Last week saw a spate of alarming headlines, reporting high levels of anti-Semitism in Britain, based on a YouGov survey commissioned by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. The front page of the Independent suggested that the majority of British Jews (a community of 290,000 people) ‘feel they have no future in the UK’, and other papers reported that the poll showed ‘almost half of Britons’ hold at least one anti-Semitic view. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism has warned that Britain is at a ‘tipping point’, and said that the survey should be considered a ‘wake up call’, in the wake of terror attacks targeting a Kosher supermarket in Paris. Others have been sceptical about the value of the surveys, however, and Philip Kleinfeld wrote in VICE News that the research was ‘methodologically flawed’, and fails to represent the voice of British Jews – himself included – as it claims.
In The Know spoke to Josh and Gabi, who host CamFM’s ‘Jewish Hour’, to get their thoughts on the challenges facing British Jews, and the new media attention being devoted to the issue. They told us that the biggest surprise to them was the level of attention given to the survey, which actually happens every year, since the long-standing undercurrent of anti-Semitism has rarely attracted such interest. For years, Jewish institutions including Jewish schools, and even the Jewish Society in Cambridge have had security in case of anti-Semitic incidents, but Josh and Gabi warned that it’s important that the new attention not be so exaggerated as to present Jewish communities as ‘separate’ from the rest of British society. In Cambridge, they say, anti-Semitism isn’t really a problem, because the kind of sentiments expressed in the survey are reliant on ‘formulaic, old fashioned tropes’ which people here are unlikely to take seriously. Their only concerns are that, when discussing issues relating to Israel, people make sure to separate Israel from Judaism as a whole. Although it’s good that the new attention on the issue creates an opportunity to tackle long-standing prejudices among a small number of people, they say that most people don’t need to change their behaviour, and it’s important the issue is not sensationalised in light of events in France.