Israel: Anti-Semitism today

Battle of Ideas festival 2023, Saturday 28 October, Church House, London


It wasn’t so long ago that the slaughter of over 1,300 Jews – by a Hamas assault on southern Israel – would have been unthinkable. If that’s not bad enough, a significant number of individuals worldwide seem to be justifying Hamas’s attacks. These are, in the words of one commentator, regarded as ‘excusable pogroms’. The once popular cry of ‘never again’ is sounding increasingly hollow.

Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group based in Gaza, has never made its intention to slaughter Jews secret. On the contrary, it is openly stated in its 1988 charter. Yet all too many in the West, particularly among the left and anti-Israel activists, seem blind to this fact. Either they do not care or they find it acceptable.

Meanwhile, members of the Jewish community live in fear of attacks. Some Jewish schools have decided to close temporarily or have advised pupils not to wear blazers with school badges while travelling to and from school.

What is to be made of the return of what some call the ‘oldest hatred’? Anti-Semitism seemed to be a marginal force after the horrors of the Second World War. Now, at least in some sections of society, it seems to be an acceptable form of ‘progressive’ criticism of Israel as a uniquely evil apartheid state, colonialist, imperialist and racist. And when some Muslims living in the West express such views, the identitarian left looks the other way. In fact, many on the left nowadays increasingly present Jews as bastions of white privilege, only prosperous by exploitation. Does this outlook rehabilitate old notions of Jewish conspiratorial power?

How can we explain the open expression of anti-Semitism on the streets of London and other Western countries? Should the UK emulate France’s ban of pro-Palestine demos or do such illiberal responses fuel anti-Israel, indeed anti-Jewish sentiment? How do those with genuine criticisms of Israel express their qualms at present or is it unthinkable in the wake of Hamas butchery – an issue for another day? How could anti-Semitism, an ideology that appeared to have been marginalised, come to reassert itself? And why is it those who consider themselves the most enlightened who are often the worst culprits?

Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist; creator, Radicalism of Fools; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Professor Frank Furedi
sociologist and social commentator; executive director, MCC Brussels; author, 100 Years of Identity Crisis: culture war over socialisation

Josh Howie
comedian; writer and star, Josh Howie’s Losing It, BBC Radio 4; actor, Hapless; television critic, Jewish Chronicle

Charlie Peters
reporter and presenter, GB News

Jean Smith
member, Tackling Antisemitism; co-founder and director, NY Salon