Activism Unleashed In Britain

The summer of 2014 British Jews found their collective voice. It is not uniform. It is not single. It contains many themes and is directed at various targets. But it is vocal. And it has learned how to be heard.

As someone who used to work deep within the British Jewish organisational structure, ran a think-tank on antisemitism and is now consumed with hands-on activism on behalf of Sussex Friends of Israel, this collective voice is a phenomenon to behold.

It is a voice born out of pain and frustration and the corrosive conclusion that the high water mark of antisemitism keeps on rising with every time Israel confronts an enemy that wants it eliminated and in a world that wants to fuse the Mideast’s atavistic, tribal thrall to Thanatos to its decades-long search for peace with the Palestinians.

It is a voice born out of anxiety, from watching the rising tide of Jew hatred in neighbouring countries, the historic spike of antisemitic incidents on our streets and the media’s black mirror image that refracts it from terror target and defender of its citizens to Israel the Nazi perpetrator – and worse.

But above all, it is a voice that learned a catalytic lesson after watching Jews in capital cities around the globe (but not in London) take to the streets in solidarity: Waiting for top-down Jewish leadership to act does not work.

And so, taking the pulse of ‘everyday’ Jews, grassroots group rolled into action, outside the Israel Embassy, in Brighton, in front of London’s Law Courts, in Manchester’s city centre and in partnership with religious and ethnic allies.

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Magnetically, the leaders came: from the British armed forces, from the rabbinic pulpits, from Holocaust survivors, Muslim and Christian thinkers, MPs, Israelis and Anglo-Jewish officialdom.

Together they said no to the hatred, yes to their love of Israel, asserted their rights as British citizens to live free from prejudice and intimidation and ready for the next battle on the next front.

In the Summer of 2014 the Jewish fight-back had begun.

This is an extract from Autumn/ Winter 2014’s After Gaza supplement.

Winston Pickett is a writer, analyst, storyteller, former director of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and currently a board member of Sussex Friends of Israel, a grassroots initiative that he helped launch in 2012.

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