You have nothing to fear but fear itself... or do you?

My lovely husband is not generally someone I worry about - at least not in terms of his physical safety. He is 6'2 and when my grandma Rena saw him for the first time her response was 'Isn't it nice, he makes you look so small!'.

Whenever G tells people he works at SOAS they look concerned - it has a reputation for such strong anti-Israel views that it's nick name in the Jewish community (apparently coined by Melanie Phillips) is the School of Orchestrated Anti Semitism. But apart from some difficult and tense moments during the Gaza conflict last year, G has had very little trouble either as a student or member of staff. And he isn't the sort to be scared.

But last weekend at SOAS, protests turned ugly. I would be the first to defend the right of any group to peacefully protest, and legitimate criticism of any Nation State shouldn't be silenced, in the same way respondents to the protest should be allowed a voice. What happened on Sunday, however, quickly drifted away from legitimate criticism and into foul anti-Semitism:

Being a Jewish man can sometimes be a very different experience to being a Jewish woman. G has far more first hand experience of anti-Semitism because wearing a kippah (skull cap) he is always more visibly obvious as a Jew than me (just as Muslim women tend to be targeted by racists more frequently than men if in Hijab as it makes them more visible). A youth worker recently decided to leave the synagogue wearing a kippah he'd borrowed as he walked up Edgware road with a group of young Muslim women to see what happened. He got only smiles. Unfortunately this isn't always the experience of Jewish men in London. I am often cautious about speaking about or worrying about Anti-Semitism, as I have only experienced it a few times, and it is usually ignorance rather than true hatred, and I am keen to find ways that bond us as a Jewish community that are not to do with fear and being hated. However this latest incident, although not of SOAS staff or students, has shown how in places legitimate criticism of Israel's government has hidden a shallow and gross anti-Semitism.

I hope G and other Jewish staff and students at SOAS soon feel safe again, and continue to be. The problem now is how does one challenge this? I have always felt it important to speak out against prejudice where I find it, from 16 year old me correcting girls on the school bus who said 'that's so gay' to asking congregants to re-think why they fear sitting next to a Hijabi on the tube. It is somehow less powerful if I speak out against anti-Semitism, and more powerful if I as a Jew challenge Islamaphobia or Racism. I know I have wonderful non-Jewish  friends who speak out within the Free Palestine campaigns against slipping into ancient Anti-Semitic rhetoric and thought patterns. It seems more needs to be done, particularly if we want the line between legitimate criticism and peaceful protest (on both sides) to be maintained with integrity, and to prevent Anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head. In short, it's time to start standing up for each other!


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