27 January 2022

‘Never again’ rings hollow while antisemitism is still on the rise

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In between constant tweets demanding the return of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour Party, Leeds East MP Richard Burgon found time to mention a Holocaust Memorial Day civic event he’d attended. 

‘We must never forget the horrors carried out and do all we can to ensure they never happen again,’ declared the man whose wing of the Labour Party was condemned for breaking racial equality laws on antisemitism by the EHRC.

I would call that irony, if I wasn’t one of those Zionists who, according to Jeremy Corbyn, have ‘no sense of English irony’ despite living here all my life.

Holocaust Memorial Day has become a big event involving politicians of every hue all around the world. They all sadly intone that ‘never again’ would they allow something as inhumane as the industrial slaughter of 6m Jews (as well as millions from other minority groups) to happen on their watch. And yet many of those same politicians are mired in antisemitism. 

I applaud the work of the people behind Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). I know that the work they do, the incredibly arduous and difficult work that all Holocaust educators do, does make a difference. 

But the sad fact is that even as HMD becomes part of the calendar of remembrance, hatred against Jews is on the rise. Globally, last year was the worst year for antisemitism for a decade, according to one recent report. We certainly felt it here in the UK 

In May, as the conflict between Israel and Gaza dominated the news, the hashtag #HitlerWasRight was trending for 48 hours on Twitter and shared 17,000 times. 

In the last 12 months we’ve seen some well-publicised instances of Jew hatred on our streets with a convoy of men threatening to rape Jewish women and a bus of teenagers celebrating Chanukah in Oxford Street being attacked. The BBC is now being investigated by Ofcom over its reporting that an anti-Muslim slur had been shouted by the cowering Jewish teenagers – a claim for which there was never the slightest evidence.

There have been a record levels of antisemitism on university campuses, the far-right are gathering online to share fantasies of killing Jews, and the anti-vaxxer movement is either minimising the Holocaust by claiming Covid passes are as bad as living in Nazi Germany, or simply blaming Jews for the ‘hoax’. 

In the last few weeks alone we’ve had a British man travel to America to take hostage, at gunpoint, a synagogue congregation because he believed that Jews are all-powerful. Just this week it emerged that one of Britain’s biggest online bookshops was selling the notoriously antisemitic tract The Protocols of the Elders of Zion with a synopsis which said of it: ‘If The Protocols are a forgery, they still form an interesting book’. 

Amid this ceaseless tide of hate, the constant, droning hum of Jeremy Corbyn’s acolytes and allies goy-splaining to British Jews that antisemitism in the Labour Party was just a figment of their imagination.

And the antisemitic incidents I’ve listed are just the stuff that makes the newspapers. Much more goes on under the radar, like my son getting a threatening anonymous phone call telling him, ‘If you are a f*cking Jew you need to watch out.’ 

It’s not just the virulent displays of Jew-hate that are concerning, but the tacit acceptance – even in ‘polite society’ – of deeply damaging antisemitic tropes. Earlier this week barrister and media personality Rob Rinder wrote something which really hit home. ‘It’s the subtle way horror gets going – not with a bang or people screaming hate in broad daylight but with whispered comments everybody else tolerates.’

The same process was explored in BBC4’s brilliant Storyville documentary The Final Account, in which Nazis and their fellow Germans talked about the way they were steeped in antisemitism through the use of words of imagery, and how that meant they shrugged when they saw Jews being burned.

This Holocaust Memorial Day, education has never felt more important. Both children and adults  need to learn that the Holocaust was not a one-off event, but simply the most murderous manifestation of the world’s oldest hatred. They need to learn that antisemitism is all around us – the idea of the rich/ powerful/ greedy/ duplicitous Jew is a trope – and it is one you can find in all echelons of society. 

Only then can we truly claim to know the meaning of the HMD motto of ‘Never Forget’. 

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Nicole Lampert is a freelance journalist.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.