The first time I experienced antisemitism, I was twelve years old and I was messaged on Facebook by a 30-year-old man who called me "a dirty Jewish pig".
I had been sitting in an internet café in Spain when the message popped up in my inbox. Having only been given the green light to download Facebook two weeks prior, I was under strict instructions. Under no condition was I to post my whereabouts nor to ‘friend’ people I didn’t know. I was certainly not allowed to list my religion under ‘personal info’. The name was someone I had never heard of, I wasn’t sure how he’d even got to my profile in the first place, but what I was sure of was that after reading his words, I was ready to delete my newly-found social media independence.
I can’t remember not knowing what the Holocaust was, not knowing that when my great grandfather hid in the bowels of a boat travelling from Poland to France in the middle of the night, that he would never see his parents or four sisters alive again. I can’t ever remember an innocence unburdened with the fact that people hate Jews just because of the fact they are Jewish. You see, as a Jew, there is absolutely no disguising our history of persecution, this is nothing new to us.
Modern antisemitism has shown itself to me in so many insidious ways and I’ve responded accordingly. I’ve awkwardly laughed when someone has told me that I don’t look Jewish. I’ve listened to a friend tell me in disgust about a Bumble message from a guy who claimed to have “only met one Jew, who was most definitely a spy”. I’ve tried to explain that, just because I visited Israel for a summer holiday, I don’t have to discuss the actions of the Israeli government. I’ve had to read the room before deciding to answer honestly when someone has asked, “What religion are you?” I’ve watched people speak out about every other injustice on social media except for antisemitism. As a child, I struggled to understand why most schools in London didn’t need an electric gate or security guards keeping watch outside as mine did.
Antisemitism in 2020 has forced me to take off my Star of David necklace when I walk down the street out of fear of being targeted. It’s the thousands of micro-aggressions that arise when #JewishPrivilege starts trending on Twitter. Antisemitism means I always check that I’m near an escape exit at my Synagogue. It means friends, who were politically aligned with the Left, couldn’t vote for Corbyn because of his endorsement and acceptance of Jewish conspiracy theories. It’s meant watching a rapper you’ve always listened to and liked incite violence toward my community, as he tells the world that Jews make him sick.
Antisemitism in 2020 is being too scared to speak out, but too scared to say nothing.
The Holocaust didn’t happen overnight. They didn’t gather up the Jews and strip them of all their belongings in 48 hours. It started with whispers and looks; it started with tropes about the Rothschilds and ‘Jews having all the power’. Sound familiar? Let me put things into context. When Wiley, the so-called ‘Godfather of Grime’ decided to go on an unlimited rampage across Twitter and Instagram calling Jewish people ‘”cowards”, likening us to the Ku Klux Klan, encouraging us to “crawl out from under our little rocks and defend our Jewish privilege”, he was projecting his hateful, racist and downright lies to over 500,000 people. That figure doesn’t even account for those who were drawn to his page after he started trending on Twitter.
There are only around 300,000 Jews living in the UK. If Wiley influenced 10 per cent of his following, that would be 50,000 people. To get a little technical, a recent poll conducted by the Fundamental Rights Agency revealed that 73 per cent of European Jews hide things that identify them as Jewish, 41 per cent of European Jews aged 18-34 have considered emigrating in the last five years as a result of growing antisemitism, and a whopping 90 per cent say they’ve noticed antisemitism has worsened in their country in the last five years.
Stop asking us to weigh in on the Israel/Palestine conflict if we don’t want to. Stop questioning us about whether or not our parents are rich and if we control the media. Stop defending people like Wiley and hiding behind being "just anti-Zionist". Stop thinking that, just because we have blonde hair and small features, we "don’t look Jewish". Stop asking why orthodox Jewish men have "those curly bits" hanging from their heads. Stand up for your Jewish friends, speak out when you see injustice and educate yourself on the history of antisemitism.
To finish, I’d like to leave you with this poignant poem written by Martin Niemöller during Hitler’s rise to power.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
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