In the wake of terror: anti-Semitism today

Buxton Battle of Ideas festival 2023, Saturday 25 November, Devonshire Dome, Buxton


The first weekend of October was the darkest in Israel’s history. A murderous Hamas attack on southern Israel killed at least 1,400 and wounded about 3,000. Over 200 were captured and taken to Gaza.

If the barbaric slaughter was not bad enough, many have sought to justify Hamas’ attacks. Significant numbers at protests across the Western world have shown open support for Hamas – an organisation that makes no secret of its intention to kill Jews.

Meanwhile, Jews across Europe 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. Weekly protests have caused alarm at the vociferous nature of some of the chants. Posters depicting hostages are frequently torn down. Students in elite universities take sides against Israel.

Yet many complain that any criticism of Israel’s actions is being shut down by the complaint of anti-Semitism. While many criticisms of Israel do seem to slide into anti-Semitic territory, how do we avoid the weaponisation of the term?

What explains 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 in the wake of Hamas’ butchery, is that an issue for another day? How could anti-Semitism, an ideology that many considered had been consigned to the past, come to reassert itself?

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

Ike Ijeh
author; architect; founder, London Architecture Walks; founding signatory, Don’t Divide Us

Lesley Klaff
senior lecturer in Law; editor-in-chief, Journal of Contemporary Antisemitism

Stephen Knight
reporter and podcaster; host, The Knight Tube

Jacob Reynolds
head of policy, MCC Brussels; associate fellow, Academy of Ideas