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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Anti-Semitic London’s echoes of 1930s Berlin

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ROBIN Simcox, the Home Office’s independent adviser on extremism, has warned that London is becoming a no-go area for Jews and has urged Ministers to be bolder when tackling radicalisation.  His intervention follows the unprecedented levels of pro-Palestinian activism seen in London since Hamas’s October 7 attacks in Southern Israel, in which 1,139 people were killed and 240 taken hostage. Huge weekly marches have become ‘normalised’, bringing parts of the city to a halt and off-limits to Jews. Berlin in the 1930s begins to come to mind.

Anti-Semitic hate, threats and attacks on Jewish people and their institutions and property have escalated dramatically; 2023 was the worst year since 1984 when the Jewish advisory body Community Security Trust (CST) began recording this data, and double the number of 2022.   This year will almost certainly be worse. Jews have been advised to avoid distinctive clothing (for example kippas and school blazers) for their own safety. Friends of Israel or of Jews are also being threatened with death and rape. A rape threat to Conservative MP Dame Andrea Jenkyns extended to her six-year-old son. 

The feeble reaction of the authorities hardly engenders confidence. The Prime Minister has wrung his hands and ‘warned’ that extremists are trying to tear the country apart. Robin Simcox has said Britain has a ‘permissive environment for radicalisation developing that needs urgently addressing’. But how? Meanwhile Jeremy Hunt announces a £1million memorial to the Muslim soldiers who have fought for Britain’s armed forces since the First World War and Michael Gove promises an ‘anti-Islamophobia extremism Czar’. What are they thinking? That such appeasement will do the trick and make the extremists happy? They must be joking!

Where’s the action on the powers the government already has at its disposal? Sir Mark Rowley, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, says: ‘We have to police the law as it is, not as others would wish it to be,’ but Robin Simcox believes the government has more power to tackle extremism than it and the police are prepared to act on. 

There are, he points out, clear regulations for demonstrations and public gatherings; the Iranian government has no inalienable right to run schools and mosques in the capital; nor is there any unalterable democratic principle that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are allowed to run a multitude of charities. (There are clearly other areas that need action: the foreign funding of mosque building and recruitment of imams from overseas are both examples.) Certainly the universities should be banning extremist speakers or shutting down events, and Islamist hate preachers planning speaking tours of the UK should be refused visas. 

Simcox says: ‘Government has to be willing to accept higher legal risk if it means implementing policies that keep us safer.’ He is right. Left to their own devices the Met will continue to look the other way as Hamas’s lasered images are projected on to Big Ben, Palestine flags proliferate and marches are planned to go past synagogues. Try carrying a Union Jack or a banner which claims ‘Jewish Lives Matter’ and it is another thing altogether! 

It’s not just torchlight processions and Jew-hate chanting that brings 1930s Berlin to mind. It’s a London culture that now boasts its very own ‘Night Czar’. Mayor Sadiq Khan’s appointment of Ms Amy Lamé, an American-British performer best known for her LGBT-themed media works, including HomoLabGaytime TV and My Big Gay Prom, to revive London’s ailing nightlife, feels like we’re in our own ‘Weimar years’. A ‘Goodbye to London’ surely is waiting to be written, set against an increasingly menacing atmosphere of encroaching anti-Semitism and its underbelly of gangs, social security dependency, stabbings, mosques, migrants and multiculturalism. The appointment is a metaphor for the decline and fall of a towering artistic culture, as degenerate criminal behaviour and anti-Semitic outrages are ignored and even encouraged by the city’s law enforcement. 

Other towns are no better. Jewish artist Philip Alexius de Laszlo’s painting of Lord Arthur James Balfour at Trinity College Cambridge has just been destroyed with next to no response from either the college or the police. Balfour of course was the Foreign Secretary of Balfour Declaration fame who promised a ‘national home for the Jewish people’. The young woman videoed spraying the work with red paint then slashing and ripping it to shreds with a blade has not been arrested.  Trinity College have merely expressed their regret and confirmed that the police have been informed. 

The judicial response to the destruction of Lord Balfour’s portrait will be a litmus test. Will the authorities react responsibly according to the law of the land, or will they turn their backs, allow themselves to be bullied into pro-Palestine anti-Semitic compliance and condone the criminality?

In May 1933, 5,000 members of the National Socialist Student Union and a good number of their professors at the Humboldt University held a demonstration in the Bebelplatz, just off the Unter den Linden in central Berlin. To the accompaniment of military bands they burned more than 20,000 books, from mainly Jewish, communist and liberal authors. A crowd of 40,000 watched, and Joseph Goebbels gave a short speech including incitements such as ‘We entrust to the flames the intellectual garbage of the past’. 

Sixty years later, a memorial to the book-burning designed by the Israeli sculptor Micha Ullman was installed on the site. The memorial is set underground beneath the cobblestones of the square, and contains a ghostly and sinister vision of empty bookshelves. A plaque is etched with a chilling quote from the German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine: ‘That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people as well.’

This is exactly what is now kicking off in London. Those who condone, encourage or ignore it will all ultimately be responsible for the terrible escalation which is bound to follow if our law officers and authorities fail to take effective action. Only it’s now a case of ‘Where they slash paintings . . .’

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Janice Davis
Janice Davis
Janice Davis is a grandmother and former girls’ grammar school teacher

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