Today, Israel and Gaza enjoyed the first day of the new three-day truce. As the stuttering talks and posturing in Cairo continues everyone is hoping for a more long-term cessation of hostilities.
George Galloway’s (yimach sh’mo) declaring Bradford an Israeli-free zone has caught the British-Israelis attention here. A suitable response by Israelis in the UK and British Jewish supporters posting images on Facebook and Twitter of their raising the Israeli flag in central Bradford caused some pride and amusement.
The positive response to this from many Bradfordians demonstrates, perhaps, more frustration with Galloway’s track record of supporting dictators and Islamists rather than concentrating on his duties as an MP.
I have a suspicion that many of those giving thumbs up to the Israeli flag do so for Islamphobic reasons rather than philosemitic. However, the Yorkshire Post op-ed slammed Galloway and said that everyone is welcome to Bradford. Galloway is not good for tourism. Other reports say that there has been a huge demand by Israelis and Jews for Bradford Tourist Board information.
Sitting here in Israel, we definitely feel safer, less stressed and more relaxed than in the UK where we are fed a rising tide of latent antisemitism and unbelievable pro-Islamist chic masquerading as support for Gaza. Coupled with this a virulently one-sided press reporting of the Gaza conflict is making life increasingly uneasy for British Jews.
In the UK Jews can no longer feel comfortable walking around with overtly Jewish dress, walking to and from synagogue, wearing – Magen David (Star of David), expressing support for Israel.
Board of Deputies vice-President, Laura Marks, with whom I had the honour of sharing a platform at Manchester Limmud in February, is also here in Israel and in a recent article also describes how much more relaxed she feels here than in the UK, and this from someone who is peerless in her involvement in interfaith work and promoting Jewish values in the UK.
Other prominent Jews also express this sense of unease, including Jewish Chronicle editor, Stephen Pollard.
Jews in the UK and Europe have coped for decades with casual antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Although unpleasant, it rarely affects whole communities.
Unfortunately, it has to be said that the current fears come for a steep rise in an apparent tolerance of Islamist and even mainstream Muslim antisemitism, which is almost always indistinguishable from anti-Zionism.
Jews feel outnumbered. They feel accused and victimised for the policies of a foreign government in a way that Muslims rarely are and Christians never.
They feel that when the Isis, Hamas and Hizbollah flags can be flown and displayed with impunity on the streets of Britain, when ‘political’ demonstrations against Israel’s actions against Hamas in Gaza are peppered with banners comparing Israel to Nazis and overt antisemitism, when these same rallies are supported by mainstream politicians from all parties, then, maybe, their time in the UK and Europe is approaching its end.
Jews are great students of history. They need to be. Down the centuries they have been a settled minority in many civilisations, all of which have, eventually, murdered, expelled, forcibly converted, economically attacked or curtailed their human and civil rights.
We have been labouring under an illusion, it seems. That illusion is that we have been accepted, our contribution honoured, our rights guaranteed, and if we wish to support Israel, that support will not be seen as disloyalty but a natural affinity, and part of our religious and cultural identity.
For some time that identity has been attacked: all over Europe the fundamental tenets of our faith and cultural foundations such as Shechita (animal slaughter) and Brit Milah (circumcision) are subject to legal challenge; areas where we find common cause with Muslims.
But the greatest attack of all is reserved for Israel and Zionism.
It seems that the world forgets why Israel was so necessary in the first place. Antisemitism in Europe is driving thousands of Jews out of the countries of their birth to make ‘aliyah’ to Israel, the very place that is the excuse for and focus of those attacks.
It is a splendid irony that the safe haven of Europe is regarded as less safe than a country surrounded by enemies, or unstable regimes, most of whose citizens would consider Jew-murder a religious imperative.
So whilst in Israel I can enjoy an alternative perspective. I can see the UK and Europe with Israeli eyes and it is not an edifying experience.
Soon I shall be returning to the maelstrom that is Europe. There is a war there for hearts and minds and the Jews are at the epicentre as they were 80 years ago.