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Christians and Jews warn of growing anti-Semitism

02 November 2006

ON HOLOCAUST Memorial Day, Christian and Jewish leaders said that anti-Semitism was resurfacing in Britain. A statement on Tuesday by the seven presidents of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) reinforced their warning last month that anti-Semitism was growing faster that at any time “since the dark days of World War II”.

The presidents, who include the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, and the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, described anti-Semitism as “abhorrent”. “It is an attempt to dehumanise a part of humanity by making it a scapegoat for shared ills,” they said. They pledged themselves to combat all forms of racism, prejudice and xenophobia.

The CCJ statement also “acknowledged that criticism of government policy in Israel, as elsewhere, is a legitimate part of a democratic debate. But it should not extend to the denial of Israel’s right to exist or be a justification for attacks on Jewish people around the world.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, speaking in Belfast on Tuesday at an event for Holocaust Memorial Day, said that God had not been silent in the Holocaust, nor in Rwanda. “But when God speaks and we don’t listen, even God cannot save us from ourselves.” He said that “preachers of hate” were still “pouring out their poison”.

A survey published in the Jewish Chronicle last week suggested that one in seven Britons now believe that the Holocaust was exaggerated.

The survey, conducted by ICM from a sample of 1007 people, also found that more than half of those questioned (53 per cent) would find a Jew just as acceptable as Prime Minister of Britain as someone of any other faith. But seven per cent disagreed, and a further 11 per cent strongly disagreed. One in five of them thought that Jews made no positive contribution to political, social or cultural life in Britain. But 18 per cent thought that they had too much influence.

The Security Trust, a Jewish community group, is expected to give details of an increase in attacks on Jewish people and property in its own forthcoming report. The Trust recorded 89 anti-Semitic incidents
in Britain in the first quarter of 2003, a 75-per-cent rise on the first quarter of the previous year, when 51 incidents were reported. This followed a 13-per-cent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2002 on 2001.

“This significant rise in incidents coincided with the war in Iraq, as was predicted by both the police and Jewish communal organisations. The anti-war movement consistently linked the issues of Iraq on the one hand and events in Israel and Palestine on the other, despite the Jewish community’s warnings that this would lead to anti-Semitic incidents,” said a statement by the Security Trust.

Some of the Security Trust’s findings were also recorded in Manifestations of Anti-Semitism in the European Union, a report from the Anti-Semitism Research Institute of Berlin’s Technical University. This was originally commissioned by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), but the centre initially refused to publish it, because it said that it had made “generalised” accusations of Muslim involvement in anti-Semitic attacks. The report was posted unofficially on the internet in November, but, after pressure was exerted, the EUMC placed it on its own site last month, “in the interests of transparency”.

The report said that the tradition of demonising Jews in the past was being transferred to the state of Israel. “In this way, traditional anti-Semitism is translated into a new form, less deprived of legitimacy, whose employment today in Europe could become part of the political mainstream.”

It said that anti-Semitic attacks were linked to anger about Israeli policies in the Middle East. It wanted European leaders to acknowledge the “extraordinary dangers” that anti-Semitism now posed.

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