myself as an ethnic group.    I always describe myself as British and my religion albeit not practicing Jewish.  Like those who are British Christians, British Catholics, British Muslims etc.  

Of course, anti-Semitism in the UK is not new I suppose I had just hoped that we have become better educated. At school in the fifties, I was the only Jewish person in my school and because my mother thought I should not attend morning assembly; I was an oddity. It was not long after the war and there was a feeling among some people that if it had not been for the Jews there would not have been a war. And there were teachers made it quite clear that they didn’t like Jews.

  Sitting at the back of the class during religious instruction I felt that I personally was responsible for the death of Jesus. And the way it was taught so did my fellow pupils.   Fortunately, in my adult life I have not experienced much anti-Semitism.  My mother, who didn’t look Jewish always said work colleagues would make anti Semitic remarks in front of her not knowing her identity. It made her afraid and when my father died, she decided to take the ‘i’ out our surname on her letterbox as it looked too Jewish and she felt vulnerable.

Recently I met with a Syrian refugee who when recounting his arduous journey to the UK explained that once he was here, he had to learn and understand the cultural differences between his homeland and the UK. So he educated himself.

“Before I left Syria I had very strange views about women’s rights and Jewish people. It was the culture of my country and upbringing but through education I have learnt to see women in a different light and that Jewish people are not bad. Learning is easy unlearning difficult. Nobody is born a racist – but one learns this. “

I realize that the latest outburst of anti-Semitism has much to do with Israel and the recent conflict and this is not something that I want to go into right now.  This post is not about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This is about anti-Semitic behaviour in the UK.  When my friend recounted her experience with this journalist, I was shocked that an educated man could glibly make these remarks.  So, my request is that we all call it out.  Wanting to free Palestine is not an excuse for anti-Semitism.    Don’t let casual remarks such as ‘you people’ be allowed to circulate.  We all have a duty to ensure that bigotry is stamped out before it gets out of hand.