There is a small group of pro-Israel activists (of whom I am one) who go on the streets or into meetings to challenge the antisemites. It’s not a task for everyone. It goes without saying that we get verbally abused. It can take its toll on our mental health and it can damage job prospects and relationships.
But it’s important. Important to hold the line against antisemites. Often at meetings people come up to me afterwards and want to talk because they are suspicious of the lies about Israel which they have been fed. Important to blog and record – just look at the number of media stories about Corbyn that have relied on the records and recordings made by activists even as long ago as ten years. Important to achieve prosecutions and to change the law: Without the evidence produced by activists it is doubtful that the government would have adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism. And important for our brethren in Israel. Important for them to see that they are not alone, we are here fighting the lies. Important to challenge lies with truth.
So pro-Israel activists should be treasured by the rest of the UK Jewish Community.
But far from being treasured, we are too often vilified. How many times when we speak out have we heard “You’re damaging the standing of the Community” or even “You cause antisemitism”? And of course there is a reluctance to fund us, other maybe than on a case-by-case basis. There are too many craven appeasing sycophants among our brethren. Distance yourself from Israel if you must but you can’t fight antisemitism with sycophancy even if it might win you that OBE and keep your Arab and other clients and professional colleagues onside.
Two events recently have prompted this gripe. The Board of Deputies has – outrageously – banned activist Damon Lenszner from events that it organises. Why? Because together with me, he shouted at a vicious antisemite – but got too close so he had to go to Court. But the notion that this implies he is going to disrupt Board of Deputies meetings is utterly ludicrous. It speaks volumes about the petty-mindedness and failure to understand antisemitism of those responsible on the Board.
The second event was the Chipping Barnet hustings on Monday night. Lee Harpin wrote this online report for the JC (to the best of my knowledge he was not there (but he might have been)). Harpin writes “The event was disrupted by heckling from campaigner Jonathan Hoffman”.
Don’t be ludicrous Lee! Disruption is what happens to Israelis who have the temerity to speak on British University campuses. I didn’t ‘disrupt’. I simply heckled twice, both times to correct statements from the Labour candidate which were so grossly erroneous as to constitute an insult to the audience: The first, that Labour is “winning” in the fight against antisemitism, the second, failing to say that an arms embargo is in the manifesto, when answering a question about a putative Labour government’s relations with Israel. Both needed instant rebuttals lest voters believed her. Harpin’s article doesn’t even SAY that Ms Whysall claimed that Labour was “winning” the antisemitism battle! And he only mentions the arms embargo (see the last sentence in his article) as a result of my phone call when I saw the article on Wednesday.
And look at this vicious anonymous smear:
One attendee told the JC: ”It would be fair to say that Theresa Villiers had majority support in the room, but Emma Whysall more than held her own. Her apology on antisemitism was taken to be genuine and well worded. The protestations of Mr Hoffman were not so well received.”
One: The JC should not print smears from people who don’t have the guts to be named. I suspect the Chair, Richard Carlowe, who ridiculously tried to throw me out. Or possibly the JCOSS head Patrick Moriarty, a former Anglican Priest who (with Carlowe) showed zero appreciation of the gravity of Whysall’s untruth and gross omission. (If they contact me to deny it was them, I will gladly add it to this blog). Carlowe and Moriarty were schoolboys together at Haberdashers which may explain why the JCOSS head was so quick in backing him up in trying to evict me.
Two: By what measure did this person judge that “Villiers had majority support but Whysall more than held her own?” Does this person consider it not important that she wrongly said that Labour is “winning” the fight against antisemitism and that she failed to mention Labour’s proposed arms embargo on Israel?
Three: S/he says “Her apology on antisemitism was taken to be genuine and well worded.” Taken to be genuine by whom? Did the anonymous attendee poll the audience? Or is s/he simply telling us her/his own view?
Four: “The protestations of Mr Hoffman were not so well received.” Same criticism. Is s/he misrepresenting the views of others by suggesting that her/his own view was consensus?
Five: What are the political affiliations of Harpin’s anonymous informant? (If it’s Moriarty I’d guess soft Left in common with much of the C of E and the teaching profession).
Together with most other pro-Israel activists I don’t hide behind a pseudonym. The least the JC could do by way of respect for activists like me is not to print smears by those too cowardly to reveal their names.
We deserve respect, not being dumped upon!
The printed JC article removes mention of me.