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The Israel-Hamas war has brought long-standing hatred to the surface. We shouldn't accept anti-Semitism any more than we would tolerate any other form of racism.
Last Thursday, the Academy of Ideas International Salon held an online discussion titled ‘In the wake of terror: anti-Semitism today’. The discussion was introduced by three speakers - Daniel Ben-Ami, Sabine Beppler-Spahl and Laura Dodsworth. The event was very well attended, and the quality and range of the discussion was excellent.
Clearly, contemporary anti-Semitism is very different from the past. Until fairly recently, anti-Semitism seemed to be confined to the more lunatic fringes of the far right, at least in the UK. But a powerful mix of Islamist ideology and identity politics has given anti-Semitism a new form - and a new lease of life.
The discussion also looked at the roots of the conflict in the Middle East and what is happening right now. How should we respond to the war? Not everyone agreed. For example, the case was made by audience members that genuine concern for Gaza and self determination is being branded as anti-Semitism to discredit it. It’s well worth watching in full.
I would also strongly urge everyone to read Daniel Ben-Ami’s Letter on Liberty, Rethinking Anti-Semitism, which provides a fantastic explanation of the changing face of ‘the oldest hatred’.
One of the speakers, Laura Dodsworth, is the co-initiator of British Friends of Israel and the October Declaration, an opportunity for everyone in the UK and beyond to show solidarity with Israel. I’ve signed it and I hope you will consider signing it, too.
Another fledgling organisation is Our Fight: For Israel, Against Anti-Semitism, a small group of concerned individuals – some Jews, but mainly non-Jews – who have come together to create a resource for anyone who feels that abhorrence for Hamas's October 7th pogrom has dissipated far too quickly. Inspired by the moving speech from New York’s mayor, Eric Adams, that ‘your fight is our fight’ (see below), the group is committed to standing alongside Jews and Israelis, particularly in Britain.
There will be another opportunity to discuss anti-Semitism today at the Buxton Battle of Ideas festival on Saturday 25 November. It’s a great event, held in the inspiring Devonshire Dome in the Peak District. The event will also feature a wide range of discussions, from ‘Are the culture wars a distraction?’ to ‘Is the NHS fit for purpose?’. You can find full details and how to buy tickets at the Battle of Ideas festival website.