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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Anglo-Jewry’s Social Revolution

Israel’s recent campaign in Gaza highlighted not only an unprecedented surge in modern global antisemitism but a seismic shift within Anglo-Jewish politics.

As if out of nowhere, ordinary members of the community seized the new democracy afforded by the Internet  to organise pro-Israel, anti-Jewish-hate demonstrations in areas of London and Manchester densely populated by Jewish people.

The backlash follows their weary frustration with the slow, silent, covert tactics favoured by generations of  established leaders working in the mould shaped by leisured grandees from an earlier age.

It is no surprise that those fronting the current social revolution include the child of a successful provincial Jewish politician. The spirit of public service surely courses through her veins. But most of her colleagues, for example those living in Manchester, are ordinary citizens spurred to action by the menacing anti-Israel – really anti-Jewish – demonstrations being held regularly in the city-centre. These continued with depressing regularity until the end of 2014.

The Manchester-based grass roots activists experienced many months of often ugly confrontation at Kedem, an Israeli-owned cosmetics shop  and also at the city’s main branch of the international retailer, Marks and Spencer. The store  has long been a prime target for anti-Israel protests because the company (whose founders were famous early modern Zionists) still has strong links with Israel.

Although not Manchester-born, I lived and worked there for many years before emigrating to Israel. Now, from the vantage point of objective distance, I fear that  the campaigners’ occasional over-simplification of the problems they face could end  in disaster.

I appreciate that  the key organisers are mostly mature adults, not naive youngsters and I agree that their ‘robust but restrained’ form of counter-protest has most likely won them and Israel many friends.

However, not everyone involved realises they face a hidden danger along with the obvious threat of verbal and physical assault: Their opponents include professional thugs - the sort who appear at many other politically-motivated and cleverly planned demonstrations that have no reference to Jews or to Israel. Such people are paid handsomely by the extreme left to act as they do - all as part of a long-term concerted plan to break down international law and order.

These are the real villains with whom pro-Israel activists must contend.. They, too, use the immediacy and impact  of social networking and they are known to the police. But the law is a tricky place – even for trained lawyers - and there are regular arguments as to whether the British police (mis)use their authority when employing Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 to limit peaceful protests.

Certainly, human and civil rights experts have advised members of Manchester Palestine Action about their rights. But this does not explain satisfactorily, for example, why members of a  Community Police patrol present at an anti-Israel demonstration at Marks and Spencer during the summer  simply stood inside the premises, doing nothing to stop the protestors. Some of us could not understand their motive as on other occasions – or so it is claimed - when demonstrators have been placed in restrictive areas or moved on, the courts have upheld the right of the police to do so. Answers to such conundrums are needed.

We may have progressed in technology since 1936 and the infamous Battle of Cable Street, when rank and file members of  the Jewish community ignored the request  of their leaders to stay away, but the fight for justice, both in Israel and abroad, continues without cease.

Mark.UlyseasThis piece first appeared in the January 2015 edition of Live Encounters magazine ( edited by Mark Ulyseas, a faithful supporter of Israel and all matters Jewish.

© Natalie Wood (December 30 2014)

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